My strength is looking for composition and light, and I think those things come in the quieter times of war or photographing people affected on the margins of war - civilians, refugees; that is where I really excel.

The first time I visited Afghanistan in May 2000, I was 26 years old, and the country was under Taliban rule. I went there to document Afghan women and landmine victims.

If people really saw what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, then they might be marching in the streets to end wars. But you know, I think that no one ever sees because we're not allowed to see, and we're not allowed to publish what we do see. So it's quite difficult.

I come from a big family of hairdressers; they didn't read newspapers. I would say, 'I'm off to Afghanistan...' and they would say, 'Have fun!'

For me personally, I'm constantly trying to really re-negotiate how I'm going to make a living because I can't make a living solely off editorial. And I'm also still trying to tell long feature stories that are harder and harder to get assigned, you know.

It seems like, yeah, of course - I always think my work is important, or I wouldn't risk my life for it.

I would never think of myself as a role model.

In so many countries, Western journalists are viewed simply as dollar signs. We're ransom objects.

I always knew my death would be a possible consequence of the work I do. But for me it was a price I was willing to pay because this is what I believed in.

As a woman, I have tried to take advantage of the extra access I have in the Muslim world: with Muslim women, for example. Many people underestimate women in that part of the world because, typically, they don't work.

When I first started out, I really felt like, 'I'm a journalist; I will be respected as a neutral observer.' And I don't feel like that holds true anymore. I don't think people respect journalists the same way they once did.

I remember the moment in which we were taken hostage in Libya, and we were asked to lie face down on the ground, and they started putting our arms behind our backs and started tying us up. And we were each begging for our lives because they were deciding whether to execute us, and they had guns to our heads.

I grew up in Connecticut, going in and out of New York City, and I worked in the city in the '90s. I was freelancing for the Associated Press, and I fell in love with New York.

It's very hard to turn your back once you're aware of what's going on, and you're aware of the injustices, and you're aware of the civilian casualties. It's much easier if you have no idea and you've never seen it.

I had imposed unspeakable worry on my husband, Paul de Bendern, on more occasions than I could count.

I'm constantly struggling. You know, the stories that I feel like I could cover, do the work that I want to do and being a mother. That's really where my struggle is - and being a wife and having a life - and for me it's really hard to find that balance. I'm always struggling to find that balance.

Becoming a mother hasn't necessarily changed how I shoot, but it certainly has made me more sensitive, and it certainly makes it much harder for me to photograph dying children.

Obviously I am a photographer and I believe in my medium: I do think that powerful photographs can force change. It doesn't take long to look and be engaged in a strong image whereas, with a story, you have to actually sit down and pause and be involved in it.

For a journalist who covers the Muslim world, we have responsibilities to be familiar with that culture and to know how to respond to that.

I'm not very religious at all - I was raised Catholic, but probably haven't gone to church since my Holy Communion when I was about 6 or 7.

You have to believe 100 percent in what you're doing, that some picture or some thing we do is going to change the world in some tiny, minute way.

I was undeterred by the danger of traveling as a single American woman through Taliban-governed land. I believed in the stories I wanted to tell, the stories I felt were underreported, and I was convinced that that belief would keep me alive.

Where in the world would I rather be than on the front line of history?

I try not to get caught up in how our society is so inundated with images, and stay very focused on the work that I'm doing.

With photography, I always think that it's not good enough.

By the time the United States went to war with Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, I had made three trips to the country. I covered the fall of the Taliban in Kandahar and have been returning routinely for the past 14 years.

I'm a very open person, very self-deprecating. I accept my flaws.

I got rejected from journalism school!

I was lucky because I had parents who have enabled me to do whatever I was passionate about and never held my siblings and me back from anything. But I think a lot of people don't have that experience.

I generally don't follow domestic news that much aside from how it relates to the stories I'm covering abroad, like what Americans think of the War in Afghanistan.

The truth is, the difference between a studio photographer and a photojournalist is the same as the difference between a political cartoonist and an abstract painter; the only thing the two have in common is the blank page. The jobs entail different talents and different desires.

Family is such a fundamental part of Islam, and women run the family. I had to force myself not to impose my own definition of political and social freedom on women in Islam, and approach each story objectively.

I wanted the ideal personal life, but I also wanted to keep rushing off, and that doesn't work, not unless you've got an incredibly understanding partner.

I wanted to continue doing my work, but I had to figure out how. And so what I have basically come up with is that I still go to Afghanistan and Iraq and South Sudan and many of these places that are rife with war, but I don't go directly to the front line.

Don't expect things to happen fast. Be empathetic with the people you are photographing. Don't be concerned about money.

The fact is that trauma and risk taking hadn't become scarier over the years; it had become more normal.

I didn't know a single female photographer who covered conflict who even had a boyfriend, much less a husband or a baby.

I've always wanted to do a photo book, but I've never done one because I've never felt ready; I just didn't feel my work was good enough.

You have two options when you approach a hostile checkpoint in a war zone, and each is a gamble. The first is to stop and identify yourself as a journalist and hope that you are respected as a neutral observer. The second is to blow past the checkpoint and hope the soldiers guarding it don't open fire on you.

When I'm documenting, for example, a story on women in Afghanistan, I will do a huge amount of research and a lot of time on the ground just getting to know the women before I even start shooting.

I started freelancing for the Associated Press. I had a great mentor there who sort of taught me everything.

I just immediately connect everything to the wars I have been covering overseas, and that's not the case back home. I wrongly assumed all Americans at home were as consumed with our troops in Afghanistan as I was abroad.

Sometimes when I am photographing a major news event, I am suddenly overwhelmed by helplessness.

As a photographer who is constantly in violent, bloody situations where the instinct is to turn away, I am always trying to figure out how to make people not turn away.

I interviewed dozens and dozens of African women who had endured more hardship and trauma than most Westerners even read about, and they ploughed on. I often openly cried during interviews, unable to process this violence and hatred towards women I was witnessing.

I think that more often than not, people underestimate me.

I didn't want my gender to determine whether or not I could cover breaking news.

I do think my childhood is one of the fundamental reasons that I'm able to do my job. We were raised in this totally nonjudgmental family. We never knew who was going to walk in the front door. And as a journalist and a photographer, you walk into so many different scenes that you have to be open to everything.

If publications want to publish images and stories from a certain person, they should put that person on assignment, cover his or her expenses, make sure they have access to security briefings and experts, someone to administer first aid, etc.