This riveting video interview begins with a story from Byer’s childhood—a potentially traumatic experience involving her father (a police chief) and bullets fired at their home—that catalyzed her interest in becoming a “witness for the world.”

At her home in California, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist spoke with LensCulture about how she captures an authentic portrayal of her subjects’ lives. “It’s not about what I think their life is, or what I think the story should be,” she says. Rather, it’s about the reality of their situation: “many times I’m surprised by what their story winds up being.” In this short interview, Byer speaks about the driving force behind her remarkable work and the responsibility that media outlets have to publish impactful work.

Visit Byer’s profile to see her work on an electronic waste dumpsite in Ghana and also to watch a TED Talk shot in Tokyo.