A photojournalist’s memoir of deadly close-ups

Scott Anderson writes a review of a photojounalist’s memoir of deadly close-ups. The book, A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario tackles the experiences of photojournalists on the battlefield, especially with the added pressure of being a woman in what is wrongly considered a man’s field. She writes about her time in Libya and her capture by qaddafi’s forces, and the hell that followed. She also gives the read a brief history of her life leading to this dangerous occupation, and her experiences in living as an afghan woman in disguise.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Lynsey Addario:

The modern battlefield can induce a peculiar strain of skewed logic among those sent to chronicle it. Upon a landscape where it is often mortally dangerous simply to stand in one place, how much worse can it be to venture a little farther, to get a bit closer? And having assumed the added risk of getting closer, how then to leave before you’ve taken the perfect image, conducted one last interview? What makes such calculations especially tricky is that most modern battlefields have no recognizable boundaries or rules of conduct; they bear less resemblance to any traditional war movie than, say, to ‘‘Mad Max.’’ In the opening of her affecting memoir, ‘‘It’s What I Do,’’ the photojournalist Lynsey Addario provides a harrowing account of just where such moth-to-the-flame thinking can lead. In March 2011, Ms. Addario was in Libya covering the civil war when she, along with a local driver and three other journalists on assignment with The New York Times, ventured into the exposed front-line town of Ajdabiya. (Although we have both covered conflicts for The Times, I have never worked with Ms. Addario, and we are only passing acquaintances.) Ms. Addario had feelings of foreboding from the outset, fears that amplified amid reports that loyalists to Muammar el-Qaddafi were encircling the town. Working against this, though, was the call of her profession. ‘‘We are greedy by nature,’’ she notes of war photographers and reporters. ‘‘We always want more than what we have. The consensus in the car at that point was to keep working.’’ As the only woman in that car, Ms. Addario felt further pressure to keep her concerns to herself. ‘‘I didn’t want to be the cowardly photographer or the terrified girl who prevented the men from doing their work.’’ When at last the group decided it was time to get out, it was too late: Captured by Col. Qaddafi’s soldiers, the four journalists were bound and blindfolded and taken away; their driver was dead, summarily executed or killed in the crossfire. What ensued over the next several days was a horrifying ordeal, as the journalists were paraded through loyalist towns, to be punched and hit with rifle butts — and in Ms. Addario’s case, sexually groped — by soldiers and the crowd. In the most unforgettably ghastly moment, Ms. Addario remembers how one of the captors caressed her face and hair ‘‘like a lover,’’ while softly ‘‘repeating the same phrase over and over.’’ She assumed the man was trying to comfort her, until an Arabic-speaking fellow captive told her the truth: ‘‘He’s telling you that you will die tonight.’’ Eventually transferred into the far gentler custody of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the journalists were ultimately released and flown out of the country. more