Photojournalist Addario 'Booked' for hometown hurrahs from family, friends
It was something of a family affair Saturday night when Westport's favorite daughter was presented with the Westport Library's top honor.
Westport native Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, author and soon-to-be subject of a Steven Spielberg biographical film, was honored at the library's 17th annual Booked for the Evening event.
While Addario awed the event's crowd of 400 with stories of her globe-trotting adventures, which include twice being held hostage by hostile forces in war zones -- recounted in her recently published memoir, "It's What I Do" -- the connections she shared with family and hometown friends seemed to best capture the spirit of the evening.
"My sisters," she began her remarks referring to her three older siblings, Lauren, Lesley and Lisa, "Thank you for being so abusive." Eliciting laughter, she told them it served as solid training for her challenging -- sometimes horrifying -- experiences. "When I was tied up and getting beat up in Libya, it was nothing," she joked, compared to her treatment at the hands of her sisters. "Libya" was a reference to a harrowing time in Addario's career, when in 2011 she was held captive -- and threatened with execution -- for a week with fellow Westport native Tyler Hicks, also a photographer, and two other journalists. The 1991 graduate of Staples High School has also photographed in other global hot spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur.
"Kind of in a way, I feel I played a big role in who you became," her sister Lisa said in a video made for the occasion. "I think that all that torture as a kid turned you into a read badass."
Addario's sisters, however, are among her strongest supporters.
"I could not be more proud and more excited and more inspired," said Lesley.
Oldest sister Lauren concurred, apologizing via video for the times she locked Lynsey in the bathroom.
Lauren's close friend since age 6, Westporter and Booked for the Evening committee member Stacy Bass remembered Lynsey when she was a baby in the crib. She became teary recounting memories of that unique Addario family that was always welcoming.
"The spirit, energy and volume of the Addario household was unlike any other," she said. "Their home was a magnet to many of us."
"What makes this year unique," Bass said in reference to the Booked award, which has been presented in the past to a range of noteworthy celebrities, including Martin Scorcese, Patti Smith, Tom Brokaw and Nile Rodgers, "is that Lynsey is one of our own. She's a hometown girl, a friend, a neighbor and classmate. She's a sister."
Entertainer and longtime Westport resident Cynthia Gibb read excerpts from Addario's best-selling "It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War," which will be the basis for the Spielberg-directed film that will star Jennifer Lawrence as Addario.
Her website -- www.lynseyaddario.com -- says "It's What I Do" "follows a course unavoidable for Addario -- from her first camera and the pictures it inspired, to early years as a street photographer and the inspiration she found in the work of Sebastião Salgado. Photography becomes a way for her to travel with a purpose -- a singular ambition that shapes and drives her."
In a video prepared by Doug Tirola, another longtime Westport resident, Addario was hailed by a range of admirers, including actress Laura Linney, journalist Andrea Mitchell and CNN correspondent Ivan Watson, who grew up in Easton.
"She's tough, brave, talented and, oh so incredible," Watson said, calling Addario "a rock star in our industry."
"Does anyone else in this room besides me feel like a slacker?" asked Maxine Bleiweis, the library's executive director, who said Westport gave Addario "a safe platform from which to launch her investigation of the world."
"What I am so impressed with is how she's so driven to do what she wants to do," said Darlene Krenz of Westport, a longtime family friend. "She's put up with all the guff and all the mistreatment to get that photograph ... She's the kind of individual that you don't meet very often."
"It's incredible," Addario's mother, Camille, said of the challenges that have defined her career. "What can I say?"
"All credit goes to Lynsey. In the book she told it as it was," she said. "It doesn't surprise me that someone would want to make a movie because her life is so interesting."
"And this is very special," she said of Saturday's event. "As a mother I'm proud of all my girls."