Pho­to­jour­nal­ist: Gen­der of­ten an is­sue in con­flict zones

The Norwalk Hour - - NEWS - By So­phie Vaughan Ad­dario will speak at Christ and Holy Trin­ity Church, 75 Church Lane, on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

NEW YORK CITY — For over two decades, home­grown Pulitzer Prize-win­ning pho­to­jour­nal­ist Lynsey Ad­dario has doc­u­mented life in con­flict zones across the Mid­dle East, South Asia and Africa. In a new book of pho­tos, “Of Love & War,” Ad­dario fans can buy, for the first time, a col­lec­tion of her in­flu­en­tial work from around the world.

Ad­dario, who lives in Lon­don with her hus­band and son, ad­mits her globe-trot­ting ca­reer is a far cry from her child­hood in West­port. When asked at a re­cent TimesTalks event whether she ever ex­pected to re­port from war zones, Ad­dario said, “No, not at all. I was raised by hair­dressers in the ’70s in Con­necti­cut in a sort of ec­cen­tric up­bring­ing with a lot of pool par­ties.”

In her best­selling 2015 mem­oir, “It’s What I Do: A Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Life of Love and War,” Ad­dario de­tailed her time grow­ing up in town and com­ing of age in the post 9/11 era. Cu­rios­ity got her started as an in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­pher and con­tin­ues to drive her work to­day, Ad­dario, a MacArthur Foun­da­tion Ge­nius Award win­ner, told the au­di­ence at the Oct. 5 TimesTalks event hosted by the New York Times, where Ad­dario reg­u­larly works.

Al­though Ad­dario may be best known for her pho­tographs doc­u­ment­ing the U.S. con­flict in Afghanistan, she vis­ited the coun­try first be­fore Sept. 11. “I was 27 years old, I couldn’t get an as­sign­ment to save my life, I saved my money, and I de­cided to go pho­to­graph life un­der the Tal­iban and what life was like for women, be­cause I felt that was a story that wasn’t be­ing told,” Ad­dario said.

Fol­low­ing the U.S. in­va­sion, Ad­dario re­turned to Afghanistan and found her gen­der to be an ad­van­tage for her work in the coun­try. “I went and re­al­ized very quickly that my gen­der was an as­set, that I could go into women’s homes, and I could see the way women were liv­ing be­cause I was fe­male,” Ad­dario said.

Her wo­man­hood has at times pre­sented chal­lenges in the field, how­ever, Ad­dario said, not­ing that women of­ten have to prove them­selves longer than men. In 2007, Ad­dario and New York Times cor­re­spon­dent El­iz­a­beth Rubin asked to em­bed with the U.S. mil­i­tary in or­der to re­port on civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Afghanistan’s Koren­gal Val­ley, where the U.S. was drop­ping bombs, but were told the val­ley wasn’t a place fit for women. She and Rubin con­vinced the mil­i­tary they could keep up with the male fighters and spent two months em­bed­ded with the troops, Ad­dario said.

“I think there’s still a pretty big dou­ble stan­dard with this group,” Ad­dario said, not­ing that she was heav­ily crit­i­cized for re­port­ing in con­flict zones while preg­nant, when her male col­leagues are not rep­ri­manded for en­ter­ing dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions while they have young kids at home.

Ad­dario brushed away the no­tion she pho­tographs in con­flict zones for the adrenalin rush. “It’s not about the adren­a­line. It’s about telling the story. It’s about be­ing there. It’s about doc­u­ment­ing his­tory. It’s about bear­ing wit­ness. It’s about giv­ing a voice to all th­ese peo­ple that don’t have a voice,” Ad­dario said.

When asked whether she’s op­ti­mistic about the state of the world, Ad­dario an­swered, “Most of the peo­ple I pho­to­graph, they haven’t lost hope, so how can we? They’re the ones bear­ing the brunt of what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Carl Tim­pone/BFA.com / Con­trib­uted photo

West­port na­tive Lynsey Ad­dario speaks with Ruk­mini Cal­li­machi about pho­to­jour­nal­ism across the globe at a New York Times TimesTalks event in New York City on Oct. 5.

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