Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War

Title:  It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War
Author:  Lynsey Addario
Publication Information:  The Penguin Press HC. 2015. 368 pages.
ISBN:  159420537X / 978-1594205378

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Opening Sentence:  "In the perfect light of a crystal-clear morning, I stood outside a putty-colored cement hospital near Ajdabiya, a small city on Libya's northern coast, more than five hundred miles east of Tripoli."

Favorite Quote:  "I became fascinated by the notion of dispelling stereotypes or misconceptions through photographs, of presenting the counter intuitive ... I learned quickly to tuck away my own political beliefs while I worked and to act as a messenger and conduit of ideas for the people I photographed."

Lynsey Addario is an award winning photojournalist. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, and other publications. Her achievements and awards include the MacCarthur Fellowship Grant, inclusion in the National Geographic Women of Vision exhibition, a Getty Images grant for editorial photography, the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting as part of New York Times team, and many others.

Her vision of her life is summarized in the title of her book - It's what I do. In a 2011 New York Times article, Addario expressed her philosophy about photography. "People think photography is about photographing. To me, it’s about relationships. And it’s about doing your homework and making people comfortable enough where they open their lives to you."

This book continues on that theme. "I was still trying to figure out how to take pictures of them without compromising their dignity ... my role was always the same:  Tread lightly, be respectful, get into the story as deeply as I could without making the subject feel uncomfortable or objectified."

Traveling and photographing news in so many different parts of the world - Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Darfur, Afghanistan, India, and more, the philosophy broadens into one of using photographs to go behind the politics and capture people, perhaps helping to dispel stereotypes along the way.

Lynsey Addario brings us into her life and what it takes to be a photojournalist - the tradeoffs between personal and professional life, the sacrifices in personal relationships, the courage, the willingness to take risks, the constant search for the next story, and the physical and emotional toll of witnessing the atrocities and injuries of war.

The book also brings us into the business of photojournalism - the struggle to break into the business, the relationship between reporter and photographer, the importance of the local on-site team, the competition and the camaraderie between journalists, and the control exerted over the media by political and government influences. Lynsey Addario does not shy away from sharing the positive - the high of being part of a Pulitzer Prize winning teams - and the negative - the dismay over images and stories being kept out of the press for non-journalistic reasons due to politics and pressure. "When I risked my life to ultimately be censored by someone sitting in a cushy office in New York who was deciding on behalf of regular Americans what was too harsh for their eyes..., I was furious."

Finally, Lynsey Addario, with her words and her images, brings us into the dichotomy of travelling to regions rife with struggle. On the one hand are detailed descriptions of living through the harrowing experiences of accidents, bombings, shooting, and kidnappings. On the other hand are the experiences of the welcome and hospitality received in the very same places. On the one hand are those who hate and seek to destroy and on the other hand are those who offer friendship and who lay down their lives because they believe in the work of the photojournalists. Same place, different outlooks. Behind the stereotypes are individuals, each one unique.

The book covers a wide scope of time and geography. As such, it skims over some experiences while describing others in greater details. However, detailed or not, the descriptions pull the reader in the world being described and into Lynsey Addario's journey.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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