Lynsey Addario has a strong focus on climate change
“People need to see these stories through a human lens,” humanitarian photojournalist Lynsey Addario says of the importance of showcasing the struggles of climate change activists. In 2015, Lynsey was named one of the five most influential photographers of the past 25 years by American Photo Magazine. Also a Pulitzer Prize winner, she believes climate change efforts need to be stepped up drastically. Otherwise, we are looking at a bleak future.
It is not difficult to see the effects of climate change. As we got closer to October when I was younger, Dubai was nice, sometimes cold. Rain clouds would often visit us at this time, bringing showers much appreciated at the end of the year. Now, in 2022, I can’t spend an hour outside in September without feeling like my energy is being sapped by the scorching sun. The skies are hazy and gray most days, and it seems like rain clouds are a distant dream. Even if you don’t do much to help change the situation, it’s important not to dismiss those who do. Climate change activists in many parts of the world are even met with ridicule and hostility. Lynsey has traveled the world photographing pioneering climate activists. The stories she encountered and the people she captured with her camera earned her a shortlist for the 2022 Leica Oskar Barnack Award.
Essential camera gear used by Lynsey Addario
Lynsey told us:
The Phoblographer: Hello Lynsey. Congratulations on the selection of Oscar Barnack. Tell us about yourself and how you came to photography.
Lynsey Addario: I grew up in Connecticut, USA, and grew up in a very eccentric family with parents who were hairdressers and really encouraged creativity. Since the age of 12 or 13, I have been photographing as a hobby. I have always been interested in other cultures, travel and learning about the world, but only realized after graduating from university that photojournalism was the perfect marriage of my love for photography and my passion for learning about people, issues and storytelling through photographs.
The Phoblographer: Even today, climate change is a much neglected topic in many parts of the world. What prompted you to make it the subject of a photo series?
Lynsey Addario: I have gradually tried to integrate stories about climate change into my regular coverage as it is undoubtedly one of the most important topics of our time and one that affects all of our lives. I struggled to personalize and humanize the subject, and when I started learning about how climate change affects women and children in particular, I felt I could tell this story effectively.
The Phoblographer: Focusing on the women who champion this cause, what factors determined where you would travel to photograph the subjects?
Lynsey Addario: I researched different angles of the subject and was looking for geographic diversity, as well as visual diversity. I also wanted to show how the climate affects women and children in different ways and what locals are doing to combat the effects of climate change.
In the Amazon, I have focused on how indigenous women are increasingly participating in leadership roles to combat illegal mining and logging and are becoming active in their communities and on social media; in California, I covered the growing number of female firefighters helping to fight wildfires in the United States.
In South Sudan, I focused on how devastating floods affect women’s ability to feed their children, provide adequate shelter, and access prenatal and postnatal care.
The Phoblographer: What were the most powerful stories these women told about their efforts? Tell us some of your favorites please.
Lynsey Addario: Alessandra Korap, from the Munduruku tribe, has fought so actively against illegal mining and logging in the Amazon that she has received death threats against her life and has already suffered several burglaries in her home and attempts of assassination. Despite this, she continues to be incredibly active in her efforts to fight to protect the forests and rivers, as well as the natural riches of the Amazon.
In South Sudan, I think it’s just the general desperation in Bor State amid these record floods – the worst in six decades – that has left most people displaced, without crops, without adequate shelter.
The Phoblographer: When you were around these women to photograph them, what were some of the qualities that you focused on?
Lynsey Addario: I am always looking for examples of resilience but I also try to show how it is often the poorest people who are most affected by the droughts, floods and natural disasters that accompany climate change.
The Phoblographer: Some of these places couldn’t be anything less than dangerous. How did it feel fighting any apprehension while taking great photos?
Lynsey Addario: Wildfires are definitely dangerous to cover, and it was a steep learning curve for me learning how to cover active wildfires and take decent photos. Luckily I was embedded with CAL FIRE and also with a very experienced videographer who regularly covers wildfires during parts of the trip, Sashwa Burrous, and they both did a lot to help me overcome both the danger and my fear. The other challenging aspect is the physical aspect – there is a lot of equipment and we had to trek deep into scorching forests with rough terrain so I had to make sure I could keep up!
The Phoblographer: Do these women receive sufficient support from the relevant authorities for their combative efforts?
Lynsey Addario: I’m not sure I can answer that.
I carry a 70-200mm if I’m covering war or current affairs, just in case I need a long lens. I always have a Leica Q2 in my purse or in my camera bag in case I want something more discreet.
Le Phoblographe: Will we soon be fighting a losing battle if we don’t step up our efforts?
Lynsey Addario: Yes, I think based on everything scientists tell us, definitely. We are already seeing the devastating effects of climate change and people are still resisting taking the necessary steps to mitigate the effects.
The Phoblographer: What is the most important thing we can do as photographers to raise awareness about climate change?
Lynsey Addario: I think we can continue to make these stories that show the effects of climate change on the environment and on people around the world. People need to see these stories through a human lens, through a lens that helps show the impact happening here and now.
All images by Lynsey Addario. Used with permission. Visit his website and Instagram page to learn more about his photojournalism. Want to be featured? Click here to find out how.