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When Photographs Aren’t Quite Enough: Reflections on Photography and Cartooning in Le Photographe

By Nancy Pedri

Introduction: Multimodality in Comics

Graphic narratives tell their stories in words and images. Essentially a multimodal medium built on the “simultaneous mobilization of [verbal and visual] codes” (Groensteen 7), it is the interaction and cooperation between words and images that distinguishes graphic narratives from other narrative forms.1 In them, “[i]mages and text arrive together, work together, and should be read together,” within panels and page lay-outs as well as across pages (Gravett 11). In a way unique to graphic narratives, the visual and the verbal exist in “cross reference, one informing the other” (ibid), each actively engaging with the other while contributing invaluable information to the narrative. This modal intermingling gives rise to an intricately layered language, one where the verbal, the visual, and their combinations collaborate to animate the storyworld.2

Multimodality in graphic narrative, however, reaches beyond the oftentimes theoretically oversimplified combination of word and image. Just as various fonts, scripts, and registers come together in its linguistic track, so too do different types of images and drawing styles coexist in a number of graphic narratives. Art Spiegelman’s Maus often pairs cartooning with maps, charts, and photographs;3 the four slim volumes that comprise I Live Here by Mia Kershner combine cartooning with photography, painting, and sketching in provocative ways; and Cancer Vixon by Marisa Acocella Marchetto includes modified game-boards, photographs, ultra-sound images, restaurant receipts and flow charts in its telling. It is common to theorize the intermingling of modes of representation in graphic narrative as one between cartoon images and words, especially since “historically, the visual part of comics has been drawing, rather than any other kind of image-making” (Wolk 119). However, given the growing number of graphic narratives that incorporate a variety of different types of images into their visual track, investigations into intermodality and its implication for the reading of graphic narratives need to be expanded beyond an overarching approach to the interaction of drawn images and written words. To account for many of the specific manifestations of today’s graphic narratives, a critical conversation regarding the cooperation between various types of images and how meaning is derived from their union is well overdue.

In what follows, I will investigate the intermingling of cartooning and photography in Le Photographe, a three-volume graphic narrative that tells of Didier Lefèvre’s three-month 1986 trip to Afghanistan on a photojournalist assignment with a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission. The overlapping dialogue between cartoon images and photographic images will be closely examined to probe the meaning-making properties of their particular combination, as well as of cartooning, as they compare to those informing photography. Particular attention will be given to determining how their coming together foregrounds the distinctive characteristics of each storytelling modes.


Exploring the Photographic

Few graphic narratives are as distinguished in their balanced combination of photography and cartooning as Le Photographe, the story of Didier’s trip from Paris to Peshawar, Pakistan, where after some preparations he sets out with the MSF group on a journey by horse, donkey, foot, and caravan to Badakhshan, Afghanistan, to treat the sick and dying before returning to Paris.4 Le Photographe‘s most striking feature is the reproduction of an impressive number of the photographic images taken by Lefèvre during the trip alongside Emmanuel Guibert’s cartoon drawings and verbal text.5 Although it is not rare that graphic narratives include photographs within their pages, few if any do so as consistently, pervasively, and integrally as Le Photographe. Whether in full contact sheets, complete with the photojournalist’s red editorial markings, or in single black-and-white frames scattered generously among its pages, photographs are as essential a part of the narrative as are the cartoon drawings and the verbal text. In no way do the abrupt shifts to a photographic register disrupt the coherency of the storytelling, nor do the photographic images illustrate the story or sustain it with an evidential authority believed to be particular to the medium. Instead of being subordinated to the cartoon drawings or the verbal text, the photographic images contribute on equal ground to the narrative so that the story unfolds at the intersection of photography and cartooning and writing (see Le Photographe—la bande desinée).

Lefèvre’s photographs guide the story’s telling, serving as the starting point for both its verbal and visual component. Upon his return to France, Lefèvre repeatedly met with his friend Guibert (often casually over a light snack of cheese) to relate his trip to him while flipping through the hundreds of photographs he took during it. We are told upon finishing Le Photographe that he “dug out the contact sheets from the boxes where they’d been sleeping, and his memory, spurred by the pictures, threaded back together the story you have just read” (262).6 Photographs aid Lefèvre to relive and coherently recount the details of his experience, serving to activate memories as is often the case when looking at family albums (Garat 21-36). By relying heavily on the photographs he took to tell his story, Lefèvre offers Guibert (and, subsequently, readers of Le Photographe) the promise of direct witness with all that it implies for mood, tone, and authority. During these visual and verbal storytelling sessions, Guibert would listen to, record, and transcribe Lefèvre’s story, eventually crafting it into the graphic narrative.7

When explaining his role in the creation of Le Photographe, Guibert emphasizes that in taking on the project, he set out to capture Lefèvre’s voice, both verbally and visually. That for him Lefèvre’s story is both an oral one and a photographic one is confirmed when he lists the three objectives he had in mind while writing and drawing Le Photographe:

I created this comic book to capture Didier’s voice, to overcome the gaps between the photographs and to relate what happened when Didier, for one reason or another, was unable to take photographs. This in order to show in detail that which is rare: a reporting in the making, a day-to-day humanitarian mission, the destiny of a war-stricken mountain people. (Le Photographe—la bande desinée. Translation mine.)8

Guibert’s goal to provide readers with a verbal-visual telling of day-to-day life in the mission as it unfolded is rendered more urgent and trickier by the fact that there are significant gaps in the story Lefèvre’s photographs show. A main task for Guibert is to make up for details that were not captured photographically. When considering the making of Le Photographe, it becomes apparent that the story passed first through the filter of photography, then through that of Lefèvre’s oral account of what the photographs show and do not show, and finally through Guibert’s verbal and visual graphic narrative that supplements, expands upon, and ultimately adjusts all that Lefèvre said and that his photographs show. Le Photographe is thus the product of these two men—one a photographer, the other a cartoonist—as well as a third, graphic designer Frédéric Lemercier who “laid out and colored” the book (6).9

Although the three work together to author the graphic narrative—orally, visually, verbally, and compositionally—Le Photographe tells one man’s story, Didier’s. Indeed, within its pages, Didier directs the reading of many of the reproduced photographs, often clarifying what is shown in any given photograph or drawing attention to its importance within the overall narrative. For instance, of a photograph depicting the amount of money “sloshing around in Peshawar”,10 Didier explains: “That’s our money, the cash for the expedition. Enough for everyone to live on for three months in Afghanistan” (23)11 (Figure 1).

Figure 6

Tellingly, the verbal text does not appear in a balloon bubble used throughout Le Photographe to indicate direct speech; instead, it is contained in a yellow text box reserved for the narrator’s voice, that is, for Didier’s telling. Even within the pages of the graphic narrative, he is the one who “lived, photographed, and told” the story (6).12 The text box is positioned after a cartoon drawing of a bundle of money and a photograph of the bundles of money on a rug and before two photographs showing the group’s Palawan counting it. Didier’s narrative voice guides the understanding of both the cartoon drawing and the photographs. Although it is apparent that Lefèvre’s original oral narration has been filtered through Guibert, especially when one compares the length of the oral tracks (partly reproduced on Le Photographe—la bande desinée website) with that of the written text, it is the combination of Lefèvre’s living, seeing, photographing, and telling the story that fuels the comingling of the verbal with the visual throughout Le Photographe. And this combination is transcribed into or communicated through Didier the character-narrator.

Not only has Lefèvre’s oral storytelling been filtered through Guibert’s drawing and writing, but so too have his photographs. Although it is true that full pages throughout the graphic narrative are devoted solely to a series of photographs reproduced in their entirety without any trace of cropping or other tampering, they are nonetheless meaningful within the context—verbal and visual—in and alongside which they are reproduced. Indeed, the significance of some details would be completely lost on most readers if the photographic images—even those reproduced in an extended photographic series—were not accompanied by the narrator’s intervention.

For instance, an impressive three-page photographic series of a young girl being treated for a burned hand that seems to stand alone actually begins with a single photograph framed by two text boxes. The first reads, “This little girl had her hand burned” (129);13 the second, “John fills a teapot with an antiseptic solution and the child dips her hand in it. Then she is treated” (129)14 (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The framed photograph is highlighted with a red wax pencil—used throughout Le Photographe to indicate the photojournalist’s initial processing of the story’s raw material—and shows a man leaning over the little girl’s hand, her face tense and twisted. The next row of four photograph panels shows the girl with her hand in the tea pot, sad but calmly looking at the photographer. Each of the two following pages is comprised of eight equally sized photograph panels, divided into four rows. In them, the man from the first photograph—John, as the text box specifies—is treating the girl’s hand (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The photographic pages, which seem to be unaccompanied by words, are actually read in conjunction with the two text boxes that framed the opening photographic image. Causality—considered by many to be the essential feature of narrative15—is secured not so much by the photographic series alone, but rather by its association to the other narrative components—verbal and visual—that accompany it.

In addition, the photographs that comprise the photographic series establish a temporal relation one to the other, presenting a number of photographic fragments or cuts from a temporal continuum that they presuppose. Their tight sequence, replete with a systematic repetition of details where only slight changes are recorded, implies both a before and an after that directs, in turn, the verbal rendering (first in Lefèvre’s oral narrative and then in its transcription in the voice of Didier, the narrator). The temporal implications of the photographic sequence are restated and the narrative details expanded upon by the verbal text, just as that which the photographs present visually restates and expands upon the verbal text. In this way, the two work together as equal partners in the creation of meaning.

If narration is understood as an enunciative act, then narration cannot be given in or by an image alone. To narrate, photographs must be animated by a narrative voice that, at the very least, suggests how the story unfolds and its details logically bind together. As the example above shows, photographic storytelling in Le Photographe is made possible with the aid of a narrator’s intervention.16 Jean-Marie Schaffer examines the necessity of the narrator for narration to exist (qtd. in Groensteen 9-10), a necessity shared by both verbal and visual modes of narration. In Le Photographe, even the presentation of an entire page or more of photographic images—uninterrupted by cartooning and accompanied by only a minimal number of text boxes located several pages apart from the photographic images—is inflected with the narrator’s voice, which threads the story’s details into a coherent whole.

Photography and Cartooning

The heavy emphasis on the photographic, where entire pages of photographic image or contact sheets are printed separated from, but not semantically unattached to, any words, allows for the exploration into questions about the relationship of photography to cartooning. Since its inception, the photographic medium is considered to be closely associated with the real through the referent. Photography’s automatism, which postulates the photographic practice as actually cutting into the space of vision and the photograph as a realist slice of space (Sontag, On Photography 15), has repeatedly secured the photographic image’s status as documentary evidence of the real.17 Taken, viewed, and collected by many people from different walks of life, photographs are most often believed to be free of artistic intervention and thus able to offer precise analogical images of real human beings, events, and places. Readily viewed as “literally an emanation of the referent” (Barthes 80), it is generally assumed that the photographic image offers access to value-neutral, purely denotative vision. So, despite decades of theorizing its constructed nature and despite knowing that photographic images are often ambiguous and easily manipulated, readers—even the most savvy of readers—continue to fall prey to the “myth of photographic truth” (Sturken and Cartwright 17). Even when faced with an obviously staged photograph—such as those that mimic the forms of history painting—the “desire to find that within the image that evades intentionality” directs its reading (Lowry 219).

Photographs, as Joel Snyder argues, “make a special claim upon our attention because they are supposed not only to look realistic (although they do not all look realistic) but also to derive from or be caused by the objects they represent” (504). Indeed, photography’s automatism has led many theorists to turn to the photograph’s indexicality in order to distinguish photography from painting, the most prized of the visual arts.18 Unlike a drawn image, “[p]hotography left relatively few visible traces of its manufacture. Compared with brushstrokes and a network of lines, the daguerreotype seemed like a smooth mirror that did not betray how it was made” (Marien 74). Photography was theorized as an automatic recording device that required no interpretation, and the photographic image’s aesthetic value as secondary to its referential power. Too inescapably wedded to its referent, the photographic image lays claim to an evidential value that is difficult for any other type of image to match. “Painting” as Fred Ritchin specifies, “was posited to have preceded, inspired, and then been threatened by photography in the nineteenth century—the handmade versus the mechanical” (19). Where a painting is an artistic image, a photograph is a documentary one, and while a painter skilfully implements rules of representation that trigger projection responses in viewers, a photographer uses a camera to “capture” a “trace” of the object itself.19

The distinction between photography and painting as theorized along the axis of reference, where photography is unmediated and painting is authored, has been extended to cartooning. In an early formulation of the distinction between photographic images and other visual representations, Susan Sontag argues that unlike “handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings,” which are interpretations of the world, photographic images are “pieces of [the world], miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire” (On Photography 4). More recently, Ann Cvetkovich adopts a similar line of reasoning to reflect upon the difference between cartooning and photography. She argues: “While it can carry with it the presumption of the evidentiary truth of seeing so attached to the visual, graphic narrative’s hand-crafted drawing distinguishes it from contemporary realist forms such as photography and film and reminds us that we are not gaining access to an unmediated form of vision” (114). Like painting, cartooning too is subject to and makes blatantly visible its author’s style and taste as well as artistic skill and choices (see Marion 91-129). Comic critic Jared Gardner, who closely examines the narrative function of the line in the cartoon drawing, also engages with the question of authorial intervention to argue that “alone of all of the narrative arts born at the end of the nineteenth century, the sequential comic has not effaced the line of the artist, the handprint of the storyteller” (56). Similarly, the editors of a special issue of Modern Fiction Studies, devoted entirely to graphic narrative, argue that “graphic narrative is an autographic form in which the mark of handwriting is an important part of the rich extra-semantic information a reader receives” (Chute and DeKoven 767). Cartooning, where technique is used not only to stage a “multiplicity of ways in which text and image play upon the page” (Haskell 247), but also to accentuate meaning visually, relies upon, openly displays and, at times, even celebrates the author’s role and intention.

According to this reading, the cartoon image, then, cannot be further removed from the photographic image. Discussing the unique blend of photography and cartooning in Le Photographe, Canadian comic critic Bart Beaty distinguishes Guibert’s “stylized and simple” drawings from Lefèvre’s photographs by emphasizing that they are two different types of representations; the first is “stylized,” the second, “realist” (3). To set up an operational distinction between photo-realism (representational) and cartoon symbolism (cryptographic) in Le Photographe, however, is to undermine the way in which the two work together not only to create meaning, but also to challenge long-standing, influential notions informing the understanding of both modes of representation. When photography and cartooning occupy the same narrative space, as they do in Le Photographe, any suggestion of referential hierarchy is mute. In this graphic narrative, each at once copies and expands upon the other.

Commenting on his role as Le Photographe‘s cartoonist, Guibert explains that he tried various styles before deciding on the one we see. He claims that this experimentation had to do with the fact that on almost every page in this book the cartooning is associated closely with photographic images (Le Photographe—la bande desinée). Indeed, the cartoon drawings often portray a scene that is extremely similar to the one in the accompanying photographic image(s), perhaps introducing a slightly different perspective or providing a slightly greater degree of clarity than had been captured photographically.

Figure 4

For example, a series of seven photographs of Robert, one of the two doctors who remains in Afghanistan an additional year to run a hospital, ends with a cartoon drawing that replicates all of the details already present in the photographs (2: 66-67) (146-147) (Figure 4). Each photograph is accompanied by one or two text boxes that transcribe Robert’s response to Didier’s question: “So, Robert, how do you feel about spending a year here?” (146).20 Unlike the greater part of text included in the pale yellow text boxes, this script is contained in quotation marks to indicate the transcription of direct speech, and not narratorial commentary. The photographs that comprise the series are all very similar: they are close-ups of Robert sitting with his arms crossed over his knees, smoking a cigarette in front of a bold chequered wall hanging. The cartoon drawing that closes the series and the conversation is of Robert in the same position against the same wall hanging. His speech is indicated by the white balloon bubble used in the cartoon drawings throughout Le Photographe to indicate direct speech. The only significant difference is that the cartoon drawing is vertically longer than the photographic images with Robert depicted in its far right-hand corner.

Such strict repetition, where the cartoon drawing seems to be redundant given the series of photographic images that accompanies it, actually serves to intensify Lefèvre’s photographs as well as the story Didier is telling.21 Upon reaching the cartoon drawing, readers have been exposed to seven similar photographic images and are already so familiar with them that the risk of desensitization is great. Excessive exposure to a given type of image, as well as to visually similar images, can give rise to what James Elkins has called “blindness”, that is, a visual deficiency that “grows in the very center of vision, [with] its roots [extending] everywhere” (205). Blindness is a phenomenon of vision that can be closely linked to visual repetition since it accounts for the “things that fall through the cracks of vision” because they are “too boring to see, too normal or unremarkable to ever catch the eye” (ibid.). In Le Photographe, a cartoon rendition of what is shown photographically can serve to ward off the risks of blindness as defined by Elkins. When the cartoon drawing introduces an abrupt visual break away from the photographic register, as it does in this example, it draws readers back into the narrative. In other words, it functions as a sort of exclamation mark that safeguards readers against the numbing effect of repetition.

As can be predicted, not all of the cartoon drawings repeat so closely what is shown in the photographic images. At times, Guibert’s cartooning actually offers readers a glimpse of, and thus accounts for, what Lefèvre was unable to capture photographically, such as the activities he engages in on a day-to-day basis: photographing, bathing, reading, conversing with group members, running for shelter, walking in the dark and so forth.22 In these instances, cartooning fills a gap in the initial visual narrative, a gap brought to light for Guibert by Lefèvre’s oral account and for readers by Didier’s first-person narrative. Cartooning provides visual commentary for the parts of Didier’s story that were not captured photographically, thus complimenting and expanding upon what the photographic images show. Three full cartoon-drawn pages, for instance, are devoted to a discussion between Didier and Régis, a doctor with the mission, about their respective jobs (2:44-46) (124-126). The two men are drawn conversing as they stand against a plain pale green backdrop, only their gestures and expressions change as the discussion unfolds. The information contained in the white balloons is crucial not only for what it tells readers about the extreme conditions under which the MSF work, but also because it sheds light on how Didier, our first-person narrator, knows about details that cannot be grasped through observation alone. The visual track, comprised of a series of cartoon drawings, indicates that the details of their jobs were collected through a relatively lengthy exchange. In a story that is centered on seeing and showing, this information would be lost without the intervention of cartooning.23

A similar task of filling in the blanks also arises when cartooning is used to focus attention on a detail ostensibly found in a photographic image. A cartoon drawing of a collapsed mule on a rocky bridge is included immediately before a photographic image of a donkey whose hoof is stuck in a makeshift bridge (68) (Figure 5). The cartoon drawing both provides the minute details that the photograph does not capture and serves to zoom in on the detail that is important at this particular time in the narrative. In this sense, Guibert’s cartoon drawing works to compliment and complete the photograph’s narrative significance, clearing away all the nonessential details of the photographed scene.

Figure 5

This simplification of the photographic image through cartooning partakes in a process Scott McCloud has described as “the stripped-down intensity” of cartooning that “can be an effective tool for storytelling in any medium” (31). Like the verbal text boxes, the cartoon drawings direct the photograph’s meaning, not by telling, but rather by showing that which the photograph could not show adequately or convincingly.

So, although in these instances it may seem that the cartoon drawing is in excess to the photographic image it accompanies, merely repeating what is already shown photographically, it actually fulfils a narrative function that extends beyond repetition. It adds to the narrative by expanding upon and directing the understanding of that which is visualized in the photographic image. If drawing is an “act of visualization” that, as cartoonist Joe Sacco specifies, “comes with an unavoidable measure of refraction” (x), then that refraction can serve to focus the reader’s understanding.

Theorizing the way in which “in comics word and image approach each other,” Charles Hatfield explains that “the written text can function like images, and images like written text” (36).24 The above instance, where the cartoon drawing is (to borrow from Hatfield), “simplified and codified to function as a language” (37), serves to point to the photograph’s visual shortcomings or its inability to live up to what it has been theorized as doing. In Le Photographe, the coupling of cartoon drawings with photographs repeatedly exposes photographic reference as faulty and points to the photographic image as falling short in its role as a sound verifier of reality—as an immediate, incontrovertible, complete record of experience. The drawings trouble the security of the photographic image, producing a differentiated space of representation that opens up a more complex articulation of the way in which photography cannot fulfill its promise to make the “real” or the “true” visible. Although the photographic images do provide archival documentation and visual evidence of Lefèvre’s trip (Priego 1), their redrawing accentuates what they show or, at times, fail to show suggests that they are simply not strong enough in their narrative capacity to stand on their own.

In her analysis of war photography, Sontag focuses on how some photographic images are “not concrete, not detailed enough” to give rise to the intended response in readers (Regarding 75). Indeed, many deem photographs to be completely silent. Photography museum curator Urs Stahel has defined the photograph as “a kind of mute tale that starts and stops, suggests and offers, only to fall silent again, leaving the results open” (12). Stanley Cavell is of a similar opinion. “The beauty of their nature,” he writes of photographic images, “is exactly to say nothing, neither to lie or not to” (1). Photographs, then, are “worthless supports of information” (Fusser 330). Without the intervention of a storyteller who takes on the task of giving form to the story’s content, photographs reveal very little about anything. The cartooning in Le Photographe partly fulfills this task, structuring diverse aspects of Lefèvre’s experience as it is captured both in the photographs and in the text boxes that translate his oral telling.

Conclusion: Letting Readers In

In Le Photographe oftentimes similar, if not identical, photographs are reproduced side-by-side. Full contact sheets and film strips of over a dozen frames showing a slightly different angle of the same scene find their way into the pages of this graphic narrative. The inclusion of a number of photographic shots, most of which would never make the photojournalist’s final cut, invites readers to partake in the selection process that informs photojournalism. Didier, a photographer in a foreign land who shoots away, hopes, “If I’ve done my job correctly, it should be there, among the last five or six shots” (1: 73).25 As the sheer number of contact sheets that accompany this comment suggests, once the photographs are taken, he steps away from the narrating process and invites readers to contemplate which shot, among the nineteen showing a donkey who needs to be rescued while crossing a wide river with a strong current, is the one that best captures the moment (Figure 6). Such intense visual repetition, accompanied by the declaration that there should be a good photograph, transfers onto the reader part of the selection process that filters into all storytelling.26 Readers are left to their own resources to work through the photographic images and determine not only what each one adds to the narrative, but also which one best captures the event’s essence.

Figure 6

The suggestion is that there is a resistance on the part of the authors to make the final cut, to present the good photograph, the one that penetrates and delivers something special of its subject, but whose features and precise characteristics Didier admits not quite knowing (1: 61). For Didier, photography is about trying to understand; it is his way of working through a problem, and not presenting a final claim on understanding and knowing. As the diverse verbal-visual strategies adopted in Le Photographe suggest, photographic images do not stand as singular records, final in their revelatory function. When included in a work of literature, they are not meant to stand as neat or transparent renderings of reality. On the contrary, because what they show is full of narrative potential and thus always a reporting in the making, they encourage readers to share in the authorship of the telling. Far from illustrating or providing documentary evidence for the story, photographs autonomously contribute to the overall semantic (as well as aesthetic and emotional) effect of Le Photographe by working alongside the words and cartoon drawings to draw readers into the meaning-making process.

Although photography gave rise to the narrative—from Lefèvre’s desire to photograph all he saw while on the trip, to his photographic images serving as guides in his oral narrative, and finally to Didier’s preoccupation with guiding readers through their meaning—cartooning plays an equal role in contributing to the story’s unfolding. By drawing attention to a particular photographic detail that may have gone by unnoticed or that was not clearly captured in the photographic image, and by reinforcing both Lefèvre’s oral and photographic narrative through visual repetition (and more can certainly be said about visual repetition across modes of representation), cartooning in Le Photographe extends beyond providing the artist’s understanding or vision of the story. Besides informing readers of “the way the artist’s mind interprets sight” (Wolk 125), it also cues them as to how to engage in the process of understanding Didier’s story. The cartoon drawings ask readers to stop on the photographic images, go back to them and tease out their details so to engage emotionally with the story they are used to narrate. Ultimately, then, it is the unique coupling of such an impressive number and arrangement of photographic images with cartooning that draws readers to participate in Didier’s physical and emotional experience that is Le Photogrpahe.


[1] Due to this intermodality, graphic narratives depend for their meaning upon the integration of visual and verbal literacies, an observation Charles Hartfield deals with in length in the second chapter of his Alternative Comics entitled “An Art of Tensions: The Otherness of Comics Reading.”

[2] In relation to the use of photography in Maus, Marianne Hirsch suggests that since the photographs are reproduced and not drawn, they actually disrupt or rupture the narrative, creating a dissonance, an incongruity through which the “three pictures tell their own narrative of loss, mourning and desire, one that inflects obliquely, that both supports and undercuts the story of Maus” (37).

[3] Didier is used throughout this article to refer to Le Photographe‘s first-person narrator. Lefèvre, in contrast, refers to the real-life photographer and oral storyteller.

[4] Guibert has also worked with Alain Keler to create a graphic narrative that mixes photographs and comic panels in a style similar to the one found in Le PhotographeNouvelles d’Alain was first published in XXI starting in October 2009.

[5]  “sort les planches contact des cartons où elles dormaient et sa mèmoire, vivifiée par les photos, reconstitute l’histoire que vous venez de lire” (3: n.p.).

[6] Guibert taped Lefèvre’s story on 8 K7 audio tapes (Le Photographe—la bande desinée).

[7] “J’ai conçu cette bande dessinée pour faire entendre la voix de Didier, combler les vides entre les photos et raconter ce que se passe quand Didier, pour une raison ou une autre, n’a pas pu photographier. Tout cela dans l’idée de montrer dans le détail ce qui l’est rarement: un reportage en train de se faire, une mission humanitaire au jour le jour, le destin d’une population de montagnards prise dans la guerre” (Le Photographe—la bande desinée).

[8] “mise en page et en couleur” (1: 6).

[9] “qui circule à Peshawar” (1: 23).

[10] “Ça c’est le nôtre, cellui de l’expédition. Du fric pour faire vivre tout le monde pendant trois mois en Afghanistan” (1: 23).

[11] “vécue, photographiée et racontée” (1: 6).

[12] “Cette petite fille a la main brûlée” (1: 49).

[13] “John remplit une thérière de potion antispetique et l’enfant y trempe sa main. Ensuite, il la soigne” (2: 49).

[14] David Herman, for instance, defines narrative as “a primary resource for building causal-chronological patterns—that is, sequences of events linked not just by temporal succession but also by relations of cause and effect…” (57).

[15] Although text boxes are often coupled with a photographic image or a series of photographs to aid in the full realization of the particular event or episode under discussion, in no way is it suggested that the written word has primacy over the image. Indeed, such a hierarchy is drastically challenged in Le Photographe where the verbal component semantically (and not only aesthetically) compliments the visual and vice versa. For theories of how words govern the meaning of the images they accompany, see Kibedi Varga and Brunet (Photography 35-61).

[16] Struggling to theoretically tame the particularly forceful reality effect of photographic images, Roland Barthes ultimately conceives of the photograph as, in essence, “a superimposition…of reality and the past” (76). For a detailed overview of this question, see Pedri 157-160.

[17] For an overview of how the photograph as a mechanical, automatic, or natural image affected Peirce’s discussion of photographic images, see Brunet’s article, “A better example is a photograph.” For a concise discussion on photography’s realism, see John Roberts.

[18] For a detailed summary of theoretical debates distinguishing photography from painting based on photography’s referential force, see Philippe Dubois (19-53).

[19] “Ça te fait quoi, Robert, de passer un an ici?” (2: 66)

[20] Pierre Mason actually calls comics the “stuttering art” to account for the partial repetition of content between the panels on a page (72).

[21] There is one instance when a fellow traveller, Tchopan, “insists on taking a picture” (“insiste pour me prendre en photo”) of Didier (3: 39) (201). The blurry photograph of Didier is reproduced in Le Photographe immediately following the cartoon drawing of Tchopan taking Didier’s photograph. The inclusion of such a blurry photograph may be a rare instance that serves to prove Didier’s (and Lefèvre’s) bravura as a photographer. It may also indicate the extreme differences between war-stricken Afghanistan and France, especially regarding familiarity with the photographic camera.

[22] A particularly striking example of cartooning showing that which cannot be seen photographically is the large textbox that occupies an entire page close to the middle of Part 1 (31). A third of the box is filled with text explaining in detail the steps and precautions that will be taken on the journey to Afghanistan, a third is empty pale yellow space, and the bottom portion of the text box shows five scantily drawn travelers on horses fading away in the distance. The amount of detailed information provided in the written portion of the text box is as impressive as the sense of the unknown suggested by the cartoon visuals.

[23] McCloud examines the language of cartoons and argues that cartoons are images simplified for the purpose of focusing the reader’s attention on a particular idea. In this way, the cartoon (just like language) “places itself in the world of concepts” (41).

[24] “Si j’ai bien fait mon boulot, elle dvrait être là, dans les cinq ou six dernières” (1: 73).

[25] The use of blank, empty or excessively dark panels throughout Le Photographe also signals a sharing of authorship with readers.

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