Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War by Deborah Copaken Kogan

A Woman Covers The War Zones

Fresh out of college and passionate about photography, Deborah Copaken Kogan moved to Paris in 1988 and began knocking on photo agency doors, begging to be given a photojournalism assignment. Within weeks she was on the back of a truck in Afghanistan, the only woman—and the only journalist—in a convoy of mujahideen, the rebel “freedom fighters” at the time. She had traveled there with a handsome but dangerously unpredictable Frenchman, and the interwoven stories of their relationship and the assignment set the pace for Shutterbabe’s six chapters, each covering a different corner of the globe, each linked to a man in Kogan’s life at the time.

From Zimbabwe to Romania, from Russia to Haiti, Kogan takes her readers on a heartbreaking yet surprisingly hilarious journey through a mine-strewn decade, seamlessly blending her personal battles—sexism, battery, life-threatening danger —with the historical ones—wars, revolution, unfathomable suffering—it was her job to record.

This very unusual book is fascinating whether you are interested in pursuing a career in journalism or just curious about what life is like as a woman covering war for a living. This "Shutterbabe" tells the story of her life from behind the camera across different battle zones around the globe. She also tells of the men she meets and gets involved with. There has been some criticism of the book for these tales of sexual escapades, but this is the raw story of a real person's life, and I think that they reflect a complete story, instead of one massaged to make the author look better. My only disappointment with the story is that she finally gives it all up for motherhood, but that is real life too. Before that, Kogan was a producer for

"Dateline" on NBC after her return to the United States. She speaks of tiring of wartime weariness and equates photojournalists to vultures who prey on others' misery--all of which I find disingenuous for someone who made her own living this way for many years. It's ok to change your mind, but I believe that photojournalism is an important way of bringing news to people, and I think Kogan would agree or she would have pursued another way of making a living with her camera in the first place. Despite these claims, I highly recommend this book to everyone, particularly young women interested in journalism. This book is a real insider's look at covering war, from a woman's point of view, something (unfortunately) we still don't hear that much of, even in the 21st century. Don't miss it.

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