Photojournalist Lynsey Addario has reported for the New York Times and other media from the frontlines in the war on terror and the Arab Spring. In her vivid memoir, It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War, Addario shows what it’s like to put oneself in danger in search of images to help the world understand life in a war zone.
“We want to see more fighting, to get the freshest, latest news, to keep reporting until that unknowable last second before injury, capture, death,” Addario writes. “We are greedy by nature: We always want more than what we have.”
Addario is an honest and absorbing writer, whether she’s recalling her childhood in Connecticut—her father left the family when Addario was 8 after reveling he was gay and going to live with his boyfriend in New York—or the fiery relationship with a young man in Mexico that consumed her 20s. But it’s when she turns to her work that the book shifts from interesting to spellbinding. Addario has seen the best and worst of human nature as a war correspondent, and she shares it all in words and in many of her stunning photographs.
It’s What I Do is one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year. Here is a youngish woman, married with a child, who feels an almost physical pull to cover the hardest of news, in Darfur, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq. She reports from the battle zones themselves, but also searches out the families—especially the women—impacted by strife. It’s a mystifying career choice for most of us, and in this book, Addario helps explain why anyone would do what she does.
“My friends and family sometimes asked why photographers didn’t just take fewer assignments to preserve their marriages or relationships, why they didn’t simply become a different type of photographer, one who worked in some sunny studio adjacent to his home,” she writes. “The truth was, the difference between a studio photographer and a photojournalist was the same as the difference between a political cartoonist and an abstract painter. The only thing the two had in common was the blank page.”