Imperial, William T. Vollmann. (Viking) $55
Imperial: Photographs, William T. Vollmann (powerHouse Books) $55
William Vollmann is known for his writing on poverty and violence, that coupled with his obsession with place makes him the perfect investigative writer to explore the Mexican-American border. Vollman’s 1300-page work explores almost everything there is to explore in Imperial County, California, and the Mexican borderlands beyond the Federales’ checkpoints. Split into chapters centered on issues and incidents, including copious footnotes, charts of cantaloupe production, maps, and photographs, Imperial is the most thorough and readable biography of any American county. A beautiful portrait of a place, its people, and the relationship between them, marred by political borders and economics.
Vollmann’s photographs accompany his writing perfectly, humanizing coyotes, prostitutes, and border patrol officers alike.
The Photographer, Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, & Frédéric Lemercier. (:01 Books) $29.95
Another exploration of place, this time chronicling the work of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontièrs in 1986 Afghanistan. Photojournalist Didier Lefèvre accompanied DWB through the Afghanistan countryside following the Soviet Union’s invasion. Graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert has stitched together his photographs with comics to create a compelling historical narrative. The Photographer is an important history lesson for an American audience and a powerful last testament to the work of Didier Lefèvre, who passed away of a heart attack at age 49, in 2007. The panels that combine comics and photography are especially powerful, the photographs appear as flashes of humanity, reminders that the tragedy is real.