With cameras and bravery as their primary tools, photojournalists risk their lives to raise awareness about global suffering, far removed from the headquarters of organizations that award them for their efforts.
Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American photojournalist, has dedicated her life to covering conflict, war, and poverty around the world.
Featured in The National Geographic Society’s “Women of Vision” exhibition, Addario is one of 11 female photographers that have been selected to showcase the female version of “National Geographic storytelling.”
Addario has been kidnapped on two separate occasions whilst covering war-torn places – the first of which was in Iraq in 2004, and the second in Libya in 2011.
According to an article co-written by Addario, she and three male journalists were kidnapped in 2011. Addario’s first comment to her colleagues during the ambush that initiated their six-day long ordeal was, “God, I just don’t want to be raped.”
Gender did not stop the soldiers from beating Addario.
These experiences and acknowledgement of gender vulnerability are evident in the photographic collections available on Addario’s website. They range from documenting breast cancer in Uganda, to rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the refugees of Syria.
Each photograph is captioned with the names and stories of each subject, highlighting humanity amongst chaos in poverty and conflict-ravaged locations.
Within the patriarchal societies in which she has worked, Addario believes her gender has allowed her access to places and people that her male counterparts would be denied.
The motivation that drives Addario’s work is the importance of telling these stories of suffering to the American public, as well as the daily life that continues against the backdrop of conflict.
With a similar objective, Hazel Thompson, an award-winning British photojournalist, immersed herself in the red-light district of Mumbai for 11 years to produce “Taken.”
“Taken” is an e-book and photo documentary that Thompson hopes will address what she describes as an “emergency” on the streets of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
By capturing the daily impact of sex-trafficking on young women and children, Thompson has created “a body of evidence” that cannot be denied or ignored by policy makers who, according to Thompson, have historically taken an apathetic approach to the problem.
“Taken” is also an educational opportunity and a prevention tool that Thompson is working to share with children living in poor villages, who are often targeted by sex-traffickers.
The profits from the project are donated to the Taken Campaign for Bombay Teen Challenge, an organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of Mumbai’s sex industry.
“Women of Vision” can be seen at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. October 10, 2013 – March 9, 2014.
The exhibition will go on to be featured at various venues across the U.S. until 2017.
“Taken” by Hazel Thompson is available on ibooks.
– Zoë Dean
Sources: PBS, New York Times, Lynsey Addario, Women News Network, Hazel Thompson
Photo: MacArthur Foundation