April 29, 2016

Reading Lately- April

I mentioned yesterday that I'm 5 books behind my book challenge on Goodreads. While I don't really care about the number of books I read, this upsets me because I hate that I've become that person who doesn't have time to read. I'll write my April recap and May goals this weekend and I can promise you that reading more will definitely be on that list!

This month, I read one book. I'm almost finished with "Animal Dreams" so it will actually end up being two, but not in time for this post! That means that I get to spend a lot of time talking to you about this month's book club pick, "It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War" by Lynsey Addario. If you're new around here, my good friend, Carolann, and I host a book club through Goodreads. Each month, we take suggestions for books and everyone votes on what they want to read and has the option to discuss on their blogs each month!

I have really mixed feelings about this book. It's been on my reading list for several months now. I even listed it as one of the 5 Books to Read Before They Become Movies (starring Jennifer Lawrence) before I even read the book!

I'll start with this. I think this is a book that should be read. I think that it's an important story to tell - the risks that journalists take to let us know what's going on around the world. That being said, I think that some of the risks that Lynsey Addario took were unnecessary. I think that she put a lot of people in danger, including US military, and I think that her need to get the perfect shot no matter the situation was desperate.

Full disclosure: I went to college for Journalism. Midway through my 3rd year of school, I realized that my professors' lectures about the need to get the perfect story or perfect shot AT ALL COSTS wasn't for me. I didn't want to be the person sticking a microphone in someone's face minutes after a tragedy. I think that doing that with a camera is even worse. It's important to tell stories, but I don't believe it's important to exploit people's pain.

In one example, while in Iraq, she says, "We parked our cars along the road near a checkpoint as we tried to get information about the situation in Khurmal and to photograph their fear." The next page shows a pretty graphic photo of a severely wounded Kurdish soldier with his brain showing through his hair. That sentence, 'photograph their fear,' really bothered me.

At one point, Lynsey goes on a mission with American troops. The troops are basically on patrol and there isn't a lot of excitement. She says, "A part of me always quietly hoped for a brief gun battle; there were only so many pictures I could take of troops standing guard with their guns and talking with villagers." Later, a gun battle does ensue and one US soldier is killed.

Later, in another example, while she's following US troops around, a soldier breaks down. He falls apart and says that he can't do it anymore. The scene is very powerful. This soldier is in the middle of the dessert. He's at war. He's away from his family and friends. He's seen his friends die. He knows that he can be next, and when he falls apart, she says that she was relieved that it was one of the soldiers who broke down and not her. She didn't feel sympathy or compassion, she was just happy that it wasn't her. There is so much of this book that didn't sit well with me but what bothered me the most was this particular passage about her work in Sudan,

"It seemed paradoxical to try to create beautiful images out of conflict, but I found that my more abstract images of Darfur provoked an unusual response from readers.Suddenly I was getting requests for fine art prints of rebels in a sandstorm or blurred refugees walking through the desert for several thousand dollars. I was conflicted about making money from images of people who were so desperate, but I thought of all the years I had struggled to make ends meet as a photographer,and I knew that any money I made from these photos would be invested right back into my work."
Wow. She's justifying making thousands of dollars off of people's pain and struggle with the fact that she struggled financially. She's talking about shooting in one of the worst countries in the world, in an area that hosts one of the worst humanitarian disasters in global history.

I don't have a problem with the fact that she made money off of her images. I really don't. I do have a problem with her justification of it. If she had said that she felt conflicted but that ultimately, her photographs led to widespread media attention that demanded intervention in Darfur, I could accept that, but I don't think it's right to say, "Hey I struggled so I can take pictures of people's struggle and make money of of it."

I think that her goal is that her images will be used to affect change, that by showing images of civilians in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, wherever, that people might be compelled to change things. I do think that Lynsey wants to make the world a better place, just in a different way that I do, but I also question a lot of her thinking.

That being said, I appreciate her candor and I'm glad she wrote the book she wanted to, without fearing repercussion.

Have you read "It's What I Do?"
Do you think you'll read it or see the movie? 
What have you read this month? Link up with us and let us know!

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