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A mother and her child, who is suffering from malnutrition, share a bed at a paediatrics hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 25, 2014.

Camille Lepage took this photo of a mother and child sharing a hospital bed in Bangui, Central African Republic, in late February, a few months before Lepage was murdered.


Lynsey Addario

for National Geographic

Published May 16, 2014

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 70 people in my profession were murdered in 2013 "as a direct reprisal" for their work. Of those, nearly a quarter were photographers.

Being a conflict photographer seems more dangerous than ever right now—or maybe the longer I do this, the more I feel my odds of surviving are wearing thin.

On Tuesday as I sat in the transit lounge in the Nairobi airport following a two-week trip to South Sudan, where I was documenting the civil war, the world was learning of the murder of French photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was covering the civil war in the neighboring Central African Republic. Camille was 26 years old.

In South Sudan I photographed bodies littering the streets in varying states of decay, tiny children withering away in makeshift tent hospitals, their stunted bodies draped in loose pleats of skin peeling from malnutrition, and civilians hand-digging graves to bury their dead.

Nothing seemed more important to me than to make the world aware of the senseless death and starvation in South Sudan. I wanted people to see through the eyes of the suffering so my photos might motivate the international community to act.

It is what has driven me for years now, and what continues to drive me every day. Doesn't a photograph have the ability to change the world?

Picture taken in Bangui on February, 19, 2014 of French journalist Camille Lepage. French journalist Camille Lepage, 26, has been killed while on a reporting assignment in Central African Republic.
Camille Lepage, 26, is shown here on assignment in Bangui on February 19, 2014.

Tragic Reminder

I didn't know Camille Lepage. I learned about her life and her impressive body of work only upon her death. I wondered how her mother, father, and loved ones were coping with losing her to the Central African Republic, where Camille had dedicated the last few months of her short life to bringing the conflict to light.

Camille's work was powerful, intimate, and poignant, and I can only imagine how much enlightenment she'd have brought to the world with her images—if she'd lived beyond a mere 26 years.

Her passion and willingness to spend months on end in the world's darkest shadows reminded me of myself when I was 26. I went to Afghanistan with a few thousand dollars in the bank and the curiosity and desire to photograph the secret lives of women living under the oppression of the Taliban.

I was undeterred by the danger of traveling as a single American woman through Taliban-governed land. I believed in the stories I wanted to tell, the stories I felt were underreported, and I was convinced that that belief would keep me alive.

Fourteen years and the deaths and maiming of numerous friends, the loss of two drivers, and two kidnappings later, I'm more aware than ever of my mortality.

With each assignment, I weigh the looming possibility of being killed, and I chastise myself for allowing fear to hinder me. War photographers aren't supposed to get scared. Did Robert Capa ever become paralyzed by fear, or the great James Nachtwey? Did Don McCullin?

New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario stands near the frontline during a pause in the fighting March 11, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya.
Photographer Lynsey Addario stands near the Libyan front line in Ras Lanuf during a pause in fighting on March 11, 2011.

Growing Risks

The reality is that photographers and war correspondents working under repressive regimes are more at risk now than ever. Everyone seems to want to shoot the messenger, and the notion that journalists should be respected as neutral observers documenting the reality on the ground no longer exists.

From Pakistan to Colombia to Russia, journalists are deliberately targeted and, too often now, killed to silence the voice of their pictures and words.

Legendary war correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in Babr Amr, Syria, in 2012, when mortar rounds zeroed in on their position hours after Marie filed her final live report from a satellite phone, which betrayed their whereabouts. That tragedy could have been a coincidence, but it could also have been one more instance in a long line of journalists paying the price for their work.

Few had more experience in Afghanistan than the AP team of Kathy Gannon and Anja Niedringhaus. Kathy was my own initial window into the country, helping me procure three Taliban visas between 2000 and 2001, and schooling me in everything from the key players in Afghanistan to how to operate there and where to sleep.

Together, Kathy and Anja crisscrossed the country for years, illuminating the lives of Afghans. On April 4, as they waited in their vehicle while covering the presidential elections, an Afghan policeman—presumably on the scene in part to protect them—shot both women repeatedly, killing Anja and wounding Kathy.

Journalists for Ransom

Kidnappings are now rampant, making coverage nearly impossible for even the most experienced and intrepid war correspondents.

Last week the London Times's Anthony Loyd was taken hostage in Syria. Anthony and Times photographer Jack Hill and their fixer were a few miles from the border with Turkey when they were captured by a rebel gang.

Anthony (with whom I'm working on a story for National Geographic) was hooded, brutally beaten, and shot twice in the leg before being rescued by rebel fighters and ushered to safety in Turkey.

In so many countries, Western journalists are viewed simply as dollar signs. We're ransom objects. In Egypt, three Al Jazeera journalists, correspondent Peter Grest and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, have been in prison since the end of December for doing their job: reporting.

The Egyptian government has accused them of joining the Muslim Brotherhood and working without credentials. They were repeatedly paraded around a courtroom in a Shakespeare-esque type of theater. Their trial was postponed numerous times, and the prosecutor demanded that they pay roughly $200,000 to see the video evidence against them.

In 2004 in Iraq I was taken hostage with a New York Times colleague in a village outside Fallujah named Gharma. And in 2011 I was kidnapped with three New York Times colleagues near a shifting front line in Ajdabiya, Libya.

In those initial, terrifying moments when it dawned on us that we were approaching a hostile checkpoint manned by troops loyal to the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi—troops whose adrenaline pumped through their veins like venom, their weapons raised high and trained on us as bullets from the continuing battle whizzed past our car—our driver, Mohammed Shalgouf, did something that might have worked 20 years ago. He stopped the car at the checkpoint, raised his hands high above his head, and screamed something to the effect of, "We are journalists!" as if there might be some sanctity in those very words.

In the ensuing chaos, we lost track of Mohammed. We never saw him alive again.

It is presumed that he was either killed in crossfire between the rebels and the Qaddafi troops who had seized us, or deliberately executed by Qaddafi soldiers.

We will never know the truth. More than three years later his body hasn't been recovered, and no plausible eyewitnesses have surfaced. But the last words I remember Mohammed saying are the very words I have used to plead for my own life: "We are journalists."

Sometimes people respect those words. And more often these days, they don't.

Lynsey Addario's memoir will be published in January 2015 by Penguin.

Shane C.
Shane C.

I am sorry for the loss of this young woman's life. These are brave souls and their pictures paint a thousand words. We need to see this as it may move other nations to take action and it does cause many to appreciate what we have and we should complain very little of our living conditions. These so called soldiers who have become more like butchers as they do not want the truth of the horrors going on over there. They wish to silence the truth. Yes, perhaps it was foolish and they know the risks associated with their jobs but it is still sad and shameful it has to come to this. My heart goes out to her family. My highest respect for those who put their lives on the line for this.


I have nothing but admiration for these journalists

sajal dutta
sajal dutta

its very painful and pathetic to hear these all the side of the world enjoys the photo shot and other side cost of the lives of the dare devil photographers and journalists...why??

John Le Fevre
John Le Fevre

Agreed, it is indeed a lot more dangerous now for conflict zone photo-journalists than 30- or even 20-years ago.

From Africa to Asia conflict zone journalists are now more than ever a target of armies and groups who either want the reality captured by those doing the job concealed, or who believe killing a journalist will bring their cause greater publicity and / or their enemies condemnation.

It's an occupation for the few who are dedicated to showing the world the truth, the reality of what is occurring in the hope of bringing about change. In the hope of bringing about understanding and most of all in the hope of bringing an end to the suffering of those without a voice, without hope.

In conflict zones there is no PR spin, there is only life and death. The results of decisions made thousands or tens of thousands of kilometres away by governments, large corporations, or institutions such as the UN and how these decisions affect people half a world away is the reality of conflict zone journalism.

It's an occupation for only a few and it has nothing to do with ego or adrenalin rushes. It is all to do with showing the reality of the "now" in the hopes that what we photograph and write about will bring about change -- a hope that is shattered and betrayed time after time.

Despite the risks and dangers and losses of close friends and colleagues, those who take on the job continue putting themselves at risk in the hope that what they do will bring about change.

If not for the work of photo-journalists who put themselves at risk to show the reality of situations politicians and spin doctors would have a much easier job at pushing the version of events that they want history to record.

Stay safe Lynsey and everyone else trying to make the word a better place through the images they capture and the words they write.

Alex P
Alex P

 Well, if you don't wanna get burned then stay out of the kitchen. Its the profession you chose and they live you choose to lead on a daily basis. No one forced or forces you to do so.

As for respecting journalists, etc... This is war, and there are no rules. Remember the old saying "All is fair in love and war?". If you believe being a journalist gives you special rights or that you are entitles to some kind of immunity then that is not only delusional but it is hypocritical. I say this because weather you like to admit it or not, by being present at this conflict, you are a part of it and actively engaging in it. 

Your stories and reports are a form of informational warfare because as we well know, there is no such thing as objective reporting, there is always some personal biased opinions involved, which ultimately has consequences for one side or another. This is something that  I am sure you do agree on, as your are reporting to make a difference, right? 

This is exactly the reason that there is such hostility against journalists, because these forces do perceive you as a threat because now they know that your work has the potential to bring upon their demise. Lets take Lybia as the perfect example, had there not been any information about the atrocities that went on, it is very unlikely that the USA would have lifted a finger to help and the old regime might still be in power.

erin Bishop
erin Bishop

for the people who complain every morning....about their.... job / supervisor / boss / the office being a war zone...etc..etc..etc.....

be thankful you are not really in a war zone...stop complaining and be productive....

Lynsey Addario, i have enjoyed your articles immensely.  Please,please,please stay safe....

mike aplin
mike aplin

Lynsey Addario, you need to extricate yourself from a great tradition, humbly spent by many before you.

These times are different, and your work is so much more dangerous now, than it was...perhaps, who really knows?

 You recite many names, lost ones, but truly, did their deaths make any difference?

 Oh yes, to you and me, but what about the ones responsible for heir deaths?

 They will continue, forever, going about their evil ways.

 Sorry, I truly feel for you, and my feeble words will probably make your fight stronger rather than make you come home, but I truly appreciate your work...

 I guess I really wish you didn't need to do it!

 Total regards, Mike

Maria Malu
Maria Malu

I pay homage to those that were killed and pray for the others who are devotingly doing there mission , because it is not only a job.

Angela Patmon
Angela Patmon

Nothing but respect......Photojournalists are artists putting their lives on the line to literally share the world through their eyes to inspire change. 

Kendall Gelner
Kendall Gelner

It's really no surprise journalists are targeted more now than they used to be, because there is no longer any objectivity in what they do.  They no longer report on stories, instead they craft them taking photos or writing words to fit a narrative.  It is any wonder that as readers trust journalists less so to would those who are being reported upon?  After years of seeing whatever they might say or do twisted it's not surprising to see low level soldiers simply dispatching journalists, assuming that whatever they are there for would reflect with great negativity (and these days the negativity is always great) on whatever cause they are fighting for.


@Alex P 

I totally agree with your point Alex. Most of conflicts are being held between two groups or sides, once you get in, you're on one of these sides and people have to be ready to admit the consequences. If you're on the other side, you become immediately my ennemy. There's no absolute law protecting thoses journalists and most of the time, they go into territories where there's total chaos. I'm deeply sorry for the loss but again, it's a risky job.

John Le Fevre
John Le Fevre

@Alex P You really are a pathetic human being lacking in morals, scruples and intelligence.

Alex P
Alex P

@John Le Fevre I am not the one trolling the internet and insulting people for their opinions. However through your statement, you have however just proven my point, so thank you. 


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