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The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

by Emmanuel Guibert (Graphic novelist), Didier Lefèvre (Photographer), Frédéric Lemercier (Author), Alexis Siegel (Introduction)

Series: Le Photographe (intégrale)

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5012448,765 (4.29)26
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.

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» See also 26 mentions

English (20)  Danish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Didier Lefevre was a French photojournalist who was recruited by Medecins Sans Frontieres to accompany one of their missions into war-torn Afghanistan at the height of the Soviet-Afghan conflict. The mission had to cross into Afghanistan illegally, make their way through hostile and forbidding territory on foot and then set up treatment facilities in the most remote and rudimentary of surroundings. MSF doctors treated all comers, including combatants, and Lefevre caught it all on film.

This book is a posthumous tribute to Lefevre and the MSF team, combining the photos that he took with a graphic account of their journey. It's one of the most effective uses of the "graphic novel" format that I have read; the photos that Lefevre took at the time give a photojournalistic account of scene and character, and the drawings and text tell the story behind them, while also filling in the gaps where there were no photos.

It may just have been the setting, but the graphic parts of this book reminded me strongly of Tintin in Tibet. This may not be an accident, as the text refers to Tintin at one point.

This is an inspiring and dramatic story about some unsung heroes and the travails they endured to help others. The risks they took were potentially fatal and the end notes reinforce just how big those risks were. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
A photographer accompanies a group from Doctors Without Borders to Afghanistan. True story told in combined photos and graphic novel formats.
  Lake_Oswego_UCC | Apr 10, 2022 |
Wow. I'm floored by this book which is a mix of photographs, comic style art, and personal memoir. It is the true story of photographer Didier Lefevre's journey through Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders in 1986. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
I didn't know what to expect when I read a review of The Photographer, calling it a "photographic graphic novel." It is quite unique and simply put, amazing. In three parts, The Photographer tells the story of how the aid workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres, smuggled across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan disguised as women in chadri, provided medical support to small communities during conflict. Didier Lefleve, a French photojournalist, traveled with the group to Zaragandara during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1986. In this district of Yaftali Sufla MSF establishes a field hospital while staffing a second one. The final part is Didier Lefleve's nearly disastrous solo departure from Afghanistan. As the tagline for MSF reads, "We go where we are needed most," The photographs and journal of Lefleve tell the entire story in intimate detail. It is a powerful print documentary.
It seems impossible for there to be humor in The Photographer, especially when you read of children with their eyes apparently glued shut and paralyzed by shrapnel, but it exists. One word: peaches. I confess. I giggled. That's all I can say about that. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 24, 2021 |
This graphic memoir tells the story of Lefevre's 1986 trip into Afghanistan (and back out of) with Doctors Without Borders. He was the mission's photgrapher. This book was begun thriteen years after the trip, at Guibert's suggestion. Lefevre's journal of the trip was lost in a move, so he had his photographs and memories to work with; it is unclear if anyone else on his mission proofread.

I found this book especially fascinating, as when I was a tween I wanted to be a photographer/journalist for National Geographic or Smithsonian and take trips like this (though not in a war zone--hard-to-access location sure, disaster zone yes, war zone no). I have always dreamed of doing a tough through hike of some sort, not unlike the mission's trip from Pakistan to Afghanistan and then his trip back.

Despite the loss of his journal, this book is fascinating. It combines his photographs (black and white with 1 or 2 color images from others' cameras) with drawings and text to complete the story. The photos--even though black and white and often small--really bring the story to life. The landscape really is a rocky or desolate as the drawings show. The clothing, medical facilities (such as they are), and injured/sick are so much clearer. The story of doctors and nurses going into these very very remote and ignored places, providing services, and training local medics, fascinating--though what they are doing is essentially illegal, they face very few challenges and are essentially let through because the services are needed.

Lefevre was a bit over his head on this trip. Though he did return to Afghanistan several more times, on this trip he was overly cocky about his understanding of how things worked and overconfident about his physical abilities to hike back. He ended up being abandoned by his guides after demanding an unreasonable crossing, having his horse die, and nearly freezing himself until a caravan picked him up (and essentially extorted him to take him with them). He ended up gaining one day over the rest of his party, and lost 14 teeth and had other health issues after returning home to France. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
The book has the feel of a film, attesting to the skill of Guibert and Frédéric Lemercier, the graphic designer. But there is nothing romantic about Afghanistan or the Afghans, who can be at once courageous and generous as well as heartless and menacing. Lefèvre, on the way back, is abandoned by his feckless guides; his horse collapses and eventually dies; and the photographer nearly succumbs in the snowy mountain passes. “I take out one of my cameras. I choose a 20-millimeter lens, a very wide angle, and shoot from the ground,” he says — “to let people know where I died.” The next page shows his exhausted pack horse amid snowy boulders, followed by a bleak spread of the gloomy mountain pass. Lefèvre is saved by a band of brigands, who shake him down for much of his money but get him out. The physical toll of his trip left him suffering from chronic boils. He lost 14 teeth. But before he died he returned to Afghanistan seven more times in an attempt to tell the stories of those he first met in 1986, whom he could not abandon or forget.

The disparity between what we are told or what we believe about war and war itself is so vast that those who come back, like Lefèvre, are often rendered speechless. What do you say to those who advocate war as an instrument to liberate the women of Afghanistan or bring democracy to Iraq? How do you tell them what war is like? How do you explain that the very proposition of war as an instrument of virtue is absurd? How do you cope with memories of children bleeding to death with bits of iron fragments peppered throughout their small bodies? How do you speak of war without tears?

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guibert, EmmanuelGraphic novelistprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lefèvre, DidierPhotographermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Lemercier, FrédéricAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Siegel, AlexisIntroductionmain authorall editionsconfirmed

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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.

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