It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War – a book review

‘It’s what I do’ is an inspiring memoir of Lynsey Addario, an award-winning photojournalist who documents wars from the front lines. She risks her life to bear witness to the human costs of wars. Driven by a strong commitment for the pursuit of truth, she shares the stories of civilians trapped in or fleeing from conflict zones.  She also documents the Arab Spring and the struggle of people risking their lives for their freedom.

It's what I do

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lynsey herself, and that added more depth to the riveting story of her life journey. I felt like she was confiding me with her secrets, conflicting thoughts and worries. The book covers many themes of friendship, family, love, heartbreak, adventure, guilt, and the struggle of a woman finding her way in a men dominated profession.  I respect her honesty in sharing her personal and professional struggles. And I generally love stories of strong and humble women.

Armed only with her cameras, Lynsey travels to Afghan, Iraq, Darfur, Libyan and many other countries. She was kidnapped, harassed and injured while doing her job. And she still continues to cover wars in the hope that she can share the truth to open people’s hearts and minds. She also hope to influence policy makers and advocate human rights by her moving photos. Beside reporting the horror of war, she tries to capture beauty and optimism in her impressive photos . She explains: “Trying to convey beauty in war was a technique to try to prevent the reader from looking away or turning the page in response to something horrible. I wanted them to linger, to ask questions.”

Lynsey’s book helped me better understand the life of war reporters and the constant dilemmas of facing the horror of war, and the call of duty to share difficult stories with compassion, empathy and humanity. I especially appreciate her incredible work photographing women in dire situations. She described in her book “So many women were casualties of their birthplace. They had nothing when they were born and would have nothing when they died; they survived off the land and through their dedication to their families, their children. I interviewed dozens and dozens of African women who had endured more hardship and trauma than most Westerners even read about, and they plowed on. I often openly cried during interviews, unable to process this violence and hatred toward women I was witnessing.”

Being a war photographer carries a lot of challenges and sacrifices. Lynsey describes her feelings of guilt, fear, optimism, anger and determination to follow her call of duty. She is incredibly courageous to continue to do her job despite experiencing the tremendous danger. I was deeply moved with her account of being kidnapped along three other New York Time journalists in Libya by Quadaffi’s soldiers who also killed their driver. I was also very angry to hear the story of Israeli soldiers at the Erez Crossing who forced her to go through X-ray scanners three times even though she had told them in advance that she was pregnant.

I was very glad to read that She has received a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship for her incredible work, and that she met an understanding and supportive husband. She managed to have a happy family and a successful career.

Luckily, Lynsey’s story has a happy ending, unlike many journalists who sacrificed their lives for the sake of reporting the truth, such as Marie Colvin who was killed while reporting the siege on Homs city in Syria. She is a hero and her sacrifices and legacy will long live even though she is no longer with us.

These huge sacrifices of honest journalists who cover wars with integrity and sincerity are a big contrast to the unbelievable journalists who go under the protection of brutal regimes. They interview people while escorted by armed soldiers, then write misleading stories that support regimes’ propaganda. They cause so much harm and undermine the work of principled credible journalists.

Ethical journalism is not an easy career. It is definitely more than a career. It is a duty and a commitment. And it has a high cost. As Lynsey writes: “some of us do wreck our personal lives and hurt those who love us most. This work can destroy people. I have seen so many friends and colleagues become unrecognizable from trauma: short-tempered, sleepless, and alienated from friends. But after years of witnesses so much suffering in the world, we find it hard to acknowledge that lucky, free, prosperous people like us might be suffering, too. We feel more comfortable in the darkest places than we do back home, where life seems too simple and too easy. We don’t listen to that inner voice that says it is time to take a break from documenting other people’s lives and start building our own.”

I highly recommend this inspiring book. I heard that it is being turned into a movie but I always prefer books over movies. And if you choose to buy the audiobook, You will still have an opportunity to see Lynsey’s amazing photographs online.

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