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INTERVIEW–Nurturing, Healing Love Guides Scarlett Lewis’ Life Mission

 

Scarlett Lewis, author Nurturing healing love book

Scarlett Lewis

By Stacey Gualandi (@StaceyGualandi)/December 13, 2015
Photos Courtesy The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation
@JesseLewisLove

In her book, Nurturing Healing Love, Scarlett Lewis writes about her very personal journey following the tragic death of her six-year-old son Jesse at the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.   Scarlett gave her book that title because those were the last three words Jesse wrote on his chalkboard before he was killed three years ago on December 14, 2012.

“It was such a message of comfort that he left for his family and friends. I also knew that it was a message of inspiration for the world.”  Scarlett Lewis 

Writing about what happened at Sandy Hook began as a way to cope, but for Scarlett it soon became a journey of forgiveness and hope.  I was fortunate to talk to Scarlett on The Women’s Eye Radio Show when her book was released in 2013. Here is an excerpt from that interview…   [Read more…]

Interview: Director Robin Hauser Reynolds Says Delete The Gender Gap in Coding

Robin Hauser Reynolds documentarian/Photo: Robin Hauser Reynolds

Documentarian Robin Hauser Reynolds/Photo: CODE

By Patricia Caso/Sept. 21, 2015

I am constantly amazed at the enormous strides made in science, technology, engineering and math. And yet, as some of TWE’s interviews showcase, STEM jobs and opportunities seem to elude young women and people of color.

I just saw the documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap by award-winning documentary film director Robin Hauser Reynolds (@Rubie226) that not only illustrates the reasons for this disparity but initiates ideas to resolve job parity by employing the very people who are left out.

“I am interested in making films of compelling stories. I am very driven by cause-based films, the ones that can help make change.” Robin Hauser Reynolds

I was very excited to catch up with Robin to find out how and why she decided to explore this inequality…  [Read more…]

Interview: Entrepreneur Jessica Jackley On Her Journey To End Global Poverty

Jessica Jackley and twin boys, author of Clay Water Brick/Photo: Jessica Jackley

Jessica Jackley and her twin boys

By Toni Piccinini/Sept. 6, 2015
Photos provided by Jessica Jackley (@jessicajackley)

I met Jessica Jackley, the author of Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least at Book Passage—known as the Bay Area’s Liveliest Bookstore—in the café before her book talk and signing. I told her I’d be the lady with the adult beverage. She responded she’d be lady with the stroller and mom in tow.

I had seen her Ted Talk, Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money–and love,  and was enchanted with her passion, her poise and her take on our perception of poverty and giving.

“Choose not to focus on the lack, the hurt, the poverty, or the brokenness that we all know exists. Choose to see potential and possibility.” Jessica Jackley 

With her baby beside her, Jessica generously offered to chat with me about Kiva, the revolutionary microlending institution she founded with her former husband, and pretty much anything else I wanted to ask her…   [Read more…]

INTERVIEW: Kelly Carlin On George, Loss And Changing The World

Kelly Carlin, actress/from Kelly's webiste with permission

Kelly Carlin

By Stacey Gualandi/July 13, 2015
Photos Courtesy of Kelly Carlin

Twitter: @kelly_carlin

Being the only child of legendary comedian George Carlin wasn’t all laughs. 52-year-old Kelly Carlin makes that point very clear in “A Carlin Home Companion,” her one-woman show that tackles the good, the bad and even the ugly moments of living with a famous father.

“I’m very committed to the woman’s journey, women finding their voice, finding their power and embracing their authenticity. That’s what excites me.”   Kelly Carlin

The theatrical production, written by Kelly and directed by veteran comedian Paul Provenza, explores four decades of “growing up Carlin” with irreverence and honesty.

Using classic video footage as a backdrop, she tells tales of her parents’ addictions, their nomadic lifestyle, relationship struggles, cancer and ultimately, losing her mother, Brenda, 15-years-ago and her father in 2008.

 

I worked with Kelly’s husband, Bob, a Director of Photography, over 20 years ago, and that is how I first met her. I’ve always wanted to see her show, and finally got the chance on the final night of her critically-praised run at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California.

Before taking the stage one last time, I spoke with Kelly in her dressing room filled with photos of her parents. Kelly talked about panic attacks, changing the world, and being the next Oprah…. [Read more…]

INTERVIEW: Tina Hovsepian On Ending Homelessness With Cardborigami Shelters

Tina Hovsepian at Women in the World, 2015

Tina Hovsepian at The 2015 Women In the World Summit, New York City/4-24-2015

By Patricia Caso/June 3, 2015
Photos Courtesy Tina Hovsepian and Cordborigami Team

TWITTER: @TinaHovsepian

Architect Tina Hovsepian is quickly becoming a godsend for the homeless, globally. When I saw her unique design of a portable cardboard home based on origami, the ancient art of paperfolding, I was fascinated by the simplicity and genius behind it.

“Cardborigami provides a jumpstart for someone who doesn’t have much. It provides privacy, which you and I take for granted.”  Tina Hovsepian

Tina calls her shelter cardborigami. And, Cardborigami is also her proactive organization for transitioning one homeless person at a time off the streets. People from Nepal and 92 different countries are already interested in obtaining and learning more about Tina’s invention.

She took some valuable time out from her schedule in Los Angeles to speak with me about her visionary ideas….    [Read more…]

INTERVIEW: Teen Author Georgia Lyon Shares Her Journey With Autism To Help Others

Gerogia Lyon, author How to Be Human/photo courtesy of Georgia Lyon

By Patricia Caso/May 26, 2015
Photos Courtesy Georgia Lyon

By the time teen author Georgia Lyon was seven years old, she considered herself an alien in a human world. At three, she had been diagnosed with autism. After reading her book How To Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl (@crestonbooks), I was struck by the courageous, honest, and often humorous way Georgia, using the pen name Florida Frenz, wrote and illustrated it.

“As I put it together, I realized that my life’s experiences had real potential to help others understand autism and have compassion for autistic people.”  Georgia Lyon

Georgia, now 18, takes the reader inside her unique mind as she struggles, stumbles, and succeeds to integrate into the “human” world.  Now comfortable with her autism, she is using her real name for this interview.

This busy, college-bound student took time out to give me insights on herself and the often misunderstood autistic condition which she proudly states does not define her anymore…   [Read more…]

INTERVIEW: Journalist Lu Ann Cahn On Daring to Reboot Her Life

Lu Ann Cahn/Photo: Phil Hauser

Journalist and Author Lu Ann Cahn/Photo: Phil Hauser

By Stacey Gualandi (@staceygualandi)/May 8, 2015

TWITTER: @luanncahn

Journalist Lu Ann Cahn should be called Lu Ann CAN. This reporter, mom and cancer survivor says her life was stuck. Her solution to getting unstuck? Every day for one year she did something she had never done before.

“As I faced fears, like singing in public, I took the courage that I gained from other experiences like that and realized I could apply it to other areas of my life.”  Lu Ann Cahn

That year of firsts became a book, I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life Doing Something New Every Day.  I dared her to join me recently on The Women’s Eye Radio Show after her 30 Dares in 30 Days Tour…    [Read more…]

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario On Her Relentless Pursuit of Truth

Combat Journalist Lynsey Addario at work/Photo from Lynsey

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario at work

By Laurie McAndish King/April 8, 2015
Photos Courtesy Lynsey Addario (@lynseyaddario)

“I was now a photojournalist willing to die for stories that had the potential to educate people. I wanted to make people think, to open their minds, to give them a full picture of what was happening…”  Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario asserts, “I don’t think of myself as a war photographer.” Yet war photography is what she’s known for. It’s what earned her a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and a MacArthur Fellowship or “Genius Grant.”

Lynsey Addario photo for NY Times Taliban series

Addario’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of armed men and boys near the Afghanistan border

It’s what got her embedded in Afghanistan and landed her in a Libyan prison—blindfolded, bound, and beaten. And it’s the subject of her new memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (@penguinpress).

I met this extraordinary woman in a crowded auditorium at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, where she spoke about situations I can barely imagine, and showed photos that were beautifully composed, yet horrifying.

Lynsey Addario, author "It's What I Do"Addario explained that she photographs conflicts not just for the sake of covering war, but because there are humanitarian and human rights issues she wants to expose. She has photographed victims of drought, famine, land mines, mental illness, AIDS, genocide, and rape. Her documentation of bodies strewn across the desert in Darfur made it impossible for the government there to continue denying a massacre.

She has also shot night raids and refugees, soldiers receiving incoming mortar rounds and children playing outdoors in war-torn Benghazi. Cars burning, bombs exploding, a dying soldier’s last moments—these are the images that first drew me to Addario’s work.

Her memoir tells the story of Addario’s life as a conflict photographer, a single woman, a wife, a captive, a reluctantly pregnant freelancer in a man’s profession, and a mother. It is filled with images from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Libya.

Addario’s style is gritty. Some of her photos show billows of the dark smoke that rises after bombs fall. Many use a dramatic lower-left-to-upper-right diagonal composition to help convey the scene’s tension. Some show bleeding soldiers, corpses, or skeletons.

Others were taken at night, without enough light for a good exposure. One was taken through green night-vision goggles, and another glows with the red light that was used to avoid enemy detection. They all show human lives in intimate detail.

Lynsey Addario photo 10/23//07--War in Afghanistan

Ambushed from three sides in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, a wounded soldier is about to be airlifted out/10-23-07

What prepares a person for this kind of career? Were Addario’s parents journalists, or military personnel, or doctors? No—they were both hairdressers. Their home in Westport, Connecticut in the 1970s was “a kaleidoscope of transvestites and Village People look-alikes.” Everyone was welcome at our house, Addario says. The doors were always open.

When Lynsey was thirteen her father gave her a Nikon FG, her first camera. She was hooked. Too shy to shoot people, Lynsey began by photographing architecture and flowers. She eventually got work as a stringer with the Associated Press, and graduated to covering protests, press conferences, and accidents. She shot one of Monica Lewinsky’s earliest public appearances, on the TODAY Show.


Addario on the advantage of being a woman photographer
 

Addario’s first serious assignment as a photojournalist was for a story about the working conditions of transgender prostitutes in New York in 1999. Her mentor at the Associated Press (whom she refers to as “Bebeto”) figured Lynsey was perfect for the project, given her family’s lifestyle.

Getting the photos involved spending weeks with her subjects—without a camera—in order to gain their trust, and then five months more getting the shots.

“I had no idea that I would become a conflict photographer,” Addario says. “I wanted to travel, to learn about the world beyond the United States.”

A year later, at twenty-six, Lynsey found herself in Afghanistan, there to photograph the lives of women living under the Taliban. It was illegal to photograph any living thing in Afghanistan at that time, but she had access to women in a way men did not. Lynsey literally knocked on doors, spoke with women, and asked to photograph them.

Women Studying Koran in Peshawar, Pakistan 2001/Photo; Lynsey Addario

Women and girls study and recite the Koran in Peshawar, Pakistan, 2001

I was not surprised to learn that Lynsey always got her photos. From her presence onstage where she spoke, it was clear that the journalist was both outgoing and determined. But beyond that, she didn’t look like a war photographer. Wearing a fitted black v-neck blouse, skin-tight dark jeans, and black booties with high heels, Addario looked more like a model.

Tabitha Soren, a Berkeley photographer and former news correspondent for MTV and NBC, interviewed Lynsey onstage at the JCC after the photo-slideshow and talk. Addario, of Italian descent, spoke eloquently with both her words and her hands.

“The more I worked, the more I achieved, the more I wanted,” she explained. “I think I’m pretty tortured about my work as a photographer. I’m always thinking about composition, light, access. I never feel like I’m doing enough as a journalist, as a photographer.”

Vumilia, 38, Kaniola/Photo: Lynsey Addario

Vumila, 38, from eastern Congo was kidnapped from her home and raped by nine men.

Conflict photography is difficult for many reasons, and combat is one of the worst. “I’m not gonna start crying when the bullets start flying, ” she said. Addario trained hard before embedding in Afghanistan. She needed to be able to keep up under extremely rigorous conditions of high altitude, traveling on foot in mountainous terrain, and carrying her tent and enough food and supplies for a week—as well as being shot at.

The last thing she wanted was to be with soldiers who thought, “Oh God, the chicks are here.”

In January, 2003, Addario was on assignment in South Korea, and the U.S. was clearly gearing up for war in Iraq. Lynsey knew she would go to Iraq and that she would need body armor there so she ordered it herself, online. From South Korea. It wasn’t easy.

As Soren read a passage from It’s What I Do describing the process, Lynsey sat onstage with her legs crossed and twined together, her hands clasped tightly on her lap, fingers laced together. She was uncomfortable hearing the passage, even though it evoked a big laugh from the audience.

“Basically, I have no idea what I am looking at—ballistic, six-point adjustable tactical armor, etc. Please understand that this language is not familiar to me—I grew up in Connecticut, was raised by hairdressers.”

Lynsey Addario Photo of soldiers being carried out of Fallujah, Nov. 2004

Wounded soldiers being carried out of the Battle of Fallujah/11-2004

The following year, with government permission, Addario took photos of injured American soldiers in Fallujah. Her editor at Life declined to run the story, saying the images made “too strong a story for the American public to see.” Addario tells us about her reaction:

“… something in me had changed after those months in Iraq. I was now a photojournalist willing to die for stories that had the potential to educate people. I wanted to make people think, to open their minds, to give them a full picture of what was happening … When I risked my life to ultimately be censored by someone sitting in a cushy office in New York, who was deciding on behalf of regular Americans what was too harsh for their eyes, depriving them of the right to see where their own children were fighting, I was furious … Every time I returned home, I felt more strongly about the need to continue going back.”


Addario on photographing injured soldiers in Fallujah/11-2004
 

Addario did keep going back. In the first three months of 2011, she worked in South Sudan (shooting a Newsweek cover with George Clooney), Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Libya—where she was kidnapped and beaten.

The first three days were violent, she said, as “we were shifted along the front line. Each new captor asserted his power, beat us, told us they would kill us.” One caressed her while she was bound and blindfolded, repeating over and over, “You will die tonight.”

Addario on being kidnapped and held hostage for six days
 

Several days later, when she was living off the front line in an apartment under house arrest, one of her male captors offered to buy some supplies. What did she want? “Coffee. Cream. Sugar. Shampoo. A toothbrush,” Addario listed her priorities. Did she need “any feminine things?” he asked delicately, in a surprising show of empathy.

The man returned with “twenty-five bags of groceries. Enough food for a year! We’re never going to be released,” Addario despaired. He also brought new Adidas tracksuits for the three male captives who were her colleagues. Addario, the only woman, got special supplies: an extra-large tan velour sweatsuit embroidered with teddy bears and emblazoned with the words The Magic Girl! plus three pairs of underwear decorated with the words Shake it Up!

Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Levent Sahinkaya (the Turkish ambassador in Libya, Lynsey Addario, and Athony Shadid in Turkish Embassy in Tripoli before being released to Tunisia

Released captives Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Levent Sahinkaya (the Turkish ambassador to Libya), Lynsey, and Anthony Shadid in the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli before being released to Tunisia

Lynsey Addario was released a few days later. As she settled back into her life, the inevitable question arose: Would Lynsey cover another war? Of course!

She did pause, if only briefly, to have a child. The criticisms she received for traveling while pregnant, risking assault and disease, possibly putting her life and that of her unborn child in jeopardy—did not deter Addario. What she does is a calling, which she will not—she cannot—give up. Like all professional women, Addario struggles to balance her career and personal life.

“I was more selective about assignments after the birth of my son,” she writes, “and I weighed the importance of every story with the importance of every day that would keep me away from my family.”

Motherhood has added an unexpected depth to her work, though. She feels “happier and more complete with my new family than ever before,” but she also suffers more.” Being away from Lucas was worse than any heartbreak, any distance from a lover—anything I had ever known.”

The indescribable love Lynsey feels for her son amplifies the atrocities she sees on assignment. Now she can imagine the depth of grief a parent feels when she loses a child to war or disease or starvation.

Lynsey Addario and husband Paul on their wedding day in 2009/Photo from Yamil for story

Lynsey and husband Paul on their wedding day in France/2009

She is still photographing conflict around the world, opening our eyes to horrific situations most of us will never see in person. She still has the Magic Girl! sweatshirt. And she’s still shaking things up, doing work that makes a difference.

You’ll be hearing lots more about Addario and her work—Steven Spielberg is set to direct a film based on It’s What I Do, with Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence portraying Lynsey. In the meantime you can see her talk at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center below.

Lynsey Addario at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center
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Facebook page for Lynsey Addario

You can find the ebook edition:  itswhatidobook.com