Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Lynsey Addario came to Santa Barbara last Saturday, conducting the crowd through her life stories in her book “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.” Her career, travels, and heart-thrilling experiences inspired her performance, hosted by UCSB Arts & Lectures.
She started off her speech by explaining why she decided to cover wars. “I [think] it [started] from my childhood. I grew up in Westport, Connecticut. I was the youngest of four sisters, so that probably was the best war-training ever.” Pausing from a roar of laughter, she continued. “Because I got beaten up basically on a daily basis, this is a very seventies-style self-portrait.”
Then she mentioned her experience in Argentina at the Buenos Aires Herald and later at the Associated Press after coming back to the U.S. Beyong freelancing for the AP for three years, her curiosity and care for women-related issues led her to be a photographer for Time magazine and travel to take photos in regions of Afghanistan under Taliban control.
“When I got there, I realized that my gender can really open doors,” said Addario. “It was the first time that I’ve been to a country where men and women are separated by gender.” She sneaked around to take pictures of women on the street, who are not able to be in labor under the Taliban, and she shot pictures of secret schools for girls, who are not allowed to be educated under similar circumstances.
In addition to covering women’s education issues during the war of Afghanistan, she approached other stories from a feminine and humane angle. She reflected on conditions of women as well as major events in conflict-ridden areas throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Addario traveled to Istanbul, northern and central Iraq, and Darfur to cover conflicts. She documented internally-displaced people and rebel groups around refugee camps and abandoned villages. In 2004, she also extended her coverage of the Middle East to women’s issues in Saudi Arabia while shooting other features in Turkey, Libya, South Africa, and Lebanon.
Similar to the risks of any other war correspondents, dangers and risks are like shadows following her. On May 9, 2009, in Pakistan, Addario was involved in an automobile accident while returning to Islamabad from an assignment at a refugee camp. Her collar bone (clavicle) was broken, another journalist was injured, and the driver was killed.
In a later incident a few years later, Addario was reported missing along with three other journalists in Libya from March 16-21 in 2011. Commenting on the disappearance, she said that, “It was the first time that I realized it was as bad as it seemed … For the first three days, we were repeatedly beaten, punched in faces and sexually assaulted … On the third day, when we had been put into prison, they threw us into the back of a pickup truck like sardines and they paraded us for six hours under the hot sun. And every forty-five minutes they would slow the truck down enough so that we could get beaten by angry mobs.”
After that she started to cover refugee crises instead of frontline war stories. “For the last five years, I have been covering the Syrian refuges and all the neighboring countries, from Iraq to Jordan and Lebanon,” said Addario. She recently completed a series on infant mortality, juvenile justice, sexual assault of minors, malnutrition, and education in countries across Africa for the New York Times.
Though experiencing all these extreme conditions, she persists in her career. In her self-statement, women are facing the same degrees of danger as men are during wartime. There is no difference between genders in front of violence. More importantly, she believes that women can provide various opinions and horizons on war, as they can calm people ready to do battle.
It is the ability and duty for female war correspondents to seek a “relationship” in photo journalism. “I still believe in the power of photography,” said Addario.