Thursday, October 8, 2015

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

I've always been fascinated by people who make a living as photographers.  With the exhibit of Steve McCurry's startlingly beautiful photographs from National Geographic on display at the Hickory Museum of Art, I try to imagine the lifestyle of professional photographers who travel the world, breaking into the bigger media markets against what must be overwhelming odds.

Lynsey Addario's story, however, is more than a glamorous travelogue, since she made her mark in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. In her memoir, she describes traveling first to Afghanistan before the rest of the world paid much attention, then returning after 9/11, eventually as an imbedded photojournalist for the New York Times

She reveals a side to the Middle East conflict from a rarely told perspective, particularly as a female trying to do her job without attracting too much attention. She describes harrowing experiences, at one time caught in a fire fight while working with another female reporter who was trying to disguise her pregnancy.

Addario doesn't try to editorialize as much as she simply presents the details she witnessed and experienced.  Through the course of her narrative, she introduced readers to her own family, to men she loved, and to the man she eventually marries, one secure enough to let her do her dangerous job.

At times her story is as dramatic as any adventure movie. Knowing she had survived to write her own story at least gave me some ease as I read about a period of time when she and her colleagues were held captive, fearing for their lives and enduring assault stopping just short of rape.

Just as reading Becoming Odyssa made me admire Jennifer Pharr Davis but did not make me want to hike the Appalachian Trail, reading Addario's experiences as a "conflict photojournalist" inspired admiration for the guts she has to advance into dangerous parts of the world in order to tell the stories of civilians there, but she did not motivate me to follow in her footsteps. For now, I'll keep my camera right here with me at home.

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