I picked up this book with no expectations and I was surprised how well-written and captivating it was. “It’s what I do. A photographer’s life of love and war” is a memoir by Lynsey Addario, an achieved war photojournalist, contributor to “The New York Times”, “National Geographic” and “Time Magazine”. The book includes many of Addarios’s photographs, thus providing us with an additional aesthetic experience. Great read, and here’s why.
Being a female war photographer.
The author describes her journey as a photographer from the moment she picked up a camera, but she doesn’t shy away from opening up on her personal life, heavily subjected to the demands of her work. What’s especially poignant is her experience of gender differences in war journalist’s life – being a working woman in countries ruled by the Talib. Addario doesn’t complain or paint a black vision of gender discrimination, she honestly describes sexual harassment during demonstrations in Pakistan or constant assaults in Libya, where she and her coworkers were kidnapped and mistreated, mistreatment being gender specific. She writes about enduring more not to seem weak and unsuitable for the job of covering breaking news. Men in Afghanistan were uncomfortable in her presence, the sight of the skin on her wrist was shocking, and if they agreed to have her presence in the room, they treated her as “androgynous, a third, undefined sex”. On the other hand, she acknowledges that a woman photographer could get inside places forever closed to men, like women’s madrassas in Pakistan.
Deep understanding of cultural differences.
This unique opportunity allowed her to observe and document lives of both men and women in countries ridden by wars and religious restrictions. Since the beginning of her travels, she strived to understand people beyond cultural differences, to submerge herself in unfamiliar perspectives and blend as much as possible into different worlds. She experienced an amazing hospitality and assistance in the Middle East, but was still often surprised “to see an actual living being under the tomblike burqua”. She learned that the Mideast territories were much more than women-hating terrorists and she worked hard to tell the whole story of conflicts.
Purpose of photography.
Addario describes the goal of her photography in these words: “I became fascinated by the notion of dispelling stereotypes or misconceptions through photographs, of presenting the counterintuitive”. She became a messenger for people she photographed and didn’t let her personal opinions and political views influence her stories. She reveals images that are uncomfortable to many, and even exposes instances of ignorance and cruelty of young American soldiers. This tireless effort to discover truth about people, places and situations is driving her whole career and deserves respect and admiration.
This honest memoir gives a good insight in an unconventional life of a brave woman going back and forth between war zones and safe family life. Her cameras serve to go underneath the surface, document history and reveal the untold. She is also a wife and a mother – that’s called a work-life balance.