Tagged: Photography

Book review: It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War

A Photographer’s Life of Love and War
Lynsey Addario

I have a fondness for photography books which almost verges on an obsession. I enjoy spending time in my off grid cabin where there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down to a photobook while the outside is blanketed in snow. I love being able to look into the world in complete stillness through a photographer’s lens. Sometimes the photobook  is a walk down memory lane as one looks at familiar landscapes and world events. Other times, it is a descent into the unknown, tragedy and conflict. As I started photographing, I found I knew very little about the world of photography. Reading is how learn, so I started purchasing photo books and reading!

When I mentioned to my photographer friend Stephen that I wanted to start writing short photobook reviews, I could hear his eyes rolling (we were on the phone)! Photobook reviews? Like writing words on a page? Yeah, that’s never going to happen! And where would you do this? In your current blog? The blog you post to once or twice a year? Who are we kidding here? And where would you find the time to do this? True words were never spoken! Given my work and travel schedule, it indeed seems impossible that I would be able to find the time to write photobook reviews in any shape or form!

Let’s have some fun and take a page out of Muhammed Ali’s book and say: Impossible is nothing! My photobook library is growing and it is time I introduced you to some incredible photographers. Plus, I haven’t commuted to work due to COVID-19 for a few weeks, I have put that time to good use!

Today I am going to start not with a photobook per say, but Linsey Addario’s memoir: “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War”. This is cheating a little bit I know but not to worry, I will follow up with a review of her photobook “Of War and Love”.

I came across Lynsey Addario’s work on the pages of the New York Times years ago. I remember reading a photo credit and realizing Lynsey was a in Afghanistan and thinking what the hell is she doing in Afghanistan? This was before other photojournalists arrived in Afghanistan. Addario has covered just about every major conflict and humanitarian crisis of our generation, including Iraq, Yemen, Darfur, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, South Sudan, Somalia, and Congo. “It’s What I Do,” chronicles her personal and professional life as a photojournalist coming of age in the post-9/11 world. To get a feel for the breath of her work, take a look at her editorial prints.

Lynsey Addario began her photography career for the Buenos Aires Herald in Argentina in 1996 without any previous photography experience. Today, Addario is one of America’s most accomplished conflict photographer. She does not just photograph wars, but the world’s injustices, conflicts, displacements and oppressions. Everywhere she goes, she bears witness, constantly making the decision not to stay home and travel to cover the stories that need to be told. Being behind the viewfinder is where she wants to be and in those moments, nothing else matters. In her book, we follow along in her journey.

For her work, Addario has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur fellowship, she has been named one of the five most influential photographers of the last twenty-five years (American Photo) and one of 150 Women Who Shake the World (Newsweek).

Following her kidnapping in Libya in 2011, and the subsequent deaths of her friends and colleagues Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya, Addario decided to process her kidnapping and survival experience by writing a memoir. Addario’s memoirs take us along as a driver side passenger while she is covering difficult assignments. I was struck by her openness to talk about her fears, being a women in a male dominated field, her dubious choices in love, loss and her unwavering desire to get her stories out.

Addario grew up in a family of hairdressers, in what she describes as a hippie home. She was a self-taught photographer who started her photography career when she moved to Argentina after college. Her first break was an assignment from the Associated Press to photograph transgender-prostitues in the Meatpacking District in 1999 amidst a spate of ignored homicides. This was her first long-term assignment and her first opportunity for a real photo-essay. In true Addario style, she spent weeks venturing out in the Meatpacking District “to make inroads into the seemingly impenetrable world of transgender prostitutes.” She traveled with a local organization that distributed condoms and information on sexually transmitted diseases and never took out her camera! Getting close to her subjects required earning their trust. 

Caption: Transgender prostitutes in the Meatpacking Distric in New York, 1999.

In 2000 she traveled to Afghanistan to photograph women living under the Taliban. Not only did she manage to land a visa to Afghanistan, but she also photographed people while photography was banned!

Post 9/11 brought on a series of assignments including: Iraq, South Korea, Haiti, the Middle East, Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo.

As Addario herself mentions, her type of photography “bears witness to history, and influences policy.” Throughout her career she has given a voice to the voiceless and has been a champion of forgotten conflicts. Anywhere she goes, there is a story aching to get out and policies worth championing. Her book in its frankness and emotional honesty engages and moves the reader: if getting these photographs is worth the risks that Addario and her colleagues take daily, it behooves us to look. And understand the conflicts around us. And influence policy. And drive change.

Caption: Hanaa rides to work at a plum orchard before dawn along with other Syrian refugees from her informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, August 3, 2015. Hanaa and her family fled Syria in 2011 at the beginning of the Syrian civil war, and moved to this settlement two years ago.
Caption: Syrian refugees line up for one of two daily hot meals distributed by Insani Yardim Vakfi, IHH, at the Bab al-Salam camp at the Syrian side of the country’s border with Turkey, in Syria, February 11, 2013. Roughly 800,000 Syrians have been displaced to neighboring countries by the fighting across Syria, and the aid to refugees has been marred by politics.
Caption: Afghan policewomen handle AMD-65 rifles at a dusty firing range outside Kabul. They are trained by carabinieri, Italian military police from the local NATO troops. Joining the police force is a bold decision for an Afghan woman. Insurgents often attack the police. Very few women get permission to sign up from their husband and male relatives. Of 100,000 officers, only about 700 are female.
Caption: North Darfur. Soldiers with the Sudanese Liberation Army wait by their truck while struck in the mud and hit by a sandstorm in North Darfur, Sudan, August 21, 2004.  
Kenyan women await food handouts and nutrition checks by Doctors without Borders during an ambulatory therapeutic feeding program for severely malnourished children in villages across Turkana, Kenya, August 15, 2011.

Pick up her biography anywhere you usually get your books. You will not be disappointed. It is beautifully written, emotional, and will nudge you out of your comfort zone to leave you with a better understanding of our world conflicts and a desire to change things.

If you would like to learn a bit more about Lyndsey Addario I would suggest the following videos and interviews. These segments are wonderful companions to the book:

  1. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times foreign correspondent and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, moderates a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photojournalist and best-selling author Lynsey Addario: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo2XVvbK7FQ
  2. From the front lines of Libya: https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/news/a6193/photojournalist-lynsey-addario/
  3. Lindsay Addario tells the story behind five war photos:https://newrepublic.com/article/120983/lynsey-addarios-its-what-i-do-and-stories-behind-5-photos
  4. Lynsey Addario: ‘War journalists are not all addicted to adrenaline. It’s a calling’ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/05/lynsey-addario-war-journalist-interview-its-what-i-do
  5. Inside the Story: Photojournalist Lynsey Addario Documents Three Families’ Search for Asylum

Happiness in colors

A few months ago I had a great conversation with Daniela who is a Brazilian journalist at the Folha De Sao Paulo. Daniela was writing about our Multicolr lab – this is one of the Idée labs where you can search 10 million creative commons images using multi colours. You can select up to 10 colors for your search (go play, if you have never tried it, and please don’t blame me for the amount of time you will be spending there today!). Anyhoo…I remembered the conversation last night because of Garrett‘s comment below:

It is easy to forget how important color is in our world – this may seem strange coming out of the mouth of someone who has been wearing black (exclusively) for the past 2 decades but… color unifies us. My conversation with Daniela was not so much about how color searching works but more about how color breaks down all language barriers, we all have favorite colors, we all see and look at color differently and one thing is for sure: words are very poor color descriptors!



I am a big fan of Victor’s work. I have been following what he is doing with vi.sualize.us and I am impressed – I drop by once in a while and look at people’s favourite images as a bit of a voyeur; it is a great break when you are wanting for flights in dreadful airports.
I enjoy his design approach, his experiments with typefaces and how to display images on vi.sualize.us. I also appreciate how he prioritizes features and how he rolls them out; I am sure he gets oodles of requests and ideas. But what I appreciate most about his work (besides the fact that he is doing this in his spare time!) is how much of a perfectionists he is. Drop by if you have time – and if you don’t, make some time or I send the hound dogs!

Idée’s Multicolr Search Lab


The Multicolr Search Lab is a fantastic tool that does an excellent job of finding great images based on the colors you select.

Well, yes it is. Our multicolour search is actually quite unique. We of course have not invented colour search but we have done an amazing job of letting users select up to 10 colours to search for; we also spent a lot of time coming up with a clean yet awesome interface to display the search results and believe me when I say we are not doing simple histogram analysis for the colour search. It is Sunday evening so go on… go play and see for yourself.

The Big Picture: or photography is so not dead!


The Big Picture is a photo blog for the Boston Globe/boston.com, compiled semi-regularly by Alan Taylor. Inspired by publications like Life Magazine (of old), National Geographic, and online experiences like MSNBC.com’s Picture Stories galleries and Brian Storm’s MediaStorm, The Big Picture is intended to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery – with a focus on current events, lesser-known stories and, well, just about anything that comes across the wire that looks really interesting.

Well bravo Alan Taylor because you have done an amazing job!

Nothing But Blue Sky For New Photographers

Via Rob Haggard this morning a great piece about all the problems facing photographers written by Vincent Laforet. I met Vincent a couple of years ago at the Microsoft Photo Summit and have come to enjoy his work since. His piece for Sports Shooter is both depressing and invigorating at the same time (go figure!) and Vincent has hit the nail on the head:


The challenge is to find a way to continue to produce quality original content, and to connect with your audience – not to hold on to the old, traditional way of doing things. So while the cloud may be falling – there’s plenty of blue sky above – and the possibilities are endless. Good luck.

The audience is now in charge. Turn them into fans.

I enjoy Rob’s blog. One of his latest post "a thought on the future of photography" nails it. I have had so many conversations over the years with photographers and it strikes me still how many times I hear: "don’t put your images on flickr", "don’t show high resolution images online", "don’t display your images online as they will just be stolen". I can only find out about your work if it is out there. I can only hire you if I can see your work, I can only recommend you to the 1000 fans you need if you are out there. So be out there. Rob has of course a much nicer way of saying it. And don’t forget to read Kevin Kelly’s awesome 1000 fan blog post.

You’ve got to make your photos available online for free. Anything that can be distributed digitally must now be distributed for free to remain competitive. Not for commercial use and not without attribution but fans should be able to distribute your photography for free and view it big on your website without watermarks and other barriers. It’s not like you don’t already do this it’s just that there’s a lot of hand wringing going on about the ability of consumers to scrape your photos off your website. It’s not necessary because they’re the fans you want to sell prints, books, lectures, clinics and personal commissions to. You should encourage them to look at and help you distribute your photography so you can bring in more fans. Don’t forget that some of those people will be Art Buyers and Photo Directors.

Behind the scenes from a photographer’s point of view


John Harrington has a fantastic video and script up about coverage of how photographers work when they are covering a State of the Union Address. This is awesome. Kudos to John for taking the time to get this out.

One of the primary positions is the head on position; in addition there is a left position and a right position on either side of the chamber. There are also corner positions and a rear position known as the reversal position. Now in addition one of the very unique positions that’s been added in oh the last 5 or 10 years is the floor pool position.

I am not going to spoil things for you but there are great conversations about photographers, cameras, and  photographers editorial angles (what they were trying to aim for in the photographs shot). Nice work John. A big thank you!