The Dandelion Chandelier Luminary Café is the place to find a series of personal interviews with fascinating people who are stellar achievers in their chosen field of endeavor. Our Luminaries are sharing their origin stories, life philosophies, secret songs, guilty pleasures and hidden talents. It’s guaranteed to be illuminating.
Originally from a small town in Texas, Lynn Savarese resided and traveled throughout the world before making New York City her home in the early 1980s following her graduation from Harvard Law School. After careers in corporate law and investment banking and a lengthy sabbatical to raise her family and pursue volunteer work for various human rights organizations, Lynn finally found her passion—photography—several years ago. Since then, her photography has appeared in numerous galleries, art fairs, and publications throughout the world, and she has also won several major international prizes and honors for her fine art photography, including being selected as a Finalist in the 2016 Magnum Photography Awards competition. Lynn also frequently works with not-for-profit organizations to help further their missions through strategic photography projects. As the co-founder of and photographer for The New Abolitionists Campaign, a groundbreaking project to fight human trafficking, she has also received a number of awards and honors for her human rights work.
On a bright late-November morning, we sat down in Lynn’s lovely Manhattan apartment for an engaging conversation.
Tell us your life philosophy.
Love as many people as deeply as possible. Make a meaningful and concerted effort to do good in the world.
How did you decide to do the work you’re doing now?
The work I am most proud of is my series of portraits for the New Abolitionists Campaign. Through public exhibitions of these portraits at strategically important venues and on social media platforms, the Campaign exposes the devastating harm of human trafficking and mobilizes individuals and communities to take action against it. For the Campaign, I’ve traveled across the country to meet and photograph over 70 survivors of human trafficking, as well as hundreds of other individuals committed to the fight to end human trafficking. In 2014, we brought our New Abolitionists and educational materials to the New York State Assembly to persuade them to adopt the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, which effects sweeping reforms in our law, and we’re proud of the unanimous vote that followed. Enlisting iconic leaders in various fields of endeavor has also been very gratifying. Agreeing to be featured and honored as a “New Abolitionist” often deepens their investment in the cause, while also helping raise the profile of the issues that need to be addressed.
Who lights you up?
My husband and our three children. They’re thoughtful and funny and it’s always a good day when they’re around.
How do you like to celebrate?
There’s almost always a food component! And often the best celebrations are in places laden with fond memory and meaning. My husband and I honeymooned in Paris and we’ve returned many times since to celebrate anniversaries and other milestones. Another favorite place is our cabin in the Adirondacks where my husband spent his childhood summers as a camper. Years of celebrations and sweet memories make some places very special.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Where would you stay?
I’ve traveled a lot in my life. I’d like to go on an African safari again – this time with a really good camera and proficiency in its use. We’re taking a family hiking trip to Patagonia soon—a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. I love hiking–in the Swiss Alps, the Adirondacks, out west… We climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as a family and it was one of the best vacations ever. And I want to get to the Arctic—I want so much to see polar bears in the wild.
What’s the last new food item that you tried for the first time? Did you like it?
I lived in Japan as a child, and there was one dish I loved back then that I started really craving recently. It’s called katsudon, and I had not eaten it in many years. Two weeks ago, I decided to make it. It uses pork cutlets that are prepared like Wiener Schnitzel and then sliced thin, served over rice, with sautéed onion, and garlic, with beaten raw eggs poured over it all and cooked briefly to a goopy custard consistency. There’s also some ginger, dashi, Japanese wine, seaweed, and soy in the mix. Tasting it again made me so happy!
What song is on your playlist that people would be surprised by?
I’m the Tall Tree by The Flock. They’re a jazz-rock band from the 1960s and they never got the acclaim that their peers did. One of the musicians was an amazing violinist. It was the most important song in my life when I was 13. I was living in Tokyo. It was so empowering. It still is, to this day.
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
I love hiking, and also skiing – not backcountry, just nice cruisers. I also love running–I’ve run the New York City marathon several times. Actually, calling it running is a gross overstatement. It was much more like a very slow jog. I’d really like to do the marathon again.
Who is your favorite artist?
April Gornik is my favorite contemporary painter. Her landscapes are magical. Otherworldly. Virginia Woolf remains my all-time favorite writer, and To the Lighthouse one of my favorite reads. In the world of fine art photography, Chuck Kelton is my idol. His images—made in the dark room without a camera using photosensitive papers and a creative mix of chemicals– are stunningly beautiful. Chuck is also a renowned print-maker who worked with many of the truly great film photographers of the past century. He is also a wonderful and beloved teacher.
What are you reading right now?
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It’s a novel is about a young couple who live in a city in the Middle East that’s undergoing civil war; they become refugees, and their story brings you into the experience that so many people from places like Syria have had in recent years. I also loved Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I’m also reading The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. It’s fascinating. I really like trees—to climb, to photograph, and yes, even to hug! – my favorite song is about a tree. I guess there’s a theme here.
Tell us about your style.
In my surroundings and in my attire, I like neutral colors, clean lines, and minimalism. I like Japanese elements – a Zen-like austerity. In my photography, though, I love color. In living my life, I’m a Martha Stewart wannabe. I care a lot about presentation. I like things that have a craft component.
What is your favorite item of clothing? Who’s your go-to designer?
I still wear blue jeans almost every day. I’m very fond of Issey Miyake’s pleated tunics. And I really like Stella McCartney – her clothes are quirky, interesting, and comfortable.
What’s your dream car?
I’m not really a car person, but we have a Mercedes wagon and an ancient BMW sedan, both of which I love. The Beamer is a beautiful shade of blue, super comfortable, with lines that I think are still beautiful. The Mercedes wagon is also very comfortable, and reliable, with an amazing amount of storage capacity good for transporting large prints to and from art exhibitions, and transporting kids and their stuff to and from dorm rooms and new apartment living spaces.
What are you looking forward to?
Our upcoming family hiking trip to Patagonia. And soon we’ll be able to move into a new summerhouse we’ve purchased, near the ocean. I’m looking forward to being able to bike to the beach. Gazing out at sea is a wonderful way to recalibrate. It will be exciting to make this new house a home with my family.
What skill do wish you had that you don’t currently possess?
So many! I don’t know how to type. I’m a one-finger typist. When I was growing up, my family moved almost every year, and I always missed that year in school when typing was taught.
What’s your hidden talent?
My conceit is that I’m a really good manager of time – I can get a lot done, very efficiently, and I have a lot of endurance. I can work for long periods of time without a break.
What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought?
When I was a junior associate at a law firm in Paris with student loans to repay and not much money, I bought a set of Baccarat stemware. I didn’t even open the boxes of crystal or have occasion to use any of it until I got married 10 years later. The other extravagance? A Hasselblad digital camera. Not an inexpensive piece of equipment.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My husband writes me thoughtful notes on important occasions. My children have also given me letters and pieces of art that are precious to me.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Not very often, but every once in a while I go to movies by myself in the morning or early afternoon. I confess that if I don’t like one film, I’m not above switching theaters to see something else!
What does luxury mean to you?
Something exquisitely beautiful, revealing extraordinary craftsmanship, attention, and care.
Upcoming exhibitions of Lynn’s work include a group show at the Klompching Gallery (with an opening on December 13th) and the Architectural Digest Design Show, March 22-25, 2018. To see more of Lynn’s work, please visit her website at lynnsavarese.com, and her Instagram accounts at @lynnsavaresephotography and @savareseh2o.
To see her New Abolitionist portraits and to learn more about the New Abolitionists Campaign, please visit its website at http://thenewabolitionists.com/, its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/newabolitionists/, its Instagram account at @newabolitionists, and its Twitter feed at @NYAbolitionists