Danger Pay

Danger Pay: Memoir of a Photojournalist in the Middle East, 1984-1994
Focus on American History Series, Center for American History – Published by UT Press – 2008
Author: Carol Spencer Mitchell, Edited by: Ellen Spencer Susman

Purchase on Amazon.com

Ellen Spencer Susman spent 4 years editing her sister’s memoir “Danger Pay”. Ellen’s sister, Carol Spencer Mitchell, died from breast cancer in 2004.


“Carol’s photographs are themselves worth a thousand words,but then she adds insightful stories to accompany them. Danger Pay is a wonderfully thoughtful attempt to provide a more complete picture of historical events and personalities in our region.” — Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan

“A deeply felt and moving account from an enterprising and conscientious news photographer who worked the always busy beat of the Middle East in the last, great days of film photography.” — Rod Nordland, Chief Foreign Correspondent, Newsweek

“Reading Danger Pay was a harrowing experience. Being a photojournalist on the front lines in the Middle East is no easy assignment. Writing about it with such vivid detail and thoughtful analysis is an equally impressive feat. This is a truly moving memoir in every way.” — Douglas Brinkley, Rice University, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and editor of The Reagan Diaries

Carol Spencer Mitchell began her career in photojournalism in 1975 in the United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. She moved to Jerusalem in 1984 as a member of the foreign press corps and spent the next decade covering the Middle East and North Africa. Her photographs have appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek both of which she worked for extensively. She also traveled on special assignment for U.S. News & World Report, Look, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and numerous European publications. The diary she created became the basis of her book, Danger Pay.

2girlsIn this intensely thoughtful memoir, Spencer Mitchell probes the motivations that impelled her, a single, Jewish woman, to document the turmoil roiling the Arab world in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as how her experiences as a photojournalist “compelled [me] to set aside [my] cameras and reexamine the way images are created, scenes are framed, and how ‘real life’ is packaged for specific news stories.”

terroristIn Danger Pay, Spencer Mitchell takes us on a harrowing journey to PLO military training camps for Palestinian children and to refugee camps in the Gaza Strip before, during, and after the first intifada. Through her eyes, we experience the media frenzy surrounding the 1985 hijackings of TWA Flight #847 and the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro. We meet Middle Eastern leaders, in particular Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan, with whom Spencer Mitchell developed close woring relationships. And we witness Spencer Mitchell’s growing conviction that the Western media’s portrayal of conflicts in the Middle East actually helps to fuel those conflicts—a conviction that eventually, as she says, “shattered my career.”

Although the events that Spencer Mitchell records took place a generation ago, their repercussions reverberate in the conflicts going on in the Middle East today. Likewise, her concern about “the triumph of image over reality” takes on greater urgency as our knowledge of the world becomes ever more filtered by virtual media.