Deborah Copaken Kogan
Author of Shutterbabe (Villard), a memoir about her adventures as a young maverick photojournalist.
EVENT: Kogan reads from Shutterbabe at Elliott Bay Books, Mon Feb 5, 7:30 pm.

You reveal so much in the book. Not just the dangers--the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the poacher wars in Zimbabwe, the tanks in Moscow--but also the many affairs you had.... "I think I was really able to write the book very honestly because I didn't ever think it would see the light of day. I knew I wanted to write down these stories for [my] kids: I would just write this nice little book, and maybe it would sell, maybe it wouldn't--but at least my kids would have this record. And I thought it was important for my daughter, especially, to have this record of these bad things that happen to women. So I needed to be honest for her. But then when the book sold, my first thought was, 'Oh my God, my parents are gonna find out about this stuff!'"

It's really obvious in your prose that you think in pictures. "I end up just flip-flopping all the time, back and forth between the verbal and the visual, and I find some sort of... strange happy medium. When I was out doing photography... I think I was the only one [at Gamma photo agency] who actually wrote her own stories as well. I had pictures of Afghanistan published in Photo magazine, but it went along with my diary; so I've always been interested in the interaction of language and pictures. People ask me all the time, "Did you keep journals?" I didn't keep journals. But I do have pictures from that time. I can look at a picture and tell you what was happening three hours before that picture was taken, while it was being taken, and maybe a couple of hours afterward. Each of those pictures represented a moment. So I think my writing is visual because I was calling memories from images, if that makes any sense at all."

There were moments in Zimbabwe, and especially in Romania, when it felt as if you were done.

"You can't say that x, y, or z caused it. I mean, clearly I met Paul [Kogan's husband]... after I became far more jaded about my profession. I did not think about myself as this superhero 'shutterbabe' anymore, I thought of myself as this vulture. I was very, very worn out. I would not be able to keep doing it unless I was some sort of glutton for punishment. And there's something about photojournalism--real photojournalism--that conflicts completely with any concept of family, or being a mom. So I think my photo days are over. I just do."