Westport Public Library welcomes home photojournalist Lynsey Addario

Renee Weisz, A&E Editor

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Over 400 audience members were tightly packed into the library’s main floor, illuminated by an ambient blue light. Their excited murmurs subsided as Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist and Westport’s own Lynsey Addario ’91 humbly took the stage.

BOOKED for the Evening is the library’s principal fundraiser, sponsored by Westport families, in which the library honors a person who embodies worldliness, a love for learning and the values of the library. At this year’s 17th annual event, Addario was honored for her courageous work including photographing dangerous war zones in Afghanistan, troops on the frontline in Iraq, and capturing other moments as a combat photographer.

“It [being a photojournalist]  is the way we make a living. But it feels more like a responsibility or a calling. It makes us happy because it gives us a sense of purpose,” Addario wrote in her bestselling novel “It’s What I Do.”  This book is soon to be made into a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg  and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Addario.

Addario grew up in Westport along with her three boisterous sisters, Lauren, Leslie, and Lisa Addario and hairdresser parents, from whom laughter emanated the whole night.  Their household was always lively and full of people. It was “the house that the PTA would say ‘Don’t let your kids go there, there are a lot of parties there,’” Lynsey Addario said, of course followed by three loud laughs from her sisters in the front row.

The Addario family may have welcomed the whole town into their home but one thing it did not welcome was judgement. Addario attributes this lesson engrained from a young age to one of  her main inspirations for becoming a journalist.

Her actual career began half by chance with a promise for a position on the “Buenos Aires Herald” in Argentina if she could sneak on the set of a Madonna movie without a press pass. With the help of a lenient bouncer and a generous man with a 600 mm telescope camera that trumped her 50 mm Nikon, Addario had sealed the job.

19 years later, Addario has been published in “Time” magazine, “The New York Times,” “National Geographic” and others and traveled where most dare not go. “I think every woman probably has a fantasy of having a job somewhat like this and to think that someone from Westport is just having an adventure and yet doing something so worthwhile is amazing,” Julia Marx, mother of Abigail Genser ’18, said.

Addario has worked in Darfur focusing on human rights issues and revealing the plight of many women and children in the country. She has ordered a personalized set of body armor and photographed through bullet showers on the frontline during the Libyan uprising. And she has been kidnapped, beaten, groped, and held hostage for seven days by Gaddafi’s troops in Libya.

Addario’s photography, displayed around the room during the evening, is defined by rich color and intensity in both the physical picture and the emotion it captures. Addario describes journalists as always being in the most risky position, up close to the action.

Yet, Kathy Ryan, “New York Times Magazine” director of photography and Addario’s boss for 14 years, said she only “once [saw] her terrified. She came to New York and she said ‘I have to tell you something. I’m pregnant.’”

Months later, during an interview with “The Daily Beast,” Addario’s fearless and spunky attitude resurfaced. “You have a ten week old baby. Are you gonna keep doing this?” the correspondent said. “Do you ask men that question?” Addario responded.

The over three million dollars raised by the event will be used to continue funding the library’s services including the Maker Faire, robot training classes and building renovations. The event is also great publicity for the library and brings awareness to these many programs, Marcia Logan, communications director, said.

Logan also said that many attendees agreed that this BOOKED event has been the most successful yet. “I’ve been coming to BOOKED for the evening for about five years now,” Marx said, “And every year they have someone who’s more inspirational than the next.”

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