I recently read Lynsey Addario’s new book,
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (affiliate link). For those who have read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (affiliate link), but who also are interested in what it’s like to have a career in photography, you will truly enjoy Addario’s memoir.
A real page turner, sharing tidbits of her childhood, Addario dove right into sharing her experiences as a novice photographer, picking up an analogue camera and photographing women in India and Afghanistan in her early 20s. When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, she was handed a digital camera and was told to shoot with new and fast-paced digital equipment. She quickly learned how to edit and send images straight to news presses, while struggling to make ends meat.
Addario is excruciatingly honest in her details about her near death experiences, even undergoing a car explosion, eventually getting a metal plate inserted to mend a broken bone. She and her three colleagues, when kidnapped in Libya for several weeks, experienced major trauma and pain; but they continued to pursue their passion in reporting and documenting life beyond the comforts of home.
What’s more relevant in Addario’s book compared to Sandberg’s “how to” on rising to the top, is Addario’s honest recount of being a single woman working in a male dominated news industry. She shares personal details about finding love in the most unexpected way, then giving birth to her son and sharing what it’s like to live with the internal struggle of working and being a mother – no simple task for any woman.
Here’s an excerpt from her book:
Throughout my pregnancy, though, I remained terrified that my editors would write me off with childbirth and stop hiring me because the assignments were perceived as too rigorous or dangerous for a “mother.” There were decisions I wanted to make for myself; I didn’t want to surrender those choices as a woman and as a professional. Photojournalism, journalism as a whole, is brutally competitive. I knew that at the end of the day it didn’t matter that I had won a MacArthur fellowship or been part of the New York Times Pulitzer team or won numerous other accolades along the way. After all, I was a freelance photographer, with no professional security other than the reputation I had built over the years. I had no guarantee of future assignments and a future paycheck. And I was haunted by the maxim “You’re only as good as your last story.” Too often I had seen that it was true. It was still possible that motherhood could bring me down the professional ladder. (pg. 323)
Although the excerpt relays some of her concerns about finding that balance in life, her editor supported her. Whatever time Addario needed, he said her job would be waiting for her. Her years of professional journalism solidified that relationship.
Addario is personal, honest, and thoughtful with every image she takes, no matter where she is or who she is photographing. She is a trailblazer and an excellent photographer at that. Her memoir and photographs inspire us to be more thoughtful about the world around us.
Thank you, Ms. Addario. Your book was truly worth reading.
From my hometown to yours,