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It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
Lynsey Addario's passport reads like a litany of misery. An aspiring photojournalist at the moment of 9/11, Addario was recruited to record the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Her decision to go launched her career as one of the world's most dedicated and celebrated chroniclers of human conflict, taking her on tours through Iraq, Darfur, Libya, the Congo, and Somalia, where her work earned her awards including the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant." Her new autobiography, It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War, is as direct as its title; Addario presents her extraordinary story in straightforward, understated prose, placing emphasis squarely on the facts and the subjects of her stirring photographs, generously reproduced in these pages.
And Addario doesn't neglect her own story. For its selection for our Best Books of the Month for February 2015, Amazon.com reviewer Amy Huff writes: "Her story often underscores her insecurities in her profession and personal life. Even with her numerous accolades, she worries about being forgotten, missing the breaking story, and not being taken seriously as a woman. It's a frank and refreshingly candid look into a successful professional photojournalist at the top of her game, but it never romanticizes the risks that are necessary to bring us her images. Her story is inspiring, heartbreaking and an eye-opening look at what it takes to reveal events from the other side of the world."
Enjoy these images and captions from author Lynsey Addario.
Couple watching TV in Havana, Cuba: I first traveled to Havana in 1997, one year after returning to New York from Buenos Aires. I was interested in photographing the forbidden, the idea that Cuba was one of the last bastions where Communism prevailed, and I wanted to capture what this meant for Cubans in their every day life. I knocked on this couple’s door in Old Havana, introduced myself as an American photographer, and asked if I could come in and see their house. Fidel was on TV. There was something in the simplicity of their expression, the spare room, and Fidel on the TV that resonated with me. Along Havana’s streets, ubiquitous graffiti touted the merits of Communism, and inside, Fidel seemed to always be making a speech on TV. The ideology was inescapable. I returned to Cuba every year between 1997 and 2002, and haven’t been back since.
Iraqi woman in a black abaya walking towards the smoke: In the months after Saddam Hussein fell, Iraq was enveloped in chaos: there was looting everywhere, general lawlessness, and fires seemed to be burning at all times around the country. Many of us journalists used to climb up on the roof of wherever we were staying, or look out our balcony windows, to try to spot where the latest fire was, and would start our days there, navigating our way towards the fire. I traveled to Basra in Southern Iraq in late May 2003, less than two months after the fall of the regime, and on one of the first days I arrived, there was a massive, black plume of smoke originating from the outskirts of the city. My driver and I went directly there, and I was looking for someone to ask what had happened. This woman was one of the first people I saw. I stopped her, and asked where she was going. She explained that she was going to look for her husband, who worked in the factory where the fire was raging; she was concerned because there was liquid gas in the factory, and there might be secondary explosions. I warned her not to go closer—that if her husband was ok, he would surely leave the area, and her effort might be in vain. She looked and me as if I were crazy, and said nothing. And continued off towards the fire.
Injured soldiers coming out of the Battle of Fallujah, November 13, 2004, prepare to fly in a C-17 Cargo plane from the Air Force Theatre Hospital in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, to military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, and eventually on to the United States. In 2003-2004, I was embedded at the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad during the bloody battle of Fallujah. By that point, I had spent almost two years in Iraq, covering the war from both sides--embedded with the military and with Iraqi civilians, and I had rarely seen an injured American soldier. The military was cautious not to let journalists document the gravely wounded, and I struggled with the fact that I felt Americans weren’t privy to the brutality of war. So when we were invited on this embed, I was skeptical about the access we would be given. I was wrong: the military offered us unabridged access to the wounded coming into the Balad Air Base. The only stipulation to my coverage was that I had to get signed releases from everyone I photographed—which was fair. It was my birthday, November 13th, 2004 the night we walked over to the tarmac to photograph a cargo plane that had been stripped of its interior, its floor and sides crammed with injured troops. Dozens of soldiers had come fresh out of war, and were starting their journey home. As I photographed the troops bathed in the red light (red light is less visible from a distance, thus often used at night in areas under attack ) I remember thinking how important these pictures might be to a reader, that if they could see the toll the war in Iraq was taking on our troops, the images might influence their opinion of the war. According to the NYT article which accompanied my photographs, as of March 18, 2005, 11,344 American soldiers had been injured in the war in Iraq.
Bibiane: Bibiane, 28, weeps as she talks about her experience getting kidnapped and raped by three men over the course of three days in the forest in South Kivu at a center in Walungu, South Kivu, in Eastern Congo, April 14, 2008. Bibiane was left HIV+ after she was assaulted, and her husband left her because she was raped; she has three children, and one has just died from malnutrition. It was early 2008, and I had been working in the DRC documenting the civil war for two years. I had just received a grant to cover rape as a weapon of war, and I spent at least eight hours a day for two weeks interviewing and photographing women recounting their horrific stories. By the time I interviewed Bibiane, I had already spoken to dozens of woman. I always tried to stay strong and supportive while talking with them, in a lame effort to make them feel like perhaps their stories weren’t as devastating as they recounted. Among dozens of women I interviewed and photographed, Bibiane’s story stayed with me: perhaps it was the steady stream of tears that ran down her cheek as I photographed her, or the moment at the end of the interview, when I asked whether she was taking ARV drugs for HIV, and she opened up a small piece of cloth to reveal her medication and a lone potato—her one meal for the day. And she was so matter of fact about her story, the way she recounted how she had been raped, had contracted HIV, how her son he just died, how her entire sustenance for the day consisted of a potato. It broke my heart.
Thousands of Syrians cross from Syria into Northern Iraq near the Sahela border point in Dahuk, Northern Iraq, August 21, 2013. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that over 30,000 Syrians have crossed into Northern Iraq since the border was re-opened last week, and roughly three to four thousand continue to cross daily. I had been covering the plight of Syrian refugees since 2012, but I had yet to witness such a scene of exodus. I often caught Syrians when they had already arrived in a host country, and were struggling to rebuild their lives and to survive in overcrowded camps and makeshift shelters amidst urban sprawl. But this scene was different: I was witnessing them flee, witnessing them cross into Iraq, a country that had itself been the scene of so much war, which had sprung its own refugees into Syria. When I photographed their faces as they trudged dutifully towards me, they were so human; but as I turned around to shoot a different angle—their backs as they entered northern Iraq, the endless stream of refugees looked like they were part of the landscape.
Rebel fighters and Libyan civilians cower as they listen to the sound of a plane at the frontline in Ras Lanuf, Libya: The frontline in Libya consisted of little more than dozens of armed fighters scattered along a paved road that connected Eastern and Western Libya, all the way to Tripoli. We spent hours each day documenting the fighting between rebel troops and Ghadaffi’s soldiers fighting from positions on the road up ahead. Ghadaffi still had an active Air Force at that point in the war, and he would routinely send attack helicopters and aircraft armed which would dump 250 pound bombs on our positions. No one ever knew exactly where the bombs were going to land, so when we heard the hum of an aircraft in the distance, it was like Russian roulette: everyone would cower, cover their heads, pray, or run in every which direction to try to escape the impending attack. I found it almost impossible to capture the drama of those moments before the bombs fell.
Darfur Rebels in the sandstorm: The first time I traveled to Darfur, I walked into Sudan from neighboring Chad, and rode around north west Darfur on the back of a pick up truck alongside 17 rebels. The truck was falling apart and over-loaded with the weight of too many fighters and all of their belongings, and broke down at least a handful of times per day. I shot this picture after one of the first times we broke down in the empty desert. The sky was darkening with a sandstorm, but there was a gentle afternoon sun peeking through the sandy sky. There was something so beautiful and serene about the moment, even though it was anything but that. The fighter, a man, is often mistaken for a woman. This image always reminds me of the quiet, poetic moments in warzones that are always unexpected, but inevitable.