Lynsey Addario was kidnapped by Moammar Gadhafi’s soldiers in Libya in March 2011, along with three other New York Times journalists. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist feared she was likely going to die.
Addario and colleagues Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, and Tyler Hicks were covering the rebel forces who were trying to oust Gadhafi and were caught in a “wall of bullets” between the rebels and Libyan soldiers in the eastern city of Ajdabiya. Pro-Gadhafi forces captured the group and beat, blindfolded, and threatened them with death. Six days later the Libyan government released the four.
Addario has photographed nearly every major conflict and humanitarian crisis over the past 15 years, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Darfur to Libya, from Syria to Lebanon, from South Sudan to Somalia and Congo. She says her work aims to document the horrors of war and the many ways people try to survive and preserve their humanity even in the darkest of times. Addario recounted the story of her kidnapping in Libya, along with her more recent work in Ukraine, during Houghton Library’s Philip and Frances Hofer Lecture last week.
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“I wouldn’t be risking my life if I didn’t believe in the power of photography,” said Addario, speaking from Ukraine, where she’s covering the Russian invasion for The New York Times. “It does have the power to change the course of a war or at least influence the decisions of policymakers. It’s very important for the international community to see the images of war crimes.”
As recently as February, Addario captured the tragedy of the Russian invasion in Ukraine in a harrowing, now-famous photograph of a mother, her two young children, and a family friend lying dead on a street in Irpin, outside Kyiv. The group died in a Russian mortar attack as they were attempting to reach an evacuation route into Kyiv. Addario, who was 20 meters away when the round hit, has called the family’s killing a “war crime.”
“I was surprised and grateful to The New York Times for putting the picture on their front page because it really opened the discussion about the targeting of civilians by the Russian military,” said Addario.
In her lecture, “Of Love and War: Stories of Tragedy and Resilience from Across the World,” Addario presented a personally curated selection of her work, which included all major conflicts and humanitarian and human rights crises around the world she has covered since 9/11. Some of the photographs she shared with the audience are posted on her personal website. The powerful images depict the lives of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Iraq war and the fall of Saddam Hussein, the genocide in Darfur, and the effects of climate change in the Amazon, among others.