Photog held captive in Libya talks at Columbia College

May 4, 2011 4:45:56 PM PDT
Last March, New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario was held captive in Libya. She was in Chicago this week to talk about the experience.

Lynsey Addario, a MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose work appears in the New York Times, National Geographic, Fortune and many others, was at Columbia College Tuesday to speak about her photographs focusing on human rights and women's lives around the world. A body of her work is on a traveling exhibition.

Addario has spent the last 11 years covering conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo, Lebanon and Libya.

"We are in a unique time in history, when we have troops on the ground in Iraq and Afganistan," said Addario. "I think Americans need to see what is happening on the ground."

Renowned photojournalist Lynsey Addario has spent much of her career covering conflict in the Middle East in war zones. In March, Addario was stationed in Libya documenting revolutions and protests when she and three of her colleagues were taken by loyal forces of Colonel Qaddafi and held captive for a week.

She describes the first few moments as being the most violent.

"We were blindfolded and thrown in the back of a pickup truck...and beaten along the way, and put in a prison," said Addario. "The first half hour was the most violent, and I thought we would be shot execution-style."

While in custody, they experienced days of brutality. The four of them were released after six days.

Addario reacts to the recent deaths of Qaddafi's son and grandchildren:

"I do not believe everything I hear coming out of Libya," she said.

Addario Says we cannot let our guard down with the death of Osama bin Laden because there are still a number of those with his same ideology.

"We've been fighting in Afghanistan now for 11 years. We need to figure out how we shift our focus now," said Addario.

Addario has focused much of her career on conflict and what it is like in the field. She has also devoted a great deal of time to women in conflict and the atrocities they face.

"I think a lot of women are used as weapons of war. Rape is often a tool," she said. "Women are used as tools to break down a family and to take over territory or villages."

The journalist recently lost two friends in battle and will take a little time before accepting her next assignment.

"I do think it is worth it, and we are all willing to pay that price with our lives by going out there," said Addario.

Addario was a huge success at Columbia's Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender. As for her next assignment, Addario says she may look for a place where she is not in combat and not the target.

She is determined to educate people about what is happening overseas.