Author Archives: Dan Woog

Lynsey Addario: A Pregnant Photographer Covers War, Famine, Other Horrors

Lynsey Addario — New York Times photojournalist, Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur fellowship recipient, Westport native and Staples grad — has written a fascinating book. “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War” provides great insight into what it’s like to cover war, famine and horror — and how being a woman has impacted every aspect of her professional and personal life.

This coming Sunday’s Times Magazine includes a long, compelling excerpt from the book. It begins with the harrowing account of being captured — along with fellow Staples grad and Times photographer Tyler Hicks — in 2011, by forces loyal to Muammar el-Qaddafi:

You have two options when you approach a hostile checkpoint in a war zone, and each is a gamble. The first is to stop and identify yourself as a journalist and hope that you are respected as a neutral observer. The second is to blow past the checkpoint and hope the soldiers guarding it don’t open fire on you.

The group’s young driver tried to avoid capture by yelling “Media!” It did not work.

Three weeks before her capture, Lynsey Addario photographed children amid the ruins of Benghazi. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

Two weeks before her capture, Lynsey Addario photographed children amid the ruins of Benghazi. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

After providing harrowing details about their captivity, Lynsey describes the agonizing pull she felt between doing what she felt was her life’s mission, and her responsibility to her loved ones:

I had imposed unspeakable worry on my husband, Paul de Bendern, on more occasions than I could count. And Anthony [Shadid] and Steve [Farrell] each had infants at home. Yet as guilty as we felt, and as terrified as we were, only Steve sounded convinced by his own declaration that he would no longer cover war. Each one of us knew that this work was an intrinsic part of who we were: It was what we believed in; it governed our lives.

“We need to get to Tripoli,” Anthony said. “We will never get released if we don’t get to Tripoli. We will probably survive, it will be difficult, but we might live if we get there.”

“If we do, I am going to be so fat in nine months!” I cried out suddenly.

After more than a decade of feeling ambivalent about having a child, I knew that if we made it out of Libya alive, I would finally give Paul what he had been wanting since we married: a baby.

Later, she digs deeper into the lives of war correspondents:

Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario

There was a lot of cheating in war zones, a lot of love and a lot of mistaking loneliness for love. But the reality was different for men and women. Most male war correspondents had wives or girlfriends waiting at home while they fooled around on assignment. Most female war correspondents and photographers remained single, searching fruitlessly for someone who would accept our devotion to our work.

My romantic life was colorful but difficult: I had an affair with a Cuban diplomat in New York, fell in love with an artist in Mexico City and had a relationship with an Iranian actor in Tehran, whom I could rarely get a visa to visit. But I gave only a finite part of myself to each of these men; work remained my priority, keeping me on the road 280 days a year. I began to assume that my relationships would end in affairs and heartbreak.

After meeting her husband, marrying, getting captured and then pregnant, Lynsey continued to work:

At four and a half months, Doctors Without Borders sent me to photograph its medical outreach for victims of the drought in the Horn of Africa, from the Turkana region to the Somali refugee camps at Dadaab in Kenya. Part way through the assignment, working in remote African villages, I could no longer button my pants. I was 20 weeks pregnant. The nausea and exhaustion were gone, my energy had returned and I was eating regularly, though careful to avoid harmful bacteria, which meant a diet of bread, rice, bananas and protein bars that I carried from home.

She continued on to Mogadishu, where the situation was far worse than even Kenya. She knew that if anything happened to her — 5 months pregnant — her editors and peers would write her off as “crazy and irresponsible.” But, she says, “I couldn’t leave that story of starvation untold.” She traveled on:

Something strange happened then: the baby that I had imagined as a pea or an avocado pit for weeks and weeks started kicking. He came to life inside me as I entered Somalia, a place where so many people were dying.

Lynsey Addario was pregnant while photographing a child dying from malnutrition in Mogadishu, in August 2011. (Photo/New York Times)

Lynsey Addario was pregnant while photographing a child dying from malnutrition in Mogadishu, in August 2011. (Photo/New York Times)

Working quickly — and trying to avoid kidnapping — she photographed the death of a 1 1/2-year-old boy from malnutrition.

His skeletal chest pumped up and down as he labored to breathe. His eyes rolled back into his head and then forward again as he focused on his mother. I knelt down beside the two women, introduced myself as a journalist and asked permission to photograph. They agreed. I began shooting as the two women put their hands on Abbas’s tiny frame and then onto his face. Each time that his eyes rolled back into his head, the women thought he was dead. To my horror, they began closing his tiny mouth with their hands, a premature death ritual. They were covering his eyes and closing his mouth. As I photographed, I felt my own baby inside of me, kicking and twisting.

In Gaza — caught in the frenzy of a prisoner exchange — Lynsey started to panic.

In the Muslim world, women and children are put on a protected pedestal, and pregnant women are slightly higher up on that pedestal. Naturally, no pregnant woman in Gaza would voluntarily be in that mix of madness, but it was too late to lament my stupidity. I had an idea: I threw my arms up in the air and screamed, “Baby!” and pointed down at my very round stomach with my index fingers on both hands. “Baby!” I screamed again, pointing down.

Lynsey Addario was 27 months pregnant in October 2010, when she photographed children in the Gaza Strip. (Photo/New York Times)

Lynsey Addario was 7 months pregnant in October 2010, when she photographed children in the Gaza Strip. (Photo/New York Times)

All the men around me momentarily paused. They looked at my face and then down at my stomach, and the seas parted. Spontaneously, they made a human gate around me, cocooning me from the crowd. And I continued shooting with my new bodyguards keeping watch over my unborn son and me.

Lukas Simon de Bendern was born perfectly healthy on Dec. 28, 2011, at St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

There is much, much more in this fascinating excerpt from an important book. To read the entire Times story, click here.

Danish House Follow-Up: No, No, It Really Is The Philippines!

This morning’s “06880” post — about the 1964-65 World’s Fair Danish Pavilion that ended up in Westport — started out:

It’s an urban suburban myth: The Philippines (or Indonesian) (or Danish) pavilion from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended up as a residence at the end of Compo Cove.

The piece described how the Danish pavilion actually became a Danish furniture store near the Sherwood Island connector. In the final paragraph, I wondered whether that was the same house everyone speculates is on Compo Cove.

I should have checked with Fred Cantor first.

The very alert “06880” reader/avid historical researcher sent along a document from 1991. The 11-page application to the National Park Service — signed by state historic preservation officer John Shannahan — requests that 22 buildings comprising the “Mill Cove Historic District” be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the interesting part: One of the cottages at the south end of the district has “an unusual history. Originally, this building was a bamboo hut built for the Phillipine [sic] Exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition in the late nineteenth century [sic]; it was dismantled and re-erected on this site about 1900.”

(Well, a bit later. The Exposition was held in 1904.)

The houses that came from the Philippine Exhibit are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

The houses that came from the Philippine Exposition are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

But wait! There’s more! “A smaller cottage to the rear is also a re-built bamboo hut but it has retained its form and some exterior materials.”

UPDATEAlert reader SW Reid posted in a comment (below): “Brooks Jones built the guest house behind the ‘pavilion’ maybe 25 years ago. He wanted the unit to look like the original structure on the water.”

So there you have it. The house is Filipino, not Danish. But how and why it ended up in Westport remains a mystery.

Until, that is, Fred finds out.

BONUS FUN FACTSThe 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair — also called the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition — was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the US from France.

The Philippine Exhibit was the largest (47 acres, 100 buildings), most expensive ($2 million) and most popular at the entire fair.

A bird's-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

A bird’s-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

There were about 1,100 Filipinos at the Philippine Exhibit. They were shown in various stages of cultures, from primitive to highly cultured.

The head-hunting, dog-eating Igorots were the greatest attraction at the Philippine Exhibit, not only because of their novelty, the scanty dressing of the males and their daily dancing to the tom-tom beats, but also because of their appetite for dog meat which is a normal part of their diet.

(Hat tip to Virgilio R. Pilapil — and Google — for the above information. Read much more from him about the Philippine Exhibit by clicking here.)

Philippine Exhibition

 

Has Anyone Seen The Danish Pavilion?

It’s an urban suburban myth: The Philippines (or Indonesian) (or Danish) pavilion from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended up as a residence at the end of Compo Cove.

I’ve walked that path — from Old Mill Beach all the way to the edge of Sherwood Island — and I’ve seen that modern-looking, glass-and-wood house. It’s intriguing — but a former World’s Fair pavilion? C’mon!

Yet a recent email from alert “06880” reader/former Westporter/World’s Fair fanatic Doug Davidoff may shed some light on the legend. At the same time, it raises more than a few mysteries itself.

Doug sent along a clipping from the October 16, 1965 Bridgeport Post. It read:

The Denmark Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. (Photo/BrickFetish.com)

The Denmark Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. (Photo/BrickFetish.com)

“The prize-winning Danish pavilion at the World’s Fair has been purchased by the Laerkesen Furniture company, 1400 East State street [Post Road East], and will be relocated here on a two-acre tract adjacent to the Sherwood Island connector.”

The Bridgeport Post story described the 130-by-80-foot pine-and-plate-glass building as designed to be disassembled, then reconstructed “like a giant erector set.”

A “World’s Fair Community” website story from 2001 provides further details. Citing a New York Times account of November 22, 1964, it said the structure was planned to be called Laerkesen’s Denmark House, and would display the company’s Danish furniture and household equipment. The “Tivoli Playground” and “Little Mermaid” reconstruction were also to be included. The pavilion — built for $1.2 million — had been bought for $40,000, and would cost $465,000 to move and rebuild.

A poster touting the Denmark Pavilion.

A poster touting the Denmark Pavilion.

The story added that Laerkesen’s owner Dominick DeCecco had outgrown his original store at 1460 Post Road East (now the Pier 1 shopping center). The new location would be “on the Boston Post Road at the juncture of Route 18 in Westport.”

Of course, there is no “Route 18.” This must have referred to the Sherwood Island connector, heading to the Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) Exit 18.

The 2001 website story challenged readers to find “Laerkesen’s Denmark House.” (The name came from DeCecco’s wife, the former Dorthe Laerkesen.)

No one could.

Perhaps the “06880” community can crowd-source this. If you remember Laerkesen’s Denmark House — where it was, what it looked like, or anything else — click “Comments” below.

And if you can provide proof that it’s the same building that now sits as a handsome home at the end of Compo Cove — well, fantastisk.

Worlds Fair postcard

 

 

 

The Two Oh Three Gives Back — On 2/03

Tory Brown grew up in Westport. But the 2009 Staples grad never appreciated her hometown until she headed to Ohio for college. She loved it there — but she longed for the water, and the flexibility of “living in the 203.”

She missed snowboarding in Vermont and the beaches of Cape Cod. She missed New York City, Compo, bagel shops and eating seafood caught the same day.

Her brother Roscoe graduated from Staples last spring. Talking with Tory, he realized he too had taken a lot for granted: paddle-boarding after school, cliff-jumping at Devil’s Den, apple-picking at Silverman’s, and feeling comfortable anywhere in town.

“Everything I’m passionate about, I owe to being raised here,” he says.

Over a year ago, the siblings had an idea. They’d create a lifestyle brand to unite all the towns that make up “the 203.” (That’s our area code. Duh.)

With shirts and windbreakers, Two Oh Three apparel says there's no place like "home."

Two Oh Three’s shirts and windbreakers say there’s no place like “home.”

Together, they created a cool-looking line of clothes — quarter zips, short- and long-sleeve tees, windbreakers and shirts — all with the “203” logo.

But that’s not what this “06880” post is about.

Part of Tory and Roscoe’s mission is to make this entire area “an even better place than it already is.” They planned beach cleanups and town beautification days during the summer.

Now, The Two Oh Three is gearing up for 2/03. (That’s February 3. Duh.)

At 6:30 p.m. they’ll gather on Jesup Green. Together with volunteers (that’s you!), they’ll deliver hand-knitted gloves to folks who need them. Afterward, they’ll walk over to the Gillespie Center to distribute donated food.

Two Oh Three’s 2/03 Community Day caps off a month of giving. Throughout January, Tory and Roscoe encouraged the brand’s fans to tag them on social media. Anyone who tweeted about picking up trash got $1 off their next order. Anyone posting 10 different acts of kindness won a limited-edition “203 Community Day” t-shirt.

Clearly, 203 is batting 1.000.

(For more information — or to get involved — click on the “203 Community Day” website.)

203 logo

 

 

Red Sky At Night…

On Sunday, “06880” heralded the arrival of the Blizzard of Even Before The Universe Was Created with a photo headlined: “Red Sky At Morning…

48 hours later we are pleased to post this shot, by alert reader Gene Borio. He took it at dusk, by Canal Beach on Saugatuck Shores.

Canal Park - Gene Borio - January 27, 2015

Looks like some nice weather ahead!

A Last Look Back At A Pretty Nice Day

Considering what could have been, today was not bad at all.

Like many families, the Shuldmans spent the morning quietly, at home. 15-year-old Avery saw this view outside, and captured it beautifully:

Deer - Avery Shuldman

When the roads were cleared — and how about a great hand for Westport’s Public Works Department! — Bart and Sue headed out to see how Compo fared.

It doesn’t get more Westport than this:

Compo Beach - Bart Shuldman

(Photos/Bart Shuldman)

(Photos/Bart Shuldman)

Shovel Those Hydrants!

Our firefighters have plenty of things to do. Shoveling hydrants is not one of them.

If there’s one near you, do it yourself.

The home you save may be your own!

Fire hydrant

 

Winslow Park Is Not Going To The Dogs

Right now, it seems, every elementary school child in Westport is sledding or tubing on the snowy hills in the middle of downtown.

Winslow Park 2

So much for the myth that kids today never put down their electronic devices.

Winslow Park 1

Of course, 30 years from now, those now-grown parents will say to their own children, “Put down your intelliport! When I was your age, I played all day in this amazing blizzard….”

Winslow Park 4

Winslow Park 5

Winslow Park 3

Cleanup Time!

It takes a government ban to produce a scene like this:

I-95 after snow - Nico Eisenberger

That’s a shot of I-95 without a car in sight. Nico Eisenberger went cross-country skiing at Sherwood Island, and enjoyed this view from the Beachside Avenue bridge.

A bit further east, Chip Stephens saw 25 or so trucks parked near the Athena Diner. From Texas.

Their drivers don’t have much to, other than laugh at us panic-stricken Easterners.

Tree crews -- Chip Stephens

Meanwhile, Mark Mathias cleared his driveway. We all know the Board of Ed member/Mini Maker Faire co-founder is an energetic guy, but this video will blow you away.

Just like the snow.

PS: Seems like every gas station on the Post Road is open. Every liquor store, too.

 

Are You Open?

An “06880” reader wants to know what’s open. If you own, work at or know a business, organization or service — a bank? store? restaurant? the post office? — with its parking lot plowed and lights on, please click “Comments” below.

open sign