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The Penguin Press



It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War

Edited by Ann Godoff

MacArthur Genius Grant winner Lynsey Addario’s relentless pursuit of complex truths drive this heart-pounding and inspirational memoir of a photographer’s life.

Lynsey Addario was just finding her way as a young photographer when September 11 changed the world. One of the few photojournalists with experience in Afghanistan, she gets the call to return and cover the American invasion. She makes a decision she would often find herself making—not to stay home, not to lead a quiet or predictable life, but to set out across the world, face the chaos of crisis, and make a name for herself.

Addario finds in photography a way to travel with a purpose, and It’s What I Do is the story of that singular calling—how it shapes and drives her life and how it changes the lives of others. She captures virtually every major theater of war of the twenty-first century and from it creates a historical document of truth on the international conflicts that have made, and remade, our world. She photographs the Afghan people before and after Taliban reign, the civilian casualties and misunderstood insurgents of the Iraq War, as well as the burned villages and the countless dead in Darfur. She exposes a culture of violence against women in the Congo and tells the riveting inside story of her headline-making kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.

As a woman photojournalist determined to be taken as seriously as her male peers, Addario fights her way into a boys’ club of a profession. Rather than choose between her personal life and profession, Addario learns to strike a necessary balance. In the man who will become her husband, she finds at last a real love to complement her work, not take away from it, and as a new mother, she gains an all the more intensely personal understanding of the fragility of life.

Watching uprisings unfold and people fight to the death for their freedom, Addario understands she is documenting not only news but also the fate of society. It’s What I Do is more than just a snapshot of life on the front lines; it is witness to the human cost of war.


Book Trailer




“Beautifully written and vividly illustrated with her images — which are stunningly cinematic, often strange, always evocative — the book helps us understand not only what would lead a young woman to pursue such a dangerous and difficult profession, but why she is so good at it. Lens to her eye, Addario is an artist of empathy, a witness not to grand ideas about human sacrifice and suffering, but to human beings, simply being.” —Boston Globe

“The opening scene of Lynsey Addario’s memoir sucker punches you like a cold hard fist. She illuminates the daily frustrations of working within the confines of what the host culture expects from a member of her sex and her constant fight for respect from her male journalist peers and American soldiers. Always she leads with her chin, whether she’s on the ground in hostile territory or discussing politics.” —Entertainment Weekly

“[A] richly illustrated memoir.  [Addario] conveys well her unstated mission to stir the emotions of people like herself, born into relative security and prosperity, nudging them out of their comfort zones with visual evidence of horrors they might do something about. It is a diary of an empathetic young woman who makes understanding the wider world around her a professional calling.” — Los Angeles Times

“Addario’s narrative about growing up as one of four daughters born to hairdressers in Los Angeles and working her way up to being one of the world’s most accomplished photojournalists, male or female, is riveting. [She] thoughtfully shows how exhilarating and demanding it is to cover the most difficult assignments in the world. Addario is a shining example of someone who has been able to “have it all,” but she has worked hard and absolutely suffered to get where she is. My hope is that she continues to live the life less traveled with her family, as I will be waiting for her next book with great anticipation.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“[An] unflinching memoir. [Addario’s] book, woven through with images from her travels, offers insight into international events and the challenges faced by the journalists who capture them.”— Washington Post

“[Addario’s] ability to capture… vulnerability in her subjects, often in extreme circumstances, has propelled Addario to the top of her competitive field.” —Associated Press

“A rare gift: an intimate look into the personal and professional life of a war correspondent… a powerful read… This memoir packs a punch because of Addario’s personal risks. But some of the power in this book comes from the humanity she holds on to despite the horrors she witnesses. [It’s What I Do] should be read, processed and mulled over in its entirety….in [Addario’s] words and photos, readers will see that war isn’t simply a matter of black and white, of who’s right and who’s wrong. There are as many shades of gray as there are sides to every story.” — Dallas Morning News

“A remarkable journalistic achievement from a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship winner that crystalizes the last 10 years of global war and strife while candidly portraying the intimate life of a female photojournalist. Told with unflinching candor, the award-winning photographer brings an incredible sense of humanity to all the battlefields of her life. Especially affecting is the way in which Addario conveys the role of gender and how being a woman has impacted every aspect of her personal and professional lives. Whether dealing with ultrareligious zealots or overly demanding editors, being a woman with a camera has never been an easy task. A brutally real and unrelentingly raw memoir that is as inspiring as it is horrific.”— Kirkus (starred review)

“A highly readable and thoroughly engaging memoir…. Addario’s memoir brilliantly succeeds not only as a personal and professional narrative but also as an illuminating homage to photojournalism’s role in documenting suffering and injustice, and its potential to influence public opinion and official policy.” — Publishers Weekly

Author Q&A


You have two options when you approach a hostile checkpoint, and both are a gamble. The first option is to stop and identify yourselves as journalists and hope you are respected as neutral professionals. The second option is to blow past them and hope they don’t open fire on you.

“Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” Tyler was yelling.

But Mohammed was slowing down, sticking his head out of the window.

“Sahafi! Media!” he yelled to the soldiers. He jumped out of the car, Qaddafi’s soldiers swarming around him. “Sahafi!”

In one fluid movement, the doors flew open. I crawled across the backseat with my head down and out the open car door, scrambled to my feet, and immediately felt the hands of a soldier pulling at my arms and tugging at my two cameras. The harder he pulled, the harder I pulled back. Bullets whipped by us. Dirt kicked up all around my feet.

Within seconds, five government soldiers were upon us, pointing their guns and yelling in Arabic, their voices full of hate and adrenaline, their faces contorted into masks of sheer rage. They ordered us facedown into the dirt, motioning us down with their hands. We all paused, assuming this was the moment of our execution. And then we slowly crouched and we each begged for our lives.

I pressed my face into the soil as a soldier pulled my hands behind my back and kicked open my legs. The soldiers were screaming at us, at one another, pointing their weapons at our heads as the four of us sank into silent submission, waiting to be shot. I looked over at Anthony, Steve, and Tyler to make sure we were all still there, together and alive, and then quickly looked back at the dirt before me.

But the soldier was preoccupied with something else. He removed my gray Nikes with fluorescent yellow soles, and I heard the whipping sound of the laces being torn out. I felt air on my feet. He tied my ankles together. With a piece of fabric, he tied my wrists behind my back so tightly they went numb. Then he pushed my face into the filthy earth.

Would I see my parents again? Would I see Paul again? How could I do this to them? Would I get my cameras back? How did I get to this place?

The soldiers picked me up by my hands and feet and carried me away.

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