Photojournalist Lynsey Addario delivers Gruber Lecture at YLS
Addario spoke candidly about her work and the impact that she hopes to impart by chronicling her time as a photojournalist through a series of photographs.
Tim Tai, Photo Editor
Born in Westport, Connecticut to two hairdresser parents, Lynsey Addario never thought that she would one day cover war as a photojournalist — mostly because she did not grow up with knowledge of news and journalism, she said at a lecture on Monday.
She received her first camera — a used Nikon FG — when she was just 12 years old, and although she never formally studied photography, Addario went on to embark on a career path dedicated to capturing visual testimonies of war, injustice, humanity, dignity and resilience. Her work has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic and TIME Magazine.
Addario delivered the Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Global Justice on March 27 at the Yale Law School. The spring lecture follows the 2022 Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Rights which took place in the Fall. Both lectures, featuring speakers whose achievements have furthered global justice and women’s rights, occur annually at the Yale Law School and are open to the entire University community, as well as to other interested groups.
Addario has been the recipient of awards including a MacArthur fellowship, an Overseas Press Club’s Olivier Rebbot Award, two Emmy nominations and a Pulitzer prize for her work as part of a New York Times team that conducted overseas reporting out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most recently, she has covered the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the experiences of refugees who have sought asylum in Europe.
Dean of Yale Law School Heather Gerken said that Addario’s work is a testament to perspective and that her work allows us to understand the world in ways that previous generations have overlooked.
“Lynsey is a pathbreaking photographer … she is part of the first cohort of female journalists who through grit, skill and determination, won the right and ability to report on the frontlines,” Gerken said at the event. “She has put her life at risk countless times to tell us stories of people who need their story told.”
During the lecture, she recounted her career to the audience through a series of images that she has captured since becoming a photojournalist.
Addario said she hopes the audience left her lecture with a “deeper understanding of how nuanced war is.”
“My goal as a photographer of conflict, humanitarian and women’s issues is to educate the public on why and how many of the horrific things we witness happen … by providing the backstories to images and situations not often available to the public, ” she told the News. “I try to personalize stories to create empathy.”
Mindy Roseman, director of International Law Programs and director of the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights, said that the Gruber Program at the Yale Law School has four main areas of work — namely the Global Constitutionalism Seminar, the Gruber Distinguished Lectures in Global Justice and Women’s Rights, the Gruber Global Justice and Women’s Rights Fellowships and the Gruber Project in Global Justice and Women’s Rights.
According to Roseman, a committee composed of a variety of Yale Law and University faculty sort through and vet the nominations for speakers each year before selecting two to invite to deliver the Gruber Lectures. She said that the Gruber Lectures seek to platform individuals whose work has advanced women’s rights and global justice.
“Lynsey Addario covers the gap between the two [women’s rights and global justice], in that a lot of her work focuses on women in situations of conflict or post conflict, as well as situations which we would describe as challenges for global justice,” Roseman said.
Maggie Lemons LAW ’25 attended the event. She said that her recent interest in storytelling is what drew her to Addario’s talk.
“I had seen her photos beforehand, so I already knew that she was a very powerful storyteller,” Lemons said. “It’s pretty rare for me to go to an event and cry four times … but that happened.”
Addario said that there are numerous moments from her career which inspire her to continue pursuing the work she does.
She said that ultimately, what she hopes to do as a photographer is to make a difference and influence policy.
“Sometimes it is just an email from a reader or someone who has been educated or enlightened by a story I’ve worked on. Sometimes it is something bigger, like the reaction to the photograph I made of the family killed on the Irpin bridge following a Russian mortar strike, ” Addario wrote to the News. “The overwhelming reaction from policymakers and readers to this image documenting the intentional targeting of a civilian evacuation route is something any photographer like myself strives for — because ultimately we would like our images to make a difference, and to affect policy. ”
Addario released a New York Times bestselling memoir in 2015 entitled “It’s What I do” chronicling her personal and professional life as a photojournalist following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2018, she released “Of Love and War,” her first solo collection of photography, published by Penguin Press.