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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Lynsey Addario, Photographer

"I had to make a picture out of even the most boring of press conferences."

I was working seven days a week for the Associated Press, and when you work for a wire service, there’s an incredible discipline and an incredible learning curve, because if you go in there and don’t deliver what they’re looking for, they don’t call you again. I had to make a picture out of even the most boring of press conferences; I had to come back with something creative.

I started photographing transgender prostitutes in the Meatpacking District. That was my first big, intimate story, where access was a challenge, where I invested months and months just trying to get in with this very difficult, very impenetrable crowd of people. I really spent time with one of them, named Angel. He’d change from a man to a woman on the way down from the Bronx, stopping in a public toilet, and I was with him all the time. For months, I was with them every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, and they kinda pitied me. They thought, God, you must be a real loser, because you’re with us all the time! That was definitely a breakthrough: I learned so much about journalism, in terms of trust and intimacy. And not necessarily photographing right away just being very patient and letting people feel very comfortable before I even start.