I usually never talk about non-photobooks on Constellation Cafe. But this book can simply not be ignored. The images by a photographer are the truest reflection of their life. But as I talk to more and more photographers it emerges that the viewpoint photographers present is always through them but never of them. How the work was produced and under what circumstances is as fascinating as the final images themselves, specially when it comes to war photographers. The book I’m talking about today focuses on just that, the journey of a photographer.
The Photographer is a beautiful multi-dimensional graphic novel published by First Second publications. Initially written in french, the english translation only came out in 2009, six years after the first french edition. Based on the true story of Didier Lefèvre, a French photojournalist, it talks about his journey through the rough terrain of Afghanistan in ’86.
Didier started working with Doctors Without Borders and accompanied them into Afghanistan. In his weeks long journey, he shot about 4,000 pictures out of which only six were published in a French Newspaper. The story of this fantastic expedition was reserved only for his close friends. And thirteen years later, encouraged by his friend Emmanuel Giibert, they put together this story.
Its difficult to describe the book because its linear yet seeks to find what we see as an outsider and what the photographer sees inside. What I love most about it is that its very utilitarian yet explores a lot within its limits. Spanning across 267 pages, the book is a mix of illustrations and contact sheets. Instead of using single images, Lefèvre inserts whole contact sheets to keep the momentum going.
Its crucial to note that Lefèvre & Guibert never treat this as a photographers portfolio. Its always treated as a biography with the focus only on the human story. My dear friend, Partha had gifted me this book about two years ago. The first time I read it, it came across as a stunning captivating story. But as the time has gone by and I hear stories of photographers in conflict zones, their personal journeys have impacted me, making this book so much more emotional.
The book quotes “The photographer ushers us into a deeper understanding of a fascinating country and a truer appreciation of humanitarian workers who risk their lives in the service of others”. But in reality it does more. The Photographer is a lesson in understanding how the dynamics in the field are so different from what we imagine them to be, how teaming up with others is always a great idea and how even in the worst conditions something amazing can turn up.
I would definitely recommend the book for your library. I haven’t been able to find it in any stores locally but I did find it on amazon for 34$.