World famous photographer gives lecture on career experiences

Colin Davy | Staff Photographer

Lynsey Addario addressed a packed audience inside Hendricks Chapel on Tuesday night.

Lynsey Addario didn’t have a press pass, but she told the bouncers outside of a Madonna concert 20 years ago that if they let her in to take photos of the singer, it would catapult her career to eventual fame.

They let her in, and she took the photo that got her a job as a photojournalist at the Bueno Aires Herald in 1996, despite previously having no formal training in photography.

Twenty years later, the now-world famous photojournalist laughed as she addressed a packed audience Tuesday night in Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel. She spoke about her experience in photojournalism as part of the University Lectures series.

During her career, Addario has covered conflicts throughout Africa and the Middle East. Her photos have appeared on pages of The New York Times, Time Magazine and National Geographic. She was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur grant. In 2015, the American Photo Magazine recognized her as one of the five most influential photojournalists in the past 25 years. Her best selling memoir, “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War,” is the basis for an upcoming Stephen Spielberg movie starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Addario grew up in a family of hairdressers in Connecticut. She said she loved photography but never knew she could make it a profession, so, she always considered it a hobby. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in international relations, she moved to Argentina to learn Spanish and then worked for the Bueno Aires Herald.

In 2000, Lynsey Addario traveled to Afghanistan to document women’s life under Taliban rule. Because of the conservative Afghan society, being a woman allowed her access to their homes and their personal stories, something her male colleagues could not do.

She was in the Darfur region of Sudan covering the genocide in 2004 when the Sunni government bombed an entire village. Addario got a seat on a packed United Nations helicopter and took a photo of the total destruction of the village after the bombing. The photo made the cover of The New York Times and was raised in Congress for the conflict in Darfur, she said.

“As a photojournalist, I have been in the front line of history,” she said.

Covering in conflict areas after the 9/11 attacks put Addario in various life-threatening situations. She began Tuesday’s lecture describing a time when she and her three colleagues were held hostage by Muammar Gaddafi’s troops in Libya. She recalled a moment she was pulled out of the car, faced the ground and came near to an execution until someone said, “You can’t kill them, they’re Americans.”

During captivity, she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by the soldiers while her male colleagues were heavily beaten, she said.

Addario also told the story of covering the refugee crisis, from Syria to Italy. She saw and photographed a piece of paper written in Arabic with a heart symbol on the ground, so she had a Jordanian friend translate it. The paper read, “I love you so much. I never wanted to leave you. Please don’t ever forget me. I will love you forever.” The photo was published by The New York Times.

“I have gotten more feedbacks on that photo more than any other, because it was so personal,” she said.

Throughout her lecture, Addario constantly said it is important to get many sides of a story. She said, for example, that not only does she show the combat of war, but she also portrays the devastating effect of wars, such as the famine in South Sudan and the refugee crisis in Syria and neighboring countries.

When asked by an audience member how she manages to remain positive despite witnessing such scenes, she said they made her feel lucky and appreciate her life more.

Emma Cogan, a freshman majoring in photojournalism who attended the lecture, said Addario’s lecture made it clear “how strong and passionate she is toward journalism.”

“Many would have given up,” she said. “Her love for her job is apparent in her photographs. She finds stories that speaks to her and is able to capture them in a way that speak to others as well.”


Top Stories