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Being Modern—and Female—in Saudi Arabia

Watch: In the video above, photographer Lynsey Addario talks about photographing the assignment “The Changing Face of Saudi Women.”

You may have heard of Lynsey Addario. She’s the author of It’s What I Do, a bestselling memoir about her life as a photojournalist. And she’s no stranger to working in difficult circumstances—having covered revolution, war, migration, and human rights issues for the better part of 20 years.

For 12 years now, Addario has spent time working in Saudi Arabia. The country holds a special place in her heart, but that doesn’t make it an easy society for a visual journalist to navigate. “Every time I go there, I go there with a sort of sense of dread of how difficult it will be to photograph and how impenetrable the place is,” Addario says in the video above. “And then I find myself there and having fun and meeting these incredible women.”

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Sisters relax as their children play on the slopes of the desert outside Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Photograph by Lynsey Addario

These women are the focus of the February 2016 National Geographic magazine story “The Changing Face of Saudi Women.” The feature reveals multifaceted female lives in a nation that the story’s author, Cynthia Gorney, calls “the most profoundly gender-segregated nation on Earth.” Addario’s images peer into the active lives of these women, highlighting the search for a way to be “truly modern and truly Saudi.”

“I want people to learn—to have a better sense of what Saudi women’s lives are,” says Addario. “I hope people walk away with a different perspective.”

See more of Lynsey Addario’s photos from the February 2016 National Geographic magaine story “The Changing Face of Saudi Women.”

Hear her talk about “Leaving the Comfort Zone,” on Proof.

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