The Photographer, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (5 ratings)


A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn 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 Lefevre'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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272 pages, Illustrations (some col.), maps, ports.
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Lliterary & memoirs
  • ISBN: 9781596433755



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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

There is something truly wonderful that only comics can bring to a memoir, perhaps its the visual immediacy or the blending of fact and realistic fiction that provide a unique emotional resonance but whatever is The Photographer is an amazing example. It takes the tale of Didier Lefevre's trip to Afghanistan during the Russian-Afghan war in order to document the activity of the charity MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). Black and white photographs mix seamlessly with colour illustrations to tell a simple but emotional tale. The book is split into 3 parts: firstly we follow the naive Lefevre as arrives in Pakistan and sneaks over the border to Afghanistan, then we glimpse the work of the MSF in harsh war torn conditions (warning often quite graphic) and lastly his solo trip trying to return home as quickly as he can. Lefevre is the perfect narrator, instantly identifiable as he struggles with the language and the culture. His naivety makes the story very approachable as we learn alongside him yet it also allows the tale to unfold without comment or bias, it simply just is. The glimpse of Afghan culture is fascinating and whilst not an historical account it does provides a good overview ,although perhaps more importantly allowing us to put human face to the current troubles.

Review by

This graphic novel chronicles a journey of French photographer, Didier Lefèvre, to Afganistan in the late 1980's with Médecins Sans Frontières to set up a field hospital. The trials/tribulations of the journey start in Pakistan and continue on the return to France. I found the format, of including Didier Lefèvre's contact sheets, especially with some (I think his chosen shots) marked and blocked with red pencil, fascinating. There is only one color photograph (taken with a college's camera loaded with color film) in the entire set, so the contrast between the graphic novel's color drawings and the b/w photographs is striking.I thoroughly enjoyed following Lefèvre's first foray into Afganistan via this medium.

Review by

When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of working with words all day, bringing imaginary people to life, and getting to work wherever I wanted. Then I tried actually being one. There's no glamour. It's just hard work, and I'm no good at it.In the past few years, I've grown more interested in photography, and I'm seduced by the thought of being a photojournalist. Talk about glamour! Travelling the world, meeting exotic people in strange locales, and bringing back stunning images that change the world. Boy, if I'd only taken photography classes in high school, think of the life I could have lead!Well, reading The Photographer got rid of that myth. Photojournalism is probably the farthest profession from glamour. It's dirty, tiring, boring, probably soul-destroying. The Photographer is the true account of Didier Lefèvre's assignment to photograph a Medicines Sans Frontiers mission to Afghanistan in the 1980's. It was a tough journey. The Russians didn't want them there, so they had to sneak themselves into the country, over treacherous mountain passes, with a caravan of arms smugglers. The mission then set up a makeshift hospital in the sanitary wasteland of a remote Afghan village. Isolation and homesickness drove Lefèvre to try to leave Afghanistan early, and the return journey nearly killed him.What did Lefèvre get for his 3 months on assignment? He lost 14 teeth from furunculosis, and he got 6 published photographs out of almost 4,000 taken. Yes, in hindsight, I'm glad I studied computer science.That said, The Photographer will increase your respect for the doctors in MSF, and for the troubles that the civilian Afghan population has endured for decades. It passes the open-your-eyes-to-the-larger-world test of good literature.I also enjoyed The Photographer's innovative storytelling: It's a graphic novel that interleaves the frames and narration of the graphic novel with frames and contact sheets from Lefèvre's film. It's effective visual storytelling, and in hindsight it's the most natural way to tell a story from the point of view of a photographer. Very well done.

Review by

Reason for Reading: Cybils nomineeSummary: Photographer Didier Lefevre was offered to accompany the MSF (the original French version of Doctors Without Borders) on a 3 month mission to Afghanistan in 1986 when the Soviet-Afghan War was raging. The book tells of his journey from Pakistan to the mission site in Afghanistan, his stay and his decision to make the journey back to Pakistan alone which almost cost him his life.Comments: An incredibly brilliant, powerful work of art! At first I thought this was going to be about current affairs in Afghanistan, so was quite surprised to find the memoir taking place during the Soviet era invasion of Afghanistan. The graphical presentation, the artwork is phenomenal. A very unique combination of cartooning and photographs have been combined together which at first, I admit, put me a bit off kilter but once I got used to the presentation I found myself seeing real life images even when I was looking at an illustration. An odd sensation but extremely well done. The authors/illustrator portray so much on the journey: the beauty of the land, the terror of illegally crossing the border, traveling under cover of night, watching for Soviet planes to drop bombs on them if sighted. Then at the medical camp there is the large amount of local people coming for help for such things as a humongous cancerous tumour on a toe, a foot that is so rotted the man has pulled it off that morning and asks if they can put it back on for him; then the war wounded come in: a child with half his face blown off, a man with shrapnel in his back, a paralyzed girl with one tiny piece of shrapnel that has severed her spinal cord. The photographs, the text, the illustrations capture the spirit, the agony, the willpower, the drive of the doctors who come to work here in non sterile makeshift tents to treat these people, sometimes just so they can die with dignity.Didier's journey back is even worse than coming as he has had enough at the end of the three months when he finds that the team is going to be staying an extra week so with some guidance to a nearby town where he will be certain to get a guide he sets off on his to journey back to Pakistan. Didier finds that without the resources and experiences of the "pros" he accompanied on the way out there he is a walking target and with exposure to criminals, crooked cops and the elements he almost loses his life. A magnificent, compelling story that concentrates on human relations and interactions without getting political. The political situation is discussed in the beginnings of the book to set the reader in the situation as it is happening but the focus of the book is people, how they treat each other both good and bad in situations both large and small. Highly recommended!

Review by

A stunning photo-infused graphic novel about Doctors without Borders, Afghanistan and the photographer's journey when he accompanies the doctors on a mission in 1986. Frequently the photographs are actually Didier's contact sheets, which, while sometimes hard to examine without a loupe, add drama and action to his story. The dedication of the doctors in difficult conditions and the harsh ruggedness of the Afghanistan landscape and culture are breathtaking. This mesmerizing story is essential reading especially as the U.S. continues to be entrenched militarily in Afghanistan.

Also by Emmanuel Guibert