Photojournalist and Pulitzer-Prize winner Lynsey Addario discusses her life, work and memoir


Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario gave a talk Thursday night in the Memorial Union. Addario has spent over 25 years documenting war in the Middle East. The upcoming feature film ‘It’s What I Do’ starring Jennifer Lawrence is based on Addario’s life.

Elizabeth Jackson

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and Lynsey Addario has several to share.

Photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Lynsey Addario, discussed her career and best-selling memoir in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union Thursday. Her memoir, “It’s What I Do,”  gives an insight into her life and career as a photojournalist and her coverage in war-torn countries. She began her lecture with a clip of MSNBC coverage on herself and her colleagues’ kidnapping in 2011, though her work in photography began far before that year.  

Photography began as just a hobby, as Addario studied International Relations and Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It wasn’t until traveling to Argentina to study Spanish that Addario was introduced to photojournalism as a career. The support to pursue her passion as a career came from her family. According to Addario, she was lucky in that her family was supportive and told her to focus on what she loved.

 Through her many photos, Addario told the timeline of her career. She is still able to recall the details of each photo, where they were taken, the context and even the subject’s names. Many photos are not censored, even those covering the dead or wounded, which can be quite controversial to publications.

 “It’s important to show many different sides to what’s going on, it becomes more comprehensive for people,” Addario said.

In her career as a photojournalist, Addario has traveled throughout the Middle East and Africa, and has spent her time in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Darfur, Sudan and Chad. Her assignments range from covering the frontlines of war to a series done on maternal death.

 Many of Addario’s assignment has focused on women’s issues, including a piece on secret school and girl’s education. As a woman, Addario has faced sexism in her career. In the Middle East, Addario often has to cover her face and often find creative ways to photograph. After 23 years in the industry, Addario says she still faces setbacks in the field. Her advice to aspiring journalists is simple though.

 “Changing opinions, educating people, misconceptions, all those things together push boundaries. Get out there, do it, take risks, be ready for failure, it’s the not the career for everyone but it’s very rewarding,” Addario said.

“It’s What I Do” is currently being made into a film produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Jennifer Lawrence.