Dying for a photograph (and an Audi A3 advert)

‘From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body outstretched next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found.

If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.

No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.’ Lynsey Addario, Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks, March 22 2011, New York Times 

The driver’s  name was Mohamed Shaglouf. He was executed.  Turns out he didn’t just die for an article but also an Audi A3 car advert.   Hope that  helps relieve the ‘burden’.

Author — duckrabbit

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

Discussion (22 Comments)

  1. Z-O-K-I says:

    I always have a weird feeling in my gut when I see journalists being used for or in ads. I might be old school, but for me it’s just not done.

    I understand we need to make a living, but there’s a border not to be passed. This is one of them. Integrity shouldn’t have a price.

    This is just terrible.

  2. Jason Tilley says:

    Truly abhorrent 🙁

  3. Judith Butler says:

    By my count, two drivers were killed while working for Lynsey: Raza Khan in Pakistan and Mohamed Shaglouf in Libya. Quite a trail of bodies for a woman who just got paid a load of cash to be a shill for Audi.

  4. Sorry but I don’t get it, what is this bullshit about?

  5. Melissa says:

    You should get your facts straight. According to the linked article, Mohamed was killed in March of 2011 and the ad referenced was shot just recently.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hello Melissa,

      that’s because the advert is a reconstruction recounting the events from 2011! It’s a bit worrying that you thought it was real.

  6. Charlie says:


    How about compromising ones principles, morals and integrity.

    Truly funking shameful.

  7. jeff says:


  8. jeff says:

    Westport, CT (Lynsey’s hometown) median family income of $193,540 and median home price of $1,200,000 in July 2008. How much money was donated to the families?

    • duckrabbit says:

      It’s not public what Lynsey (or the other journalists and their orgs) may or may have not done to help the family of the driver. Possibly a lot was done. It is true after the first driver that died working for Lynsey, Teru, also in the car, organised a fund-raiser to try and help the family (he left behind 6 children).

  9. Mikal W. Grass says:

    A few things came to mind when I saw the video:

    1. The drivers did not die because Lynsey was shilling for Audi at the time they died. Lynsey should not have taken the Audi job as she should have known better, but maybe she took the job with the intent of sharing the proceeds with the drivers’ families.

    2. I seriously doubt that Lynsey had the Audi advert in mind while she was on assignment or when she was captured, considering the events took place far apart in time.

    3. It is a tragedy that the drivers were killed but I hardly doubt that they didn’t know the risks involved. Their knowledge doesn’t minimize their deaths or the dire straights their families were left in, but I don’t think that someone forced the drivers to drive for Lynsey.

    4. Neither Lynsey nor her employer owe the drivers’ families a penny.

    5. The real issue, in my feeble mind, is the employer – employee relationship is not even close to parity. Lynsey had a tremendous amount of resources behind her, while the drivers were undoubtedly desperate for work and had nothing. They accepted the risk knowing they might be murdered because they needed the money to feed their families, and probably hoped that they might receive immigrant visas to the US.

    6. Without more information, we are all just guessing and grasping at straws.

    • duckrabbit says:

      HI Mikal,

      thanks for your comment.

      I agree with almost everything you wrote.

      On 4. certainly in the first instance they felt that they did in some way owe the driver and payments were made (but probably not in a legal sense as you might mean)

      For the record I don’t see why she shouldn’t do an Audi advert. I would if I was her. Its the choice and presentation of story that grates so many people. Insensitive to say the least.


  10. Mikal W. Grass says:


    Re number 4, I don’t think that Lynsey had a legal or moral obligation to the families.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your last two sentences.


    • duckrabbit says:

      HI Mikal,

      Yes. I wasn’t offering an opinion, but pointing what she put her name to at the time:

      ‘If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us’

  11. Mikal W. Grass says:


    Thank you for that last response. I am sure that Lynsey feels a lot of remorse for what happened to her driver, but it is also a lot easier for her to bear the burden of hiring a desperate man to drive and “fix” things for her than it would have been for her to die (though I have never been in her shoes). Given the choice between death and being burdened with someone else’s death, I would still opt for the burden of being alive.

    Look, life isn’t fair, and inequalities abound all over the world. If things were fairer, the drivers would not have been paid a pittance by western standards, and the families would have been put in a safe house and somehow supported, while the husband risked his life for the reporters. But, life isn’t fair, and even the most religious amongst your readers will tell you that.

    In my law practice (adoptions) there are inequalities that are purposely written into the law by well meaning but short sighted legislators (I AM NOT EQUATING MY LAW PRACTICE WITH PHOTOGRAPHING IN A WAR ZONE, OR HAVING MY LIFE DISRUPTED BY A CIVIL WAR SO THAT I HAVE TO MAKE DRASTIC CHANGES IN THE WAY I EARN A LIVING). For instance, the young women who are pregnant (wether by rape or lack of contraception) and want to place their babies for adoption (for a variety of reasons: religious, financial, rape, etc.) are limited in what they can receive as pregnancy related and recuperative expenses, without court approval. This limit was put in place to avoid the appearance of baby selling. While this may be laudable (I have strong opinions on that), the fees that the agencies in Florida charge are NOT reviewable by the courts. Here, the women are given the bare minimum while many of the not for profit (gag me) adoption agency can charge pretty much what they wish so as to maximize revenues.

    What could Lynsey have done better in this situation? Pay the drivers more money? Maybe though that might not have helped the situation and might have exacerbated it (more people lining up to drive). Not have travelled to Libya so as not to have fed into what was going on? Maybe, but that is her profession.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that this situation and the reasons behind doing the advertisement are more complicated than what we may or may not know.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Mikal,

      Thanks for this comment.

      For sure life is always more complicated and I haven’t commented on what Lynsey should or shouldn’t have done in that situtation. She did that herself.

      It might be more intersting to look at AUDI’s reasons. They want to appeal to young people and sell more cars. They’ve picked a young female war photog, surrounded her by flames and painted her as an uncompromising hero. Missing from the story she tells is the fact that the driver was executed. To use that story, to present a uncompromising hero, to try and sex up cars for young people is in very poor taste. For whatever reason, Addario has chosen to go along with this. I can’t say I respect the choice.

  12. Mikal W. Grass says:


    Yeah, maybe had Audi shown what had happened to the driver, or put some sort of post script at the end of the video it would have been more “truthful.” Then again, advertising is what it is.

    The driver is the one who was uncompromising, not Addario who had the power of the western world and social media behind her.


  13. Ray Ketcham says:

    The direction this sort of selling of self implies is what bothers me. Integrity should mean something, Integrity and responsibility probably means something different to me than the younger generation and just thinking that makes me sad. The worry I have is going down this road could lead to something as bad as using a digital Chris Carter for a Snickers ad “you are not you when you are hungry” . Yes that was a bit extreme but how much is too much?

    No Adarrio doesn’t owe anyone nor do any of us have the right to tell her what her limits or integrity means to her. However I am also old enough to be judgmental and not feel bad about it. Money isn’t everything, isn’t just a cliche. My issue isn’t with what happened to her driver it is with her even appearing in an ad, let alone referencing the incident for profit. I guess everything is for sale nowdays.

  14. PEdro Albizu says:

    Maybe the photog is an Angel who will be sending some of the moneys gained from Audi to the family of the driver. Or maybe she’ll just buy one of those cool scarfs that International photogs like to wear to look really cool and traveled and a fancy Leica digital to boot…

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