In Review: The Photographer Lynsey Addario’s Memoir

In her memoir, “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War,” Lynsey Addario shows that her career and life are examples of how life is unpredictable. In April of 2000, she was a freelance photographer for the Associated Press living in New Delhi, India. Her reporter roommate suggested that she travel to Afghanistan to cover the lives of women under the Taliban because there were very few female journalists covering that issue.

Addario went to Afghanistan a few times before September 11, 2001. After September 11, Addario became one of the most respected photographers of the war in Afghanistan because “few photographers had worked in Afghanistan under the Taliban, as I had.”

Since then she has covered most of the major conflicts of the 21st Century. Parkland photography instructor Craig McMonigal who teaches a History of Photography course, thinks that Addario’s “composition and choice of subject are noteworthy, and her images do stand above most images done by similar photographers.”

According to McMonigal, “News photographers often have little or no time to look for the image they want; they just begin shooting and keep shooting in the hopes of getting a newsworthy image.”041_lynseyaddario

McMonigal noted there are situations where subjects are posing, such as human interest images or environmental portraits. However, the images selected for news media are decided by an editor. “Often images are sent directly to the editor without the photographer even able to see them once they have shot them. Editors use a variety of criteria in selecting an image. Newsworthiness is certainly top of the list, and that may even supersede quality, exposure and composition. Any image that has all of the above will stand out and have a better chance of being selected for publication,” McMonigal said.

Some examples of the process of news photography in “It’s What I Do” are during the Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. Addario writes that she “had once filed under fire in Fallujah from beneath the protection of a Humvee.” Addario also remembers her photos of injured soldiers from Fallujah being treated in Germany, being censored by Life magazine for being too “real for the American public.”

Many of Addario’s most well-known photos are editorial. According to McMonigal, editorial photos are photos that are not taken “spur of the moment.” Addario seems to call her editorial photos that she mentions in her books, “documentary” photos.

Editorial photos are taken over a longer period of time than news photography. The editorial photos taken by Addario often involved her need to build a level of trust with her subjects. An example of this process was in 1999, the AP asked Addario to do a photo-essay of a transgender prostitute community in New York City.

According to her, the community was “seemingly impenetrable” and suspicious of outsiders. It took several weeks of work to make the community comfortable with her presence for her to find possible subjects. After that she had to spend every weekend for five months with her subjects. According to Addario, “as I gained their trust, my photographs became more intimate.”

“It’s What I Do” is a very readable book. Addario is not very verbose in her writing and the book has many examples of her photography. Not only is her professorial life interesting, her personal life is unusual. Addario’s husband is from one of the prominent families of Liechtenstein. I believe she is pretty honest about her worldview, whether the reader agrees with her or not. After Addario became more established she became interested in making more artistic, abstract pictures. Fine-art prints of some of her photos have sold for several thousand dollars. Addario justifies the sale of these photos; she needs the money to continuing photographing.

She believes that “trying to convey beauty in war was a technique to try to prevent the reader from looking away or turning the page in response to something horrible. I wanted them to linger, to ask questions,” she said.