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Finally, to another of our Brief But Spectacular episodes, where we ask interesting people to describe their passion.
Earlier, we heard what was driving the recent chaos witnessed in the Middle East.
Now we hear a more personal take from photojournalist Lynsey Addario, whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, “National Geographic,” and “TIME” magazine.
Having covered conflict around the globe, from the Taliban in Afghanistan to turmoil in Libya, where she was kidnapped in 2011, she writes her experiences in a memoir, “It’s What I Do.”
LYNSEY ADDARIO, Author/Photographer, “It’s What I Do”:
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
That’s a classic Robert Capa quote. He was a very famous war photographer. And it’s the truth. We cannot do our jobs from further back. And I have to care. I have to bring myself emotionally closer to the subject.
I believe in these stories. I believe they have to be told. And so I force myself to go to these places. It’s not an adrenaline rush and it’s not an addiction.
I have been kidnapped twice, once in Garma, which is a village outside Fallujah, by Sunni insurgents, and once in Libya. I was sure we were about to die. And all I can think about is really? Is this where I’m going to see the end of my life? What am I doing here? Why is it so important for me to be here?
And I have to ask myself those questions, because a big part of this job is knowing that we might die at any given time.
People always ask, like, are you stoic when you’re shooting? And I am anything but stoic. When I’m watching someone die, I become very overwhelmed with emotion, and I’m crying as I’m shooting. I think it would be really strange if I didn’t cry when I saw the things I see, because I see some of the most horrific things and some of the most beautiful things.
Being a war photographer comes with great sacrifice. It’s almost impossible to have a personal life. The amount of psychological and physical trauma that each one of us carries with us from covering war over many, many years is extraordinary.
When I first started doing this job, I had a really hard time reconciling the fact that life went on outside of these war zones, and I would come back to New York, and everyone was at a bar getting drunk and having fun. And I was so confused. I don’t understand why no one cares, and people aren’t out on the street protesting.
I had to make a decision at some point that if I was going to lead this life, I had to not leave behind the things I have seen, but be present when I go home to be with my family and my husband and my son. I have to be there for them.
I was so frustrated by people being so dismissive of the deeper reasons why anyone would cover war. It’s about educating people, policy-makers, talking about human rights abuses.
Once a photographer starts seeing the impact of his or her work, it’s impossible to turn away. I mean, it’s impossible to stop doing it.
My name is Lynsey Addario, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on life as a photojournalist.
Such amazing photographs.
And you can watch more episodes of our Brief But Spectacular series on our Web site, pbs.org/newshour/brief.