Photos That Made The Photographer Cry : Goats and Soda As she made trip after trip to Darfur and other regions to document the lives of refugees, photographer Lynsey Addario found herself in tears — as were her subjects.
NPR logo Photos That Made The Photographer Cry

Photos That Made The Photographer Cry

Lynsey Addario often trains her camera on the world of the displaced. These Syrian refugees live in a camp run by the Turkish government. Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

Lynsey Addario often trains her camera on the world of the displaced. These Syrian refugees live in a camp run by the Turkish government.

Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

Lynsey Addario is known mostly for her work — and her misadventures — in war zones. Her photographs of wartime have won awards. She herself has been kidnapped twice, in Iraq in 2004, then in Libya in 2011.

But there's another side to her work. Her new memoir, It's What I Do, also showcases images from humanitarian crises in Africa.

She first visited Africa in 2004, when a New York Times correspondent emailed her to suggest covering the war in Darfur.

The mother and daughter, displaced from their homes in Sudan, sit beneath a mosquito net while being treated for malnutrition at the Kalma camp in South Darfur. This is a 2005 photo. Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

The mother and daughter, displaced from their homes in Sudan, sit beneath a mosquito net while being treated for malnutrition at the Kalma camp in South Darfur. This is a 2005 photo.

Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

"It immediately set the scene for many future trips," she said in a phone interview. Not only to Darfur but to other regions in Africa like Congo and Somalia. "It is a place that I fell in love with not only as a photographer but as a journalist and as a person."

On that first visit, she snuck in via Chad — the Sudanese government was not issuing journalist visas for Darfur. And the the scope of the humanitarian crisis she encountered was staggering. "It was really the beginning of the war in Darfur and hundreds of thousands of Sudanese had fled into neighboring Chad," she said. "The aid agencies weren't equipped to handle such an influx of refugees. And it was an incredibly devastating scene, a real crisis."

Left: Vumilia, 38, was kidnapped from her home in Eastern Congo, held at a military camp for eight months; she was raped by at least five men and became pregnant. Photographed in 2008, she had recently given birth. Right: Mapendo, 22, lies in her home in Burhale, South Kivu, weak and covered in a skin rash. Within the past year she had been kidnapped and raped. The photo is also from 2008. Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

"So many of these stories were so big that what I really wanted to do was find a way I could identify with the story and sort of enter into it," she said. "I started focusing on women's stories." And so she used her photographs to tell the stories of the women who'd been raped in both Darfur and in Congo.

A tear trickles down the cheek of Bibiane, 28, as she talks about her kidnapping and rape in a forest in the Eastern Congo. The photo is from 2008. Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

A tear trickles down the cheek of Bibiane, 28, as she talks about her kidnapping and rape in a forest in the Eastern Congo. The photo is from 2008.

Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

Bibiane of South Kivu, Congo, was photographed with a tear streaming down her cheek. She had been captured and raped over three days in a forest. When she was released and her husband heard about the rape, he abandoned her. Bibiane found out later she was HIV positive and pregnant. When Addario asked Bibiane if she had medication, she opened up her bag, revealing only some pills and a potato. Stories like these made Addario cry openly in front of her subjects.

In 2011, Addario wanted to get to the heart of the story — in Somalia, the very place from which all of the refugees had fled. She wanted to know what they were fleeing from.

At this point, Addario was five months pregnant.

"No one told me, 'Don't go to Somalia when you are pregnant,'" she said. "In my mind, I thought there are thousands of women pregnant in Somalia and giving birth every day. If the conditions are okay for them then certainly they are okay for me."

She lived on protein bars, bananas, and boiled eggs. She started photographing in a hospital where, as she writes in her memoir, "Throngs of hollow-faced Somali women and children filled the wards, littered the halls, lying prostrate and listless anywhere they could find the space." She entered a room where two women prayed over a small baby dying from complications of malnutrition.

A Somali doctor checks for a heartbeat as 18-month-old Abbas Nishe fights severe malnutrition in the Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. The photo is from 2011. Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

A Somali doctor checks for a heartbeat as 18-month-old Abbas Nishe fights severe malnutrition in the Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. The photo is from 2011.

Lynsey Addario/Courtesy of Penguin Press

Lynsey Addario in Istanbul. Kursat Bayhan/Courtesy of Penguin Press hide caption

toggle caption
Kursat Bayhan/Courtesy of Penguin Press

"It didn't seem fair," Addario recalled. "Because there I was with this life inside of me and children were dying around me."

Addario has also focused on women in the Middle East. In 2000, she went to photograph women living in Afghanistan under the Taliban, despite the fact that the Taliban had banned all photography. Yet, people were surprisingly open to it because as she wrote, "most Afghans knew the images [she] shot would never make it back into their country."

Addario knows that she is seen as a role model for aspiring photographers, especially women. The idea makes her a little nervous.

"I've had people say I'd really love for you to meet my daughter because she wants to be a photographer. And I look at them and say, 'are you sure you want me to meet your daughter?'"