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Masters Talks: Lynsey Addario

You knew this would be emotional.

Lynsey Addario took to the stage of the Paramount Theater with a sold-out crowd at her feet. It took just minutes to bring them to their knees.

The celebrated photographer—for whom we “held our breath for 6 days” when she was taken prisoner in Libya during March of 2011—would show 3 different bodies of work: women’s rights in Afghanistan, rape in the Congo, and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone.

Breathe.

Afghanistan: Women’s Rights
The sight of every image was like trying to swallow a pill without water: it hurt going down. The audience was humbled as Lynsey cycled through juxtapositions from the early and latter parts of her career. The stories were powerful. Women chained to walls in a mental hospital. Self-immolation brought on by a fear of male judgement. The fellow next to me gasped at a burn victim soaking in a bathtub of iodide. Although the pill went deep, we were made to feel better by stories of a modern Afghanistan in transition.

Congo: Rape
In 2008, Lynsey received a grant to return to the Congo and photograph rape victims in a so-called ‘proper’ way. Having decided that, “interviews were more powerful than their portraits,” she experimented with audio documentaries to support her visuals. A woman giving birth in a forest. An elderly rape victim. A small child who lost the ability to talk. All of us were quieted.

Sierra Leone: Maternal Mortality
“She’s bleeding too much,” recalls Lynsey, as she witnessed the passing of a mother who birthed two children. The local doctor—hamstrung by cases of malaria and cesareans—was too busy to attend to the many requests for help. “She was too scared to push,” says Addario. And, rightfully so.

At the Paramount, neither male nor female could deny their emotions after such an incredible visual journey.

Standing ovation.

Lynsey may have had the crowd on their knees, but she quickly brought them to their feet.

(by Joe Santa / Corbis)

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