Rummanah Aasi
  When I attended a graphic novels seminar at Northwestern University a few months ago, the panelists had all recommended to read Emmanuel Guibert's The Photographer. I knew very little about the graphic novel besides that it Chronicles the Doctors Without Borders trip to war-torn Afghanistan. After reading and reflecting upon it, I truly think that description barely touches the surface of this amazing, truly unique graphic novel that I read to this date.

Description (from inside panel): 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.

Review: The Photographer is not just a photography book nor a graphic novel. It is a marriage between these two genres that tell a powerful and inspiring story in the similar vein that text and illustrations do in a picture book. This documentary graphic novel brings together vivid, beautiful, and striking black and white photographs taken by Lefèvre, intimate drawings by Guibert, an organized and clear layout, and easy to read translation and introduction by Siegel.
  The year is 1986 and Afghanistan is at war with the Soviet Union. Photographer Lefèvre had volunteered to join the Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders), to document a mission: to build a medical facility into northern Afghanistan. Along the way, he and the team of doctors, guides, and interpreters endured a physically exhausting, arduous journey, and witnessed the effects of war.  
  What makes The Photographer a stand out in the sea of graphic novels, is the combination of the black and white photographs and the illustrations that continually remind readers that this amazing and at times horrifying journey actually did occur and that the characters are indeed real people, which heightens not only our awareness but also the emotional impact of the situation. The panels are layout quite nicely and are easy to read. The narrative and dialogue do not crowd each illustrated panel and the photographs are wordless yet they speak loudly and clearly in their silence.

Here is an example from Amazon's website:


The humanitarian and altruistic spirit of the doctors and the resilience of the Afghanis is what keeps this graphic novel from being so depressing. Readers find out that for Afghanis, war is unfortunately nothing new to them and has become a part of their lifestyle. They take their wounds in stride and keep on living. It is heartbreaking to see how easily weapons are acquired while schools are considered a luxury and are scarce. By reading and experiencing The Photographer, we finally get a glimpse into this mysterious war-torn country that hasn't been in a severe limelight since the atrocious 9/11 attacks and try to wrap our heads around what American troops are facing in the current Afghan war.

  The Photographer challenges our thinking about war and does not attempt to provide us with any easy answers. As Lefèvre discovers, war is not very cut and dry, but multi-layered by political intrigue. The team has to work along with warlords and other dangerous people in order to reach their destination safely. The only reason why I gave this graphic 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because the middle does drag a bit.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies and Art

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the graphic novel and some of the photographs of the wounded are quite gory. Recommended for high school and up.

If you like this book try: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman, or Sarajevo by Joe Kubert
1 Response
  1. Julie G Says:

    I really enjoyed this one as well. The combination of graphic novel and photographs was so different and perfect for the book's subject!

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