Lynsey Addario ’95
On Wisconsin first brought readers the story — and the arresting images — of Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario ’95 in summer 2011.
Just a few months earlier, she had been kidnapped for six days while on assignment for the New York Times in Libya. After her harrowing ordeal, the London-based Addario returned to the field, continuing to capture stories around the world, from the plight of Syrian refugees to the civil war in South Sudan. She wrote a best-selling memoir — It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War — which director Steven Spielberg is adapting for the big screen. And American Photo magazine named her one of the five most influential photographers of the last twenty-five years.
At the UW, Addario earned a bachelor’s degree in Italian and international studies. This spring, she returned to campus for commencement, receiving an honorary UW degree, along with William J. Rutter, a leader in the field of biotechnology, and Tommy Thompson ’63, JD’66, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Wisconsin’s governor from 1987 to 2001.
It’s a distinction reserved for people of extraordinary accomplishments whose work exhibits the university’s values, and Addario fits them to a T.
She has spent her career documenting both unthinkable human suffering and the daily lives of ordinary people in faraway places. Her images reveal the common threads of the human experience across cultures and political boundaries, and they demand attention — and action.
“Journalists can sound grandiose when they talk about their profession,” Addario writes in her book. “Under it all, however, are the things that sustain us and bring us together: the privilege of witnessing things that others do not; an idealistic belief that a photograph might affect people’s souls; the thrill of creating art and contributing to the world’s database of knowledge.”
Published in the Summer 2020 issue