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The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders Paperback – May 12, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596433752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596433755
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 11.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
In 1986, Afghanistan was torn apart by a war with the Soviet Union. This graphic novel/photo-journal is a record of one reporter's arduous and dangerous journey through Afghanistan accompanying the Doctors Without Borders. Didier Lefèvre’s photography, paired with the art of Emmanuel Guibert, tells the powerful story of a mission undertaken by men and women dedicated to mending the wounds of war.

Take a Look Inside The Photographer
These color panels and striking landscapes document Didier Lefèvre's journey across the Hindu Kush mountains with Doctors Without Borders (click each image to see the full page).

Mountain crossing with a caravan of horses and donkeys

Clinic in northern Afghanistan's Yaftal Valley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This documentary graphic novel brings together starkly beautiful black and white photographs taken by Lefèvre, intimate drawings by Guibert, skillful design by Lemercier and a vibrant translation and thorough introduction by Siegel. In 1986, photographer Lefèvre was hired by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders), to document a mission into northern Afghanistan. Along the way, he and the doctors, guides and interpreters with whom he traveled endured physical hardship and the fracas of war. In one memorable scene, the group must cross an open plateau where Russian planes fired on the previous MSF caravan. Photographs acting as panels emphasize the vast openness of the plateau, while drawings allow a glimpse of the small human gestures of the travelers. Arriving on the other side of the plateau, they reach a wooded area where, two years ago, they buried the man who didn't make it. This revelation is punctuated by a large photograph of the burial mound under the trees, the mix of drawings and photographs heightening the emotional impact. Originally published in three volumes in France, the book has sold more than 250,000 copies there, and the reach of this magnificent work promises to extend far beyond the graphic novel community. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Emmanuel Guibert has written a great many graphic novels for readers young and old, among them the Sardine in Outer Space series and The Professor's Daughter with Joann Sfar.

In 1994, a chance encounter with an American World War II veteran named Alan Cope marked the beginning of a deep friendship and the birth of a great biographical epic.

Another of Guibert's recent works is The Photographer. Showered with awards, translated around the world, it relates a Doctors Without Borders mission in 1980's Afghanistan through the eyes of a great reporter, the late Didier Lefevre.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
The story is as absorbing as it is harsh at the same time.
Guibert has a knack for lending his subtle pencils to true life stories, and the way his artwork seamlessly blends in with Lefèvre's photographs is brilliant.
The story is true - Medecines Sans Frontieres in Afghanistan.
J. E. D. Falby

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Beate Chelette on May 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
It's not what you think. That's the thing that came to my mind when I began reading this photography book. It's not really a photography book, it's an essay, it's a comic, it's contemporary, it's graphics, it's an illustrated adventure from 1986 and it's a true story.

I began reading it as I had requested it from the publisher for review. Most of the time I browse books, assimilate the essence of it, write about it and move to the next project. Not so this time.

First of all I have great respect for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an organization that I supported when photographer Fernando Bengoechea (one of my photographers) vanished in the Asian Tsunami. The work that they do can't be put into words. I pay my respect to any nurse or doctor who will agree to be smuggled into a country torn apart by war (Afghanistan) so that they can set up hospitals and provide medical care in the most rudimentary conditions. To go places where the locals might not even have a word called "healthcare" is an undertaking far beyond my Westerner imagination. This is the work of pure love, dedication and it holds a sense of purpose that most people might not ever find in a lifetime. This comes through clearly throughout the book.

Photojournalist Didier Lefèvre joined a team of Doctors Without Borders in 1986 and followed them into Afghanistan to illustrate their efforts to help ease the suffering of the people by providing medical services. The country was literally torn apart by the war between the Soviet Union who invaded Afghanistan and the Afghan Resistance supported by America and other Western Countries. You know one part of this story. One Arab player rose through the ranks helping Afghanistan freeing itself from the occupant.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William J. Feuer on June 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, if you want to get the most out of this book buy a magnifying glass (mine cost $1 at CVS) - there are very small reproductions of contact photos containing great detail.
Second, "graphic-novel" seems a misnomer, as this is not a novel. Perhaps graphic-photojournalism better describes this memoir of the second author's experiences traveling to Afghanistan with MSF in 1986, the wonder and the horror captured by B&W photos when they exist and by the first author's drawings when they do not.

The book has 3 parts: the trip in, the medical mission, the trip out. Each part features, for me, a particularly moving photo. Part 1 begins in Pakistan where the photographer, Didier, acculturates first to Peshawar and the MSF team, then to the Afghans and the stark landscape in which they live, captured in the photo of the donkey and its rescuers recuperating on a rock in the middle of a shallow rushing Afghan river (see promo material above). Part 3 follows Didier's near catastrophic attempt to walk back to Pakistan without the MSF team, culminating in the nightmare photos of his beleaguered horse and the landscape in which he expected to die. Part 2 is harrowing in its depiction of human suffering in the Badakshan MSF clinic. Most moving to me is the two-page sequence of the emotions of a young girl treated for a burned hand. Other photos straight-forwardly document more ghastly injuries.

Babur wrote of his campaign into Afghansitan, as did some 19th century English explorer/soldiers, but there is a recent canon of writings of westerners traveling here: R Byron, early 30s; E Newby, late 50s; D Murphy early 60s; P Levi early 70s; J Elliot, late 70s-mid 80s; R Stewart, 02; and (though it's a different sort of book) S Chayes, 02-05. To this add The Photographer.
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Format: Paperback
Beyond the headlines, behind the countless stories of war in Afghanistan, and what it means to live there now, lie millions of stories. Human stories, personal histories, and day-to-day activities that can be downright banal if not for the war, religion, and politics that constantly affect everything and everyone living there. There is always the question of how we got here, how Afghanistan reached this point in its history, and what we in North America don't understand about the country.

The Photographer does not exactly sum up everything, but that's not its job. Its role is a deceptively simple one. It's "merely" the story of a photographer, Didier Lefèvre, hired to document the work of several physicians working for Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan in July 1986. To say it's informative is an understatement.

What Lefèvre experienced--beginning with adjusting to the heat, followed by learning to acclimate socially in this conservative country--is epic in scale, and the book's heft gives proper exposure to Lefèvre's life. The Photographer was originally published in Lefèvre's native France, where it's sold 250,000 copies. Now a worldwide phenomenon, its U.S. release is an event, as it should be. The story deserves it. Lefèvre deserves it.

It's hard to describe what Lefèvre went through in a short synopsis. He returned with 4,000 photos, substantially fewer teeth and less body weight, and a severe case of exhaustion. In the book, he goes through a cute "initiation" from the doctors, earns their trust and respect, and then becomes part of this culture and society that is at once so fascinating and so foreign to him.
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