It’s What I Do
Sometimes, in all the fiction reading, I need to seek out something real–a true-to-life story, one that inspires me, gives fresh perspective, and reminds me of the wider world beyond my current Ohio town. Though it fixed itself upon my reading radar many months ago, I finally picked up a copy of Lynsey Addario’s new photographic memoir, It’s What I Do. It’s a book I now count as one of my favorites, for many reasons, on many levels.
First, if you don’t know of Lynsey Addario by name, you probably know her by her photographs. The subtitle for the book is A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. She has traveled the globe for more than 20 years, photographing locales from as near as New York City and Cuba to Afghanistan, Libya, Darfur, for publications like the New York Times, National Geographic, and Time.
Lynsey’s poise amidst all she has experienced for her work is astounding. She has been kidnapped, fired upon, and mistreated, but focuses on the positive result — gaining empathy for those around her in order to capture images which tell the truth. Her gender provides another obstacle in a world filled with male photojournalists. But Lynsey followed her heart, pursued a career doing what she loves, which is exposing the truth and making headlines real for readers around the world.
Her choices have not come without a price. She says,
“I have been kidnapped twice. I have gotten in one serious car accident. Two of my drivers have died while working for me–two tragedies that I will always feel responsible for. I have missed the births of my sisters’ children, the weddings of friends, the funerals of loved ones. I have disappeared on countless boyfriends and had just as many disappear on me. I put off, for years, marriage and children. Somehow, though, I am healthy. I have maintained warm and wonderful relationships… I struggle to find the imperfect balance between my role as a mother and my role as a photojournalist. But I have faith, as I’ve always had, that if I work hard enough, care enough, and love enough in all areas of my life, I can create and enjoy a full life.”
In the book, I most appreciated Lynsey’s honest account of how she became who she is–her struggles growing up as the youngest of four daughters in a complex situation in suburban Connecticut to her treks up the Himalayas while embedded with American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. She realizes, eventually, that “I was now a photojournalist willing to die for stories that had the potential to educate people. I wanted to make people think, to open their minds, to give them a full picture of what was happening…” People like Lynsey Addario change our world and open us up to boundaries far past our own imagining.
For these, and many other reasons, I will look forward to the upcoming movie based on the book with Jennifer Lawrence starring, and keep It’s What I Do on my favorites shelf and return to it often.
For more, or for an endless list of great books to read, please visit the other site which has my heart, Great New Books.org. Happy reading!