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.
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. 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.
Read-alikes: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman, or Sarajevo by Joe Kubert