Photo above: I’m hiking near the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, China.
I’m inspired by Lynsey Addario’s insights and reasons for why she does what she does. She had been held captive in Libya with fellow Times journalists Tyler Hicks, Stephen Farrell and Anthony Shadid. As a war photog for the New York Times, she has courageously covered the human side of the story in wars and has access that male journalists cannot get. The people on the ground open their hearts and homes to her and she is wise and shrewd enough to disarm them with humor and humility. Lynsey has chosen an unconventional path and I admire her for it. She’s a role model for us women that women can choose to go into professions where the ol’ boys club rule and succeed at that.
(To answer those who are asking whether I want to do what Lynsey does – no, I am not an aspiring war correspondent, I would much rather prioritize my own family and while I want to travel with my kids even when they are really young, I will never endanger my future children by bringing them to dangerous places).
This is the link to the New York Times blog where Lynsey reflects on her vocation post-release from captivity in Libya.
I’ve pasted some excerpts below:
Lynsey Addario: ‘It’s What I Do’
Lynsey Addario was freed from captivity in Libya on March 21… Nine days later, in New York, she sat down… to share her thoughts on the experience.
I was reading the feedback to the account that Anthony, Tyler, Steve and I wrote. (“Four Times Journalists Held Captive in Libya Faced Days of Brutality.”) Some comments said: “How dare a woman go to a war zone?” and “How could The New York Times let a woman go to the war zone?”
To me, that’s grossly offensive. This is my life, and I make my own decisions.
If a woman wants to be a war photographer, she should. It’s important. Women offer a different perspective. We have access to women on a different level than men have, just as male photographers have a different relationship with the men they’re covering.
In the Muslim world, most of my male colleagues can’t enter private homes. They can’t hang out with very conservative Muslim families. I have always been able to. It’s not easy to get the right to photograph in a house, but at least I have one foot in the door. I’ve always found it a great advantage, being a woman….
After the attack on Lara Logan in Egypt, a lot of people started asking, “Why are women covering the Muslim world?” Several people wondered why Western women covered countries where women are mistreated so badly.
To me, that’s not the case. I have always been offered the utmost hospitality and protection and shelter in the Muslim world. I have been fed. I have been offered a place to sleep. My translators and drivers have put their lives before mine. It’s very important for people to recognize that these qualities do exist.
Yes, what happened to Lara was horrible, by all accounts. There’s no question. And when I was in Libya, I was groped by a dozen men. But why is that more horrible than what happened to Tyler or Steve or Anthony — being smashed on the back of the head with a rifle butt? Why isn’t anyone saying men shouldn’t cover war? Women and men should do what they believe they need to do.
I don’t think it’s more dangerous for a woman to do conflict photography. Both men and women face the same dangers.
In the last few years, people have treated me more as part of the gang. But I think that it is a chauvinistic profession. In every conflict I’ve covered, there’s always been sort of a boys’ club. And there aren’t that many women covering conflict right now. I mean, it’s amazing in this day and age. There are probably a dozen women photographers — at most — whom I see actively in the field, covering conflict.
There are many reasons. It takes a great toll on your personal life. It’s lonely. It’s physically demanding. You have to carry a lot of equipment. It’s emotionally taxing. You see and document things that take a lot to process, both mentally and physically. Most women, at some point, decide they want to put their personal lives first.
Most of my life, I had no personal life. I tried having relationships. But they were never successful because I was never home. That’s my fault. That was my decision. I would leave for an assignment and come back four months later. You can’t ask someone to be in a relationship with you if you’re not home. I think it’s a very good reason that a lot of women decide that they don’t want to do this.