Looking through Lynsey Addario’s lens

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist reflects on her work in conflict-torn regions

June 3, 2011

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(Getty/John Moore)
Photojournalist Lynsey Addario in Libya in March, shortly before her capture.

A lot of reporters like to say they focus on stories that would not otherwise be told, but in Lynsey Addario’s case it’s really true.

Addario, a photojournalist based in Delhi, India, works in places that are extremely dangerous and hard to reach - places like the Congo and Afghanistan, for instance - and while there, she documents the hardships of people whose suffering is often invisible to the outside world.

She also does so at great personal risk.

Recently Addario and three other New York Times reporters were taken prisoner in Libya. Their ordeal included being bound, blindfolded, beaten, and in Addario’s case, groped by captors during the 6 days they were detained by forces loyal to the Libyan government.

In addition to photographing conflict zones, Addario often trains her lens on women in the developing world who are sometimes trapped inside the horror of their own lives.

In 2010 the MacArthur “Genius” Grant and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer traveled to Sierra Leone, which has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. There, 1,033 women die for every 100,000 live births, and the photos Addario produced depict the horrific reality behind those numbers.

Addario described the work when she was in Chicago in May to speak at the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women & Gender in Arts and Media, where she is currently a fellow. The photos were published in Time magazine, and you can see them by following the link below.

A warning: Like much of Addario’s work, these photographs are graphic, and disturbing. More sensitive viewers might be haunted, as I was, by the images of a young woman who struggles to give birth and ultimately dies.

Related: Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone: The Story of Mama

You can hear Addario narrate her photos in the audio excerpt above. When asked how she can deal with such troubling circumstances, Addario said that it is not her own feelings that cause her the most distress:  

I’m lucky - I can leave. Most of these people are in these lives forever. Knowing that is much more difficult than that I’ve seen something traumatic. I can leave. Most people suffer lives of abuse and hardship. That’s enough to get me through anything.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Lynsey Addario spoke at an event presented by the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women & Gender in the Arts and Media in May. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.