Conflict Photographers: Why Do They Do It?

Lynsey Addario, a war correspondent, faces these challenges daily, when she travels to regions of conflict in Afghanistan and Libya.

Travelling to remote areas far from home and witnessing fatalities, when having to shoot state of the art photographs of such tragic events whilst trying to stay alive when doing so.

In her book “It’s What I Do”, Addario discusses her accidental journey that led her to become a journalist, and how her qualities and skills have helped her establish a solid foundation in her career before travelling abroad.

Addario always made sure she was expertly educated on any story that she was covering. Extensive research and thorough planning took place before and during each photo assignment she tackled. This quality of hers went hand-in-hand with her willingness to adapt to new cultures; especially the culture of Islam, where she practiced some female Islamic traditions, such as covering of the face, during her rapport building stages of her assignments.

Addario believes that her job as a conflict photojournalist is more than just something that she makes a living from; to her, it’s a calling. She mentioned that doing this work gives her a sense of happiness and purpose, while bearing witness to history and influencing policy.

Giving a voice to those who need to be heard is also something that Addario felt passionately about. Being a female opened a lot of doors for her in Afghanistan and Libya, where she was able to witness an uprising as people fought to death the for their freedom that she documented though photographs. Her gender enabled her to gain access to the women’s madrasses (religious schools) to interview and photograph the most devout Pakistani women.

She wrote that she was not being able to look men in the eye, which she found difficult to do. Adjustments such as these had to be made by Addario if she wanted to pursue her journalistic tasks. She had to find a way to build rapport without eye contact with any males to ensure staying safe while street reporting.

Having said that, being a female in the Middle East is an inferior gender to be, as the male gender is not only superior, but it dominates daily, on a large scale. This inevitably made Addario’s journalistic mission a tougher one to accomplish, due to her being a second-class human in such countries.

Addario also talked about the competitive side of journalism as photojournalists vie for the best shot. This pushed her to be better with every photograph taken and every remote place visited.

Even when she’s not behind the camera, Addario deals with a lot of risks and decisions that determine her fate, her career, and her friends and family’s emotional wellbeing. Conflict journalists risk their lives to cover news in areas where people aren’t able to know exactly what goes on behind the cameras.

Addario talks about her experiences in the field at the 2016 Adobe Max Creative Cloud event. The balance of being a conflict photographer, wife and mother is a challenge she faces and overcomes, despite her terrifying encounters.





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