Photojournalist Lynsey Addario

Interview: Nezih Tavlas / March 24, 2021

“I want my photographs to convey the reality”

(Credit: John Moore)

Photojournalism News: What drew you to photojournalism?

Lynsey Addario: I was initially drawn to photography for the camera’s ability to capture a moment in time. Eventually, I started becoming aware of photojournalism, and loved the idea of telling stories with images. The more I followed the work of some of the great photographers like @SSalgadoGenesis, Henri Cartier-Bresson, James Nachtwey, the more I knew I wanted to be a photojournalist..

Photojournalism News: What equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite lens/camera?

Lynsey Addario: I am a Nikon ambassador, and have been using @Nikonusa cameras since I started photographing at around 13. I have a Nikon D850, and now am migrating over to the Z7 mirrorless bodies. My go to lenses are 24-70mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, and 28mm f1.4.

Photojournalism News: What social media platforms do you use?

Lynsey Addario:

Photojournalism News: How do you prepare yourself before any assignment? What would you put in your camera bag for a typical task?

Lynsey Addario: For a feature story, I generally put in a week or two of research before any assignment (time-permitting). I’ll reach out to local organizations, interview/ speak with people working in the field, and make a tentative shoot list. The hardest part is always securing access to the subjects, or a location. I also often reach out to colleagues to get a sense of where to stay, fixer or local journalist recommendations, and any safety concerns or advice. Two Nikon bodies (now I am working with Z7 and a Z6, one 24-70mm f2.8, one 35mm f1.8 (z series lens); one 24mm f1.8, one 50mm f1.2. I rarely carry a long lens anymore, but often have it in the car, or at the hotel just in case. In my bag, I have 2-3 extra batteries, memory cards, headache pills (because I often forgot to eat or drink enough water when I am shooting) two protein bars, a bottle of water, a lens cloth, a power bank and an iPhone cable to recharge my phone on the go, sometimes an on-camera Rohde microphone, sunglasses, hand cream (I hate dry hands), hand sanitizer, and extra masks.

Photojournalism News: How would you best describe your style of work? What are you trying to say with your photography?

Lynsey Addario: I guess photojournalism or documentary photography. I am trying to capture the reality of a given scene or situation, and trying to say whatever the subject is trying to say. My images are just a vehicle for the subject or story.

Photojournalism News: How many photos do you take for one story?

Lynsey Addario: That depends on the story, the access, the length of the assignment—how many shoot days I am given. It can be as few as a few hundred photographs, and as many as 60,000 for a 28-page National Geographic Magazine assignment.

Photojournalism News: What is the last trip you made?

Lynsey Addario: I’ve been photographing COVID-19 in the UK, where I live, but the last trip I made was in October to the US to cover climate change in California for National Geographic and elections in Philadelphia for The New York Times Magazine.

Photojournalism News: What projects will you be working on next?

Lynsey Addario: I am working on a story in the UK for the New York Times Magazine.

Photojournalism News: Which of your photographs would you describe as your favourite? What makes them so special to you?

Lynsey Addario: I don’t have favorite photographs: I am essentially always tortured by my pictures, by the images I missed, by not feeling like I spent enough time on a given project. But I guess the images I revert back to when I am asked to share a selection of my work over time would be from the maternal mortality series, the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.

Photojournalism News: What message do you want your photos to convey?

Lynsey Addario: Same answer as above I want my photographs to convey the reality I view through my lens.

(Courtesy of Lynsey Addario)

Photojournalism News: What does a photo need to be a great in your eyes?

Lynsey Addario: It needs to evoke emotion, to tell a story, to be compositionally compelling, and have beautiful light.

Photojournalism News: In the digital age people consume billions of photos every single day, under the circumstances what could make a photo memorable?

Lynsey Addario: I still believe that no matter how many images we are inundated by, the best, most memorable will still rise to the top, and remain poignant.

Photojournalism News: What motivates you to continue taking pictures and what do you do to keep motivated?

Lynsey Addario: What motivates me is justice, the ability to educate people, to document current events for a historical record and to influence policy makers and policy. I also believe in using images to undo preconceptions, and to show a reality often misunderstood or misrepresented. I stay motivated by the incredible people I meet and photograph, who always have compelling stories to tell, who trust me, and open their lives to me and my camera, and thus, the readers of the publications I shoot for.

Photojournalism News: What was the biggest professional risk you have taken and what was the outcome?

Lynsey Addario: I can’t really answer this question. I think every assignment comes with some degree of risk. The big stress for me is always whether I can do a story justice.

Photojournalism News: What would be your dream assignment?

Lynsey Addario: It’s hard to say: I get really immersed into most of the stories I do. I guess I would love to do a road trip across the southern part of the United States to document many of the key issues in America today: poverty, gun control, racism, lack of access to affordable healthcare, immigration, etc.

Photojournalism News: What are the essential skills/ qualities a photojournalist should have?

Lynsey Addario: Empathy, patience, dedication, determination, to be a good listener, a good journalist, the ability to make people feel comfortable/ put them at ease, to be open-minded/ non-judgmental, and to be curious and passionate about people.

Photojournalism News: What do you think about the digital manipulation of images?

Lynsey Addario: There is no place for manipulation in photojournalism.

Photojournalism News: What does it mean to be an ethical photojournalist?

Lynsey Addario: To photograph with integrity and respect, to not doctor images or captions, to ensure the reporting and information included in the caption is factually correct, and to ensure the photographs and accompanying information are captured with consent.

Photojournalism News: How do you see the role of photojournalism evolving in the world? Do you think photojournalism is losing its importance?

Lynsey Addario: I still believe in the fundamental importance of photojournalism. I think some publications are losing relevance, or no longer have the weight they once had, but I believe that the most reputable publications continue to provide the public with indispensable journalism and information and create a historical record of our time. Photojournalism is a fundamental part of that coverage. A powerful image will always be a testament to history.

Photojournalism News: What is it like to be a female photojournalist in a male-dominated field?

Lynsey Addario: I would like to say is the same as being a male photojournalist in a male-dominated field. But twenty years into this profession, I’ve had editors tell me I can’t go to war because I am a mother, and that there just aren’t many good female photographers out there. Obviously not true, but misogyny persists.

Photojournalism News: Do you have any advice for aspiring photojournalists?

Lynsey Addario: Work hard and tirelessly, be humble, be generous with other photographers, be respectful to your subjects, have integrity, and be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario began photographing professionally for the Buenos Aires Herald in Argentina in 1996 with no previous photographic training. In the late 1990s, she began freelancing in New York City for the Associated Press. Over the past 15 years, Addario has covered every major conflict and humanitarian crises of her generation, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, South Sudan, Somalia, and Congo. Addario has been the recipient of numerous international awards throughout her career.