I read It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War by Lynsey Addario in two or three days. I had similar awe and envy as years ago when I read Annapurna: A Woman’s Place by Arlene Blum, about the 1978 all-women team of climbers making their ascent of Annapurna I. I at once want that life experience and am grateful for others’ commitment, risks and exploration.
I appreciated Addario’s work before I knew who she was. In particular, her spread of Afghan women for National Geographic. Reading It’s What I Do helped me understand how Addario works, returning to stories over a long time so that she can create a body of work that speaks more fully. That process reminds me of writers or documentary makers who pour into a single narrative for years until the end is a story for us absorb.
Absorb. That’s what I like about strong photography. Thinking pictures. I like seeing people and places and situations that aren’t mine but also are, as I return to the photo multiple times to wonder or empathize or question.
Perhaps because I’m in the region, I connected to her experience working in Iraq during the invasion and her more recent return to photograph Yazidis fleeing persecution. Her book covers her learning curve as a photographer and dedication to truth telling as well as the emotional toll of war zones and deadlines, an immediacy she knows on one side of the line that most of us miss until editors okay a print. And there’s love! As promised in the title, she tells about meeting her husband and choosing to start a family. In the middle, she loses war reporter colleagues (family in the field, really) and is kidnapped twice. After over a decade of work, she is recognized as one of the best photographers today and now balances a husband and child with her time covering events most of us learn from headlines. Go to Addario’s site and take a look at her work. Pick up her book and read. Be glad there are people like Lynsey Addario to show us so many stories.
For an audio peek into Addario’s work, check out Radiolab’s “Sight Unseen.”