Pulitzer Prize Winner Lynsey Addario Talks About The Remarkable Photos In Her New Book : Goats and Soda The award-winning photographer tells the stories behind the profoundly moving images in her new book, Of Love & War — and confesses that she still gets nervous before a new assignment.
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Powerful Photos Of Love And War By Lynsey Addario

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Powerful Photos Of Love And War By Lynsey Addario

Powerful Photos Of Love And War By Lynsey Addario

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Lynsey Addario was going to be a photographer no matter what. The first time she went to Afghanistan, she was 27. Addario didn't have an assignment. She just knew she wanted to photograph women and life under the Taliban. In her new book, "Of Love & War," she's collected more than 200 of her images from all over the world - Afghanistan, also Bhutan, Darfur, Saudi Arabia. One thing that comes through loud and clear when you speak to Addario - the sense of duty she feels even now, 20 years into her career.

LYNSEY ADDARIO: Every story I do, I panic before I go. And I wonder if I'll be able to make strong pictures, if I'll capture the story, if I will be able to make sort of the shot that will at least compel people to continue looking. It's something that I've had since I started photographing and that I really don't think will ever go away.

KELLY: Well, it's interesting because this book collects portraits and photographs that you've done from many years along your career, in many cases countries you've gone back to again and again and again and watched as they change and I assume as you as a photographer change. When you look back at photos from, say, your first trip to a country like Afghanistan, what differences do you see?

ADDARIO: Well, first of all, I wasn't as adept with a camera. So I didn't understand how to read light and to anticipate shots the way I do now. You know, photographing under the Taliban was illegal. The only thing that was legal was photographing destruction - so buildings, any inanimate objects. And so for me of course my purpose was to photograph life under the Taliban - so exactly what was forbidden. And so I went into women's hospitals, photographed women in labor, photographed women at home, you know, all these things that I wish that I just knew how to work a situation more.

KELLY: And that's just the wisdom of experience, figuring out what worked and what didn't and quite....

ADDARIO: Yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: ...How hard you can push against the boundary of what you're being told to do.

ADDARIO: Exactly. Exactly. And those are things that - it's not only about photography. It's about reading human beings and reading people and understanding how to express the importance of, you know, this job.

KELLY: Well, talk more about how you think about that because you also capture women in incredibly candid, more vulnerable moments - women in childbirth, you know, women being treated for severe self-inflicted burns. What's your etiquette for photographs like that? Do you always get their permission before you raise your camera?

ADDARIO: Always. Before I take any pictures, I introduce myself. I explain that I'm working for whatever publication it's for and that the images will be seen by a lot of people and they can be on social media. That's something that I now have to talk about because it's not only for the publication now. Images spread very quickly over social media. So that's something that's very important for the subject to know because, you know, there's Facebook in most of the countries I work in.

And I talk about why I'm doing these stories. You know, I don't just walk in there like I have the right to take their picture. I talk about, you know, I think it's really important to see how women are suffering or how women are dying in childbirth. And so that's the first thing I do. And a lot of women say no. And that's totally their right...

KELLY: Yeah.

ADDARIO: ...To say no.

KELLY: Is the way you operate standard among war photographers, understanding there's no, you know, playbook that everybody gets issued? But I'm curious.

ADDARIO: You know...

KELLY: Do male photographers take that much sensitivity in advance?

ADDARIO: I've been told that it's rare that people work the way I work, that they take the time to be very respectful and to ask people how they feel comfortable being photographed. You know, I also have to discuss nudity. For example, I was shooting maternal mortality recently in Somaliland. And that's a very deeply conservative country in place. And there the women - you know, they said, OK, if you photograph, for example, the baby coming out, then I don't want my face. Or you have to cover or - you know, and they give me the rules. And that's what I do.

KELLY: You're making me think of a photograph that you took of a woman named Ayak. This was...


KELLY: She was raped during war in South Sudan.

ADDARIO: Correct.

KELLY: And by the time you met her, she was very pregnant...


KELLY: ...As a result of that rape. You spent several hours photographing her in a dress. And then you thought, you know, if I'm trying to show her belly, her pregnancy...

ADDARIO: Exactly.

KELLY: ...If that's the point here, do we do this without clothes? And you were, as you were photographing her, showing her the images on your camera...

ADDARIO: Correct.

KELLY: ...To make sure she understood what it looked like.

ADDARIO: Yeah. And I also - before I even approached her with sort of what I envisioned, I went to Kimberly, who was the woman who had sort of rescued her and given her the safe house and said, you know, does this seem insensitive? How do you feel about this? Is this something that would be rude to ask? And she said, no, absolutely not. Let's take this to her and see how she feels. And so we went and sort of talked her through it. And before I even finished my sentence, she had taken her dress off and was like, totally. She completely understood.

And, you know, as a woman, I haven't been raped. But I have been assaulted in Libya. I was groped repeatedly. And I made a decision to talk about that very openly because I think, you know, as a survivor, it's important to try and strip away the stigma. And I think different women feel comfortable revealing different things about themselves, and some people do, and some people don't. And that's one thing I've learned over the years.

And I think with Ayak, it was something she wanted to do. She wanted to show what had happened to her, to sort of talk about it. It was part of her therapy. And I think it's very important for me as a photographer to not make those rules for people. And everyone has the right to decide how they want to portray themself.

KELLY: You've talked in past about what a huge advantage it is, if anything, to be female in a lot of the places where you're trying to work because as we're hearing, you have access to half of the population that a male photographer might not have access to. What I loved and that kind of surprised me in this book is you also get great shots of American women.

ADDARIO: (Laughter).

KELLY: There's a photo in here of a Navy lieutenant in the Nurse Corps. She's stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

ADDARIO: Oh, Amy. (Laughter) Yes.


ADDARIO: She's hilarious.

KELLY: So the shot - describe her. You've caught her in the ladies' room.

ADDARIO: So Amy - I mean, this is after a very intense - I was on a medevac embed. And they would bring wounded soldiers out. And Amy was a Navy nurse. And so she was, you know, there in the trauma hospital. And so after an intense night, I sort of followed her back to the showers where the women go. And I - you know, I was like, I want to just shoot what your life is like here. And she was completely, like, fun and open and got it.

KELLY: She's - I should explain. She's got shaving cream lathered up her leg, and she's shaving, which made me - I look at it and I'm thinking, why would you bother to shave in Helmand Province, Afghanistan?


ADDARIO: Well, I can tell you why, because as a woman who's worked in, like, a very male world and in war zones for 20 years, I do everything I can to still try and feel like a woman, you know, whether that means, like, sneaking eyeliner on in the middle of Helmand or lipstick or perfume. I always carry perfume in my camera bag. It's psychological because I have to sort of maintain some semblance of myself (laughter).

KELLY: So you're right there shaving in the next shower stall (laughter) is what you're saying.

ADDARIO: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that was the fun of photographing women in the military, because it's like - it was the first time that I actually had women to hang out with because for so many years, it was just me or me and my colleague Elizabeth Rubin or me and whoever - the only two women for miles.

KELLY: That's Lyndsey Addario talking about her new book, "Of Love & War." Thank you very much.

ADDARIO: Thank you so much. Thank you.


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