The Photographer | Review

the photographer graphic novel

What immediately fascinated me about graphic novels was their incredible narrative ability and their capacity to arouse the most diverse feelings in the reader. Thanks to the communicative power of the illustrations, I approached their reading and discovered some spectacular books. When I discovered “The Photographer” I immediately decided to buy it because I was sure I would be reading a unique book. “The Photographer” is in fact a book that consists of photographs and illustrations to tell the journey of Didier Lefèvre in Afghanistan in 1986 with the group of doctors without borders (MSF). In this book, though, I discovered much more. In this article, I’ll tell you about the book but above all about what struck me the most and what I certainly won’t forget. 

the photographer graphic novel

The plot (no spoilers)

1986. Didier Lefèvre, a French photojournalist, was asked to report, through his photographs, on the work carried out by Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan, then occupied by the USSR. The journey consists of three phases, told in three chapters. 

  1. The first chapter begins with his arrival in Pakistan and the crossing of the border with Afghanistan with the MSF team. 
  2. The second chapter tells of the work done by MSF and the care given to the population wounded by the war.
  3. The last chapter describes, instead, the return journey to reach Pakistan again and be able to return to France.

Photographs and illustrations

The beauty of this book certainly lies in its unique narrative. The succession of black and white photographs, enriched by the illustrations of Emmanuel Guilbert makes its reading engaging and full of emotions.

The shots of the chaotic Peshawar in Pakistan followed by those of the silent Afghan mountains crossed by caravans especially during the night, highlight the contrast between zones of peace and zones of war. 

The atrocities of war are especially evident in the second chapter. Didier Lefèvre’s photographs tell without filters how cruel and painful war is, and how much this is amplified when the ones paying the high price are children who are still too young to understand what war is.

The Photographer | Juliette Fournot

The leader of the MSF group is Juliette Fournot. It is immediately clear that you are dealing with a strong, resolute, and determined leader thanks to the masterful storytelling carried out by the illustrations and photos. I loved reading about Juliette Fournot and how she managed the long months of the mission. In 1986, it may not have been easy to be accepted as a woman leader in war zones, and succeeding made me grow a strong appreciation and admiration for her. This is the shot, I lingered on for minutes and every time I think of “The Photographer” it comes to mind. Juliette Fournot in conversation with some leaders of an Afghan village. A simply fantastic shot.

The Photographer | Beginning and end

Of every book I read, there is always something that remains indelibly in my memory. Sometimes it’s a mood, sometimes an illustration. In this case it is a narrative detail that really moved me. The journey begins and ends with photos of the author’s mother. The shots seem almost random but, in my opinion, being there at the opening and closing of the book give them a unique importance. In particular, reading that his mother only came to know of the details of the trip when the book was published reveals the humanity of Didier Lefèvre. The author, like any son, tries to avoid worrying the parents by simply omitting certain details. 

The Photographer | Conclusion

The Photographer is an intense book that does not leave you indifferent during its reading. A book that reminds you how thin the line between life and death is, that everything can change suddenly. I highly recommend reading it and having a copy at home. 

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