Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and author of this year’s Penn State Reads book It’s What I Do Lynsey Addario spoke to students in Schwab Auditorium Monday night about her inspiring career.
Addario is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison who makes her living photographing major conflicts in middle eastern countries. Her talk gave audience members insight into how she built her career and some of her most jarring experiences as a journalist.
Addario began by speaking about her life in Connecticut as a child.
“I grew up with four brothers,” she said. “The best training a girl could have to be a war photographer.”
She talked about her humble beginnings in journalism — how, after graduating college, she repeatedly asked editors to give her work so she could gain experience. In 2000, Addario moved to India and her roommate suggested she travel to Afghanistan to photograph women.
She had an advantage over her male colleagues, she said, because she was able to gather intimate photos of these women’s lives where they could not follow the Taliban’s strict rules. In her presentation, Addario showcased striking photos of underground schools.
“Very brave men and women opened their homes to young girls to get an education.”
After 9/11, Addario was asked to go back to the Middle East as a combat photographer. She talks about her fear, unsure if she would be able to handle the intensity of that type of photography. She went anyway, feeling called to share the stories of those affected by such tremendous violence.
“That’s one of the great privileges of being a journalist,” she said. “We are able to see different sides of the story.”
Throughout her career, she has experienced countless loss, been kidnapped, and has been caught in dangerous crossfire. Addario says that even though there have been times where she feared for her life, she knows her photography is sparking conversation and making a difference.
“I want to make them mad, make them interested, [see]what’s going on here, what’s happening now,” Addario said.
After her presentation, she opened the floor for questions from the audience and those watching on the live stream.
When asked about how she deals with the burden of the tragedy she witnesses, Addario said she tries to carry it with her out of respect for those people and their families. She tries not to forget what she has seen.
Addario closed by sharing the advice she would tell her college self:
“Don’t follow money; follow your heart. Find what makes you passionate.”