Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, seen through the camera of a war photographer

Behind the lines and the lens

Veteran photojournalist Lynsey Addario built a career on the strength of her ability to capture visceral and intimate images from some of the world's most dangerous conflict zones.

Having learned on the job—with no formal training—she's filed photos for global news organizations from places like Sudan and the Congo, as well as the closed and fiercely tradition-bound cultures of the Middle East.

Still, the digital revolution has made such previously far-flung places more accessible, thanks to a growing network of social media platforms fed by average citizens with smartphone cameras.

"I try not to get caught up in how our society is so inundated with images, and stay very focused on the work that I'm doing," Addario said in an interview with CNBC's On the Money. She advised media consumers looking at on-the-ground dispatches from breaking news stories to ask, "What are the sources of those images? How do we know that's the truth?"

Since first photographing the lives of women under Taliban rule in 2000, Addario has been consistently focused on documenting the truth. It was a path she says she never intentionally meant to pursue.

"I never set out to be a war photographer," said the Pulitzer Prize winner and 2009 MacArthur Fellow.

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'I thought we might get killed'

Photojournalist Lyndsey Addario
Photo: Kursat Bayhan

Discussing the events of her life as described in her recent memoir, It's What I Do, Addario is the unique woman in a career field that is typically dominated by men—and very dangerous.

She'd been embedded with NATO troops in Afghanistan, and held hostage during the Iraq War—before she and three fellow New York Times journalists were kidnapped by forces sympathetic to former leader Moammar Gadhafi during the Libyan uprising in March 2011.

"It was almost seven days, and it felt like a lifetime," said Addario, speaking of her captivity when she and her colleagues were blindfolded, repeatedly beaten and threatened with execution.

"It was harrowing," she said. "The entire time, we thought there was a chance we might get killed."

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario on assignment in Somalia while pregnant in 2011.
Source: Lynsey Addario

Addario and the rest of the team were released safely, and she quickly embarked on a challenging new assignment: starting a family.

As a woman with a demanding career, "it's very difficult to find that right time, particularly because my work requires me to be in war zones and to be far from home," she said. Yet Addario became pregnant almost immediately upon her return home from Libya. In part, she was spurred on by the 2011 deaths of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros while covering the Libyan civil war.

"I said, 'Enough, I need to, sort of, create life.'"

Indeed, it's Addario's own life that brought Hollywood calling. Warner Brothers won a bidding war to option the film rights to It's What I Do. Steven Spielberg is reported to be the director of the movie, which will star Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence.

"It's such an honor," Addario said, admitting as well that "it's very odd, for me. This is my life—I never think of it as anything special."

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