Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Photographer: A Moving Documentary

In 1986, French photographer Didier Lefèvre left Paris for Afghanistan for his first major assignment as a photojournalist, accompanying a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) expedition to establish one field hospital and staff another. At that time in Afghanistan, war was raging betweem the Soviet Union and the Afghan Mujahideen. The photographs taken by Lefèvre on that three-month trip form the heart of a new book, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, a book that is part photojournalism and part graphic memoir. It is published by First Second Books.

A decade after his first trip, Lefèvre sat down with his friend and acclaimed French graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert to tell his story. Guibert based his writing and drawing of the book on their hours of interviews. Frederic Lemercier, a graphic designer, created the design for the book, and Alexis Siegel provided the translation and wrote the introduction. Together, the work of these four people tells the moving story of an arduous and dangerous journey undertaken by men and women intent on mending what others destroy.

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, called this graphic documentary "a work of stunning originality and power....a truly inspiring piece of work." The book was first published in three volumes in France between 2003 and 2006 and was an immediate hit. It has since been published in eleven languages. The First Second Books American version came out last May. Before he died in 2007 (he was born in 1957), Lefevre traveled back to Afghanistan seven more times in an attempt to tell the stories of the people he could not forget -- despite having nearly died on his first trip there.

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