As a woman, doing what she needs to do has brought Addario into intimate spaces to which men often don’t have access.
“I think being a woman really gives me an access to this work that would be hard for a man to do,” she said. This includes a story she photographed for the New York Times on breast cancer in Uganda, which includes an out-of-focus picture of a little girl looking inside of a coffin to see her mother—who no one knew had cancer. “I was crying so hard that I couldn’t even take a picture,” she said. Addario used her 2009 MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” to focus on maternal health and maternal mortality.
Despite her gender-specific experiences, Addario said that as a woman, she doesn’t innately see the world differently, but does have a different perspective on what to photograph. “Men and women have different access, we relate to people on different levels, and people respond to us differently, so certainly that will create a different dynamic with a camera, but I don’t think that, for example, as a woman I see differently,” she said. “What I choose to capture is possibly different from what my male colleagues do.”
That’s exactly what makes the female perspective so important—and yet women are still largely outnumbered in the field. Even after years of considering this imbalance, she’s not sure she has a solution, citing the lifestyle, the difficulty in maintaining a personal life, and the emotional and physical strain.
Still, she said, “Editors need to start assigning more women and putting their faith in women,” she said.
“When I look around in the field it’s mostly white men and that to me is a problem. I think we need local people telling their own stories. I think we need people of color. I think we need women and it’s just not happening.”