Lynsey Addario is an award-winning American photojournalist who contributes regularly to The New York Times, National Geographic, and Time Magazine. She’s documented both headline news and intimate stories all around the word. In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya she has given us an up-close view of war and revolution. She’s brought us stories of Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone, sexual assault in Madagascar, rape in the DRC, heroin addiction in Afghanistan, and life before and after the Taliban. 

Her memoir, titled “It’s What I Do" recounts over 20 years of becoming one of our most renowned photojournalists. It was acquired by Warner Brothers and Steven Spielberg is expected to direct the film. Jennifer Lawrence has been cast to portray Lynsey - and we talk about that in this episode.

Also in this episode, we also talk about courage on the front lines, the risks and trauma associated with her work, respecting cultures that aren’t her own, how she makes a living and how she manages her time.

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I still think of myself as that same person who is struggling to get assignments. I firmly believe in life it’s important to not be too comfortable and confident. I think you have to have some degree of hunger. I want to keep pushing myself to be a better person and photographer.
— Lynsey Addario
United States


00:00:09we're talking about on the front line in a war zone so often when I would show up to in bed with the military it was pretty clear that they would be bombed out when a woman would show up because they felt like oh she's not gonna be able
00:00:20to keep up what if we get shot at as she gonna cry you know all that so you have to really prove yourself that you can keep up in that you do have experience in that you know you will be able to hold your own and essentially it
00:00:31comes down to that can you will drown welcome she does broadcast on the line and I'm Sarah today we have Lindsey a dairy on the show Lindsay is an award winning American photo journalist who contributes regularly to the New York times National Geographic and time magazine her coverage
00:00:55as international photo journalist for several decades is extensive she's document both headline news and intimate stories all around the world in Iraq Syria Lebanon and Libya she's given us an up close view of war and revolution she brought us stories of maternal mortality in Sierra Leone sexual sol
00:01:12in Madagascar rape in the DRC heroin addiction in Afghanistan life before and after the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan she's been on the front lines in the Iraq war and the corner of the alley and many many other places her memoir titled it's what I do recounts over
00:01:28twenty years of becoming one of our most renowned photo journalists is an intimate look at our life and we highly recommend it it was acquired by Warner brothers and Steven Spielberg is expected to direct the film Jennifer Lawrence has been cast to betray Lindsey and we talk about
00:01:41that in this episode we also talk about courage on the front lines the risks and trauma associated with her work respecting cultures that are her own and how she makes a living and manages her time I interviewed Lindsey back in April twenty sixteen and this is one of
00:01:55hopefully several more interviews that Sarah and I will bring you in the coming months okay let's get started the book is is called it's what I do and I understand like you feel I'm wondering if you could tell the listeners why you do feel that this is something
00:02:19you're supposed to do and and what makes what is in your personality that makes you capable of doing what you do I mean I have no idea what's in my personality that makes me capable of doing this work in doing it %HESITATION and still still let you know
00:02:35being a functional human being after having been kidnapped twice and thrown out of the car on a highway in Pakistan and all that stuff but I do think that people ask me that all the time like why are you you know why are you still okay I don't
00:02:48know the answer to that I think some of it has to do with coming from like a stable family from being very communicative of from actively processing trauma from having wonderful people in my life %HESITATION and for doing things I know I need to do to keep myself
00:03:03emotionally stable like going to the gym every day I mean it sounds ridiculous but to me there must be some chemical release of endorphins or something because it does make me feel better so I think there is that I don't I don't think I'm any stronger or any
00:03:17more brave than anyone else I just think that I believe in this work whole heartedly I believe that it's important for people to see what's happening overseas I believe it's important for people to have a sense of the injustices in the world I always feel the American public
00:03:33needs to see pretty much everything because as %HESITATION you know American citizens as taxpayers who are paying for the war a we need to see the repercussions of the war we need to see of the the ultimate price of the war I think it's too easy to ignore
00:03:49that and to just live in a bubble and so believing in that so strongly is what sort of motivates me it's incredibly uncomfortable to be in a war zone I mean it's miserable I was last week I was in south Sudan and I was sleeping in a tent
00:04:04for a week and there were flies everywhere and we were eating you know rice and beans for every meal and and we were lucky to have food you know no electricity no was all solar I mean you just realize the great privilege that we have having been born
00:04:20and raised in the US could you talk about how you went from covering the big news stories the headlines to the more intimate personal things and why that choice was made well I mean it's a choice that it comes with privilege I mean I spent so many years
00:04:34working you know doing the grunt work you know doing purple walks and sad Dino during city hall whole photographing mayor guiliani protests on the street seven days a week I was you know running around the city for a the Associated Press for three years I used to leave
00:04:51like dinners half eaten with dates you know I never was around and so to be in a position in my career where I can say look this is an issue I care about I really want to get this out to the world is a massive privilege for me
00:05:05it's it's great to be able to spend extended periods of time with people to really get to know them to get to know their story and to not just drop in and out in two hours and then put that out there how do you choose what story soon
00:05:18work on I think there's a lot of back and forth sometimes I propose stories and sometimes a you know the New York times our timer National Geographic will come to me with the story it has to be a story that speaks to me something that I feel like
00:05:33I can actually contribute something that I can maybe say something or reveal something that you know a million other photographers aren't already doing that's why for example I was photographing the refugee crisis off the coast of Libya and I spent quite some time in the Mediterranean and in
00:05:50Sicily and documenting migrants are refugees coming to shore and Sisley but then the minute Lesvos became this like story where there were forty five photographers and everything the landing I said okay enough I'm not going to go there because I just didn't feel like I can contribute anything
00:06:08anymore I felt like you know I don't I felt almost disrespectful and you know these are people who are fleeing war and who are very traumatized and just sort of arrived too you know twenty five thirty five wide angle lenses in their face of course it's so important
00:06:26that story gets out but I didn't feel comfortable being there you've spent so many years building trust with subject but also fixers and can you talk about how that experience in the trust building has led you to different stories over time yeah I mean I am almost completely
00:06:49reliant on my translators and drivers I mean often they come up with ideas that they you know we would never get access none of us who work overseas we never get access if it weren't for them because they open doors and they are supposed to convey our personality
00:07:05you know sometimes I make jokes in my translator doesn't translate them and I'm like no no no you have to you know I am trying to break the ice you know I mean those are things that are important to me that that that people realize that there is
00:07:18some sort of connection %HESITATION but our translators are incredible and so I think sometimes I do a lot of researcher I hear about a story and then on to a follow up with people on the ground and trying to get access and a journalist has to be knowledgeable
00:07:33about the place here she works because that's our job I mean our job is to understand the culture and to get inside the you know to understand the people were covering and so he was always shocking to me when I witness people being culturally insensitive because I feel
00:07:49like you know when I go into Saudi Arabia for example I may not agree with the fact that women can't drive I may not agree with the fact that I have to wear and a bio which is a you know shoulder to floor length robe in a hundred
00:08:04and ten degrees and cover my hair and not let strands of oak of hair show but it's not my culture so I do it you know I'm in their country you know I think the thing is when when someone visits another country I think there's a certain respect
00:08:20involved and you have to be respectful of where you are and I believe that firmly the process of getting people to open up more has to do with %HESITATION with maybe %HESITATION not going in there with my camera out I mean it's usually a very slow process a
00:08:39process where I am you know I talk to people for a long time have tea I just explain where I'm coming from and I hear about their lives and then I talk about photography because cameras a very threatening thing to a lot of people and so I think
00:08:57you have to be a bit savvy about when you actually introduce the camera into the conversation and you had a road about your book about like how do you know what photo is worth the risk that's something that obviously every single one of us struggles with how do
00:09:12you know when a photo is worth the risk I think what happens is all being on assignment and I get sort of gradually pulled and so it's not like I start with the most dangerous thing it's a I'm working and working and then I go little further and
00:09:25then I go a little further and then I end up in the middle of you know the frontline and so I think every single one of us who does this work has to make a judgment call of how far to go and how how many more pictures I
00:09:39need do I have enough photographs to illustrate the story to convey the emotion to convey the risk and the danger I mean that's of sometimes the image that's missing is is sort of the danger element and so it's a it's tough calculation I mean every photo plays a
00:09:57different role on a photo story you know you have the one that %HESITATION is more let's just take it back dissected story %HESITATION I did a story on breast cancer in Uganda I photograph the hospital generic pictures of the hospital the radiation room people getting chemotherapy but then
00:10:15there was one woman that I focused on and I was trying to tell the story through her eyes as a woman who had had a mastectomy I did not follow up with chemotherapy cancer came back in and she was dying when I met her you know there are
00:10:29elements that any photographer myself included look for I wanted her with her family I wanted her with the doctor you know general scenes of the ward to show of the ward was overflowing with women and men dying from cancer there were people sleeping on the floor the ritual
00:10:47of death I mean that's also a very important image because it's a closing image you know chose this is the ultimate price of any of us pay you mentioned being because your own to touch and do things %HESITATION I saw the article yesterday in woman in the world
00:11:07of %HESITATION the lack of gender parity and what you're doing and so I'd like for you to touch on that but also you mention your book like you didn't want to show your fear because you're a woman yeah I mean I work in a profession that's primarily man
00:11:21so I I when I started covering war sixteen years ago there were not that many women covering more there's Carolyn Cole who's great photographer %HESITATION for the LA times Carol Guzzi for The Washington Post issues in my cell as Paula Bron Steen there are some women but I
00:11:41assume to just because we are a society that involves some women are making more more strides every year %HESITATION I assume there would be more women by this point in my life which is sixteen years later and they're just simply are not %HESITATION I still do not see
00:11:56a lot of women in the field I'm always thrilled when I see another woman everyone always asks me why aren't there more women I think I would say probably because the job is incredibly emotionally and physically taxing %HESITATION you know we can't really have a personal life with
00:12:10this job for many years and often a woman reaches a point her life where she wants to have a family and you know it's obviously at the exact time when you become successful in your career and that is the struggle that I had that you know I was
00:12:24finally starting to get the assignments I had dreamt about my entire life and it was exactly when I was about thirty seven and and my husband said you know you're old you're never going to get pregnant and how we need so I mean I think it's a a
00:12:37lot of women just decide to drop out and so that's my philosophy I have no idea what the you know what if what the actual reality is or what the truth is or if anyone's actually looked into it what was the other question do you feel the need
00:12:51to be more occur courageous or exhibit I don't I don't feel the need to be more courageous but I think the people automatically %HESITATION when they see a woman the I would say that the the responses Okada to woman you know like that that could be my own
00:13:09security but we're talking about on the front line in a war zone so often when I would show up to in bed with the military it was pretty clear that they would be bombed out when a woman would show up because they felt like oh she's not gonna
00:13:21be able to keep up what if we get shot at as she gonna cry you know all that so you have to really prove yourself that you can keep up in that you do have experience in that you know you will be able to hold your own and
00:13:31essentially it comes down to that can you will drown %HESITATION and I think %HESITATION so in Libya when we were and there was I had a premonition the morning that we had been kidnapped that something was going to happen I knew we were sort of playing with fire
00:13:48because we were at the front line of that for quite a long time and our driver started getting calls that Qaddafi's troops that entered the city and had I been more confident I would have said the hell are we doing let's go but I kind of kept my
00:14:04mouth shut because I I was the only woman in a car for man and I just thought you know maybe maybe I'm just scared you know maybe I it's unjustified this figure you know and I had been kidnapped in two thousand and four just for a day moves
00:14:18like detained but it it still that sits with you there is there is an image that is emblazoned in my mind of turning a corner and seeing thirty insurgents with their faces wrapped and rockets on their backs and Kalashnikov shooting in the air because they found their prey
00:14:33and that is an image that is indelible that will never go away and so of course in Libya I sort of it the image of running into a a hostile checkpoint is something that again will sit with me forever and particularly because I know it was our fault
00:14:48I mean we just stayed too long and that's something that we all have to live with because our driver died I know you've been through a lot throughout your reporting but what do you think is the hardest part of your job the hardest part of my job is
00:14:59when I put my family through I mean there's no question I am I am you know I can sort of deal with whatever I've been through gas it sucks to get punched in the face and groped by the Libyan man while blindfolded but and I and it's something
00:15:12that I obviously it's dramatic and I'm processing it but it's more knowing that I have put my parents and my husband and my sisters through %HESITATION an extraordinarily difficult time every time I go missing Dennis you change so much away from not just print to digital into a
00:15:45more interactive stuff so I'm wondering if you can talk about the how you think the changes in the industry have shaped your work in the sense I would say in a positive way in a sense that they give me more outlets to publish photos you know things that
00:16:01have for example when I do a story for The New York Times maybe eight pictures will make it or twelve will make it into a slide show online but I have all those other pictures that I am once the embargo is up once a few stories published and
00:16:16then there's a period of time where a no one else can publish them once that time finishes I can then put them online I can put them on Instagram I can I can reach a broader viewership and so to me that's a that's an advantage the way I
00:16:31see is still the same I'm always trying to look for the most comprehensive story I'm always trying to get as much access as I possibly can a even if the story is a one picture saying I will try and I'll try to get more I'll try to get
00:16:46as much as I can is it harder to make a living doing what you do now them before can talk about that yeah absolutely I mean I don't know if it's harder to make a living or my standards you're just tired because some forty two I mean I
00:16:58think you know when I was in my twenties adding terrify slept on someone's couch for a week obviously I don't feel like that anymore I have a you know I have a son and I have a husband and and I've been living you know like this for twenty
00:17:11years so there are fewer publications %HESITATION that are in existence and they're also we don't have the budgets they used to have I mean I used to get sent on assignment to get sent on assignment for three months at a time %HESITATION now I'm lucky if I get
00:17:26a week you know so I think there's a big difference for me my way of dealing with that is you know when I wrote the book I suddenly was that people started asking me you speaking engagements and I have %HESITATION those were initially range through National Geographic and
00:17:43National Geographic has a speakers bureau and they have photographers that essentially make a living from speaking and so their fees were higher than I anticipated and so I've been able to use speaking engagements to complement to enable me to do my editorial work which essentially doesn't pay I
00:18:01mean I'm still learning the same and day rates that ironed twenty years ago which means you know the rates have not gone up so you know people complain about it all the time but for me I'm I'm not the kind of person to sit around and complain and
00:18:14moan and say that you know there's no future and and photo journalism I care about journalism I believe in journalism I believe in photography so I would rather find another way to complement of my financial income and and do speaking gigs and and still do that work how
00:18:31do you manage your time like described like a what is I have to wake up now at five in the morning because I just don't have time anymore in the day %HESITATION I you know I always want to get a work out in %HESITATION I'm answering emails from
00:18:46London and from New York and and trying to use arrange things on arranging speaking engagements every single one entails a presentation that I change I cater to every different talk and then I have meetings of course today I have for example have I'm participating women in the world
00:19:06I have this I have a lunch with my agent I have to fit in a trip to the doctor because my back I mean I can barely walk these days because my lower back goes out I have four vertebrae that slip out of place I mean it's insane
00:19:20you know and then I have a an event at dinner and event tonight I mean my days now are like eighteen hours and that's when I'm not shooting you know when I'm shooting actually I am I am %HESITATION I'm stressed about making sure I get the images from
00:19:36much more relaxed than that and there's one thing that I have to do I have to make sure I'm in the right position for good light and and you know with the subject I want to be with and so it's a very different thing so much of your
00:19:49time is actually spent shooting and editing written about two weeks a month I shoot and then two weeks is either %HESITATION I usually when I have my son and when I'm home I'm I'm doing all the sort of ground work for either another shooter talk so I can
00:20:04do the work at home I mean the people don't understand that being a photographer is not just taking a picture I mean it's like eighty percent preparation and getting access and setting things up and research and and like twenty percent actually taking pictures how's the response the book
00:20:20been and where you out with on the response the book has been amazing I'm a little overwhelmed like sort of didn't expect anyone actually read I'm not a writer you know I by by profession so what's surprising to me is I didn't want to write the book for
00:20:36photographers I really wanted to write it aside to give people who are not photographers an idea of what we do and so that was %HESITATION that's a tricky process because there's a lot to explain I've been quite surprised because actually that's exactly the sort of audience that it's
00:20:52tapped into people who are not photography relate well people who are not photographers themselves per se it's a fantastic book and I think you should write more what has been the most interesting response from the bookies think how women like to take down other women for me and
00:21:10it wasn't so much with the book but it was more the excerpt in The New York Times magazine of the book so in that I really focused on working while pregnant and it's so interesting to me how women can not all women of course there were so many
00:21:25women who wrote and said like thank you for finally being honest about your ambivalence about being pregnant and thank you for as just you know working right through your pregnancy because so many people criticize but the other you know the other commentary was how dare you go to
00:21:42Kenya or small your while pregnant with an unborn child and how dare you put their life at risk which is so funny to me because not once did these women think about the fact that you know I am surrounded by pregnant women in Kenya and Somalia and those
00:21:57women are giving birth every single day the other aspect is you know women in in our country work in factories you know chemical factories while pregnant right up until they deliver and no one says anything about that why because it's a more traditional job so it's interesting to
00:22:14me the criticism I could care less I mean that they can criticize me on all they want to mean I make decisions you know certainly not based on public but I think %HESITATION that was fascinating yeah do you think you've developed that tough skin over time and you
00:22:30think you had it when you started I think I grew up in a family that really promoted and really supported individuality and really sort of made of my parents and my sisters instilled confidence in me %HESITATION to be who I am and to and to follow my dreams
00:22:47and I think that that's something that is the greatest gift of all and I think you need that if you're doing a job where you know like I do where I'm constantly out interviewing people and you know bearing witness to horrific things and also a taking testimony from
00:23:03people who live on the margins of society I feel a great responsibility to be sort of the messenger and to get the stories out and to to get the the most intimate moments I can because he you know I am providing their testimony to the world and so
00:23:21I have to do it in the most comprehensive way that I possibly can and the most intimate way in a way that will bring people in in a way that will get the public who is so tired of seeing images of death and destruction and you know for
00:23:35we've been at war for many many years to try to get the public to pay attention and to care about things that they wouldn't care about %HESITATION on a lighter note Jennifer Lawrence is going to be playing you that's crazy yeah I kind of that all go down
00:23:50%HESITATION she was given a copy of the book by Andrew Lazar who is the producer of the movie for %HESITATION he's working with Warner brothers and Warner brothers has option the movie and she read the book and she read some excerpts and she loved the character and at
00:24:08our she loved she thought it would be interesting to play someone like me and so she's enthusiastic and she's totally brilliant I mean obviously she's an actress who is so accomplished and and she's hilarious he's funny and very real and it's exciting and %HESITATION I've met with the
00:24:26writer and I've met with Steven Spielberg and and so but I I'm not the one writing the movie you know it's not a documentary this is a this is Hollywood and there will be fiction in there what advice would you give to UMB maybe a trial as someone
00:24:41starting out in photography for the trials of I would say identify the topics you care about %HESITATION try to tell stories try to get in deep get yourself out of your comfort zone get out there and photograph don't talk about it for ten years use your free time
00:24:56to get out there you know people are sort of waiting to be assigned the dream story well that's not gonna happen you know you have to assign yourself what do you think the twenty year old version of yourself who moved to give that to you know early on
00:25:10with think about this where you are right now di would never I mean I still think of myself as that same person who's like struggling to get assignments and like you know I don't I believe I I firmly believe in life it's important to not be too comfortable
00:25:25and confident I think is that you have to have some degree of hunger and I and I believe in that and I I like to have that and security with my work now with me as a person but with my work because I know I want to keep
00:25:38pushing myself always to be a better person and photographer thank you to Lindsay for giving us our time in this great conversation her courage and drive inspires us all to be more sensitive and curious visit our website she does podcast dot com to find out more about this
00:26:03show is produced by S. Sarah Ginsburg and Elaine Sheldon music is by putting to bear Sarah and I hope to bring you a few more episodes of she does in the coming months but in the meantime be sure to pick up a copy of limited areas memoir it's
00:26:15what I do happy holidays and thank you for listening to she does

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