Publishers have always known that there is a ready market for romanticised accounts of photography on the front line of conflicts. “It’s what I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War “ by Lynsey Addario rises above that genre, principally because she writes very well and carefully produces a strong narrative in a totally engaging memoir. A constant theme is the dissonance of inhabiting the totally converse worlds of Western luxury and that of seeking a bush toilet in Afghanistan’s horrendously dangerous Korengal Valley.
Addorio, one of four sisters, grew up in privileged circumstances in Westport, Connecticut; her parents ran an extremely successful beauty salon but all that changed suddenly in her ninth year when her father departed the family home to live with another man. Strains of that childhood trauma emerge in her writing as she recounts moments recording starving families in Darfur and others while witnessing groups, fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East. She has succeeded in capturing memorable images because she patiently builds on the empathy that she feels with these distressed, human beings. She does not exploit them but wants the World to learn their stories from her pictures. She reproduces in the book one image of a 7 year old child, seriously wounded by shrapnel from a US bomb; it was not published originally because the Washington Military suppressed it on the grounds that it was bad for the morale of troops that the public might see this ugly side of American intervention in Afghanistan. That’s how news is managed.
This is a memoir full of poignancy, contrasting the safe comfort of our World with that in which unspeakable atrocities occur daily to families and, particularly, to their young children. She writes that she chooses to live in peace and witness war; to experience the worst in people but to remember the moments of beauty.
It is all there.
“It’s what I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War ” by Lynsey Addorio is published by Corsair: Price £20.00