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|| News Item: Posted 2011-05-14

Chris Hondros: A Remembrance
Getty Images staff photographer was mortally wounded by shrapnel from an RPG on April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya.

By Chuck Liddy

Chris Hondros was the most courageous photographer I have ever met. But, it’s not why you may think.

Photo by Chuck Liddy

Photo by Chuck Liddy

Chris Hondros was a staff photographer for Getty Images and was mortally wounded by shrapnel from an RPG on April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. He was buried in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C. April 30, 2011
It wasn’t because he would put himself in places most sane people would be running away from: Liberia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and finally Libya. His willingness to go armed only with his cameras, while various people are trying to kill each other is a trait, which I would rather call fearless.

But Hondros was beyond fearless.

He showed that to me on Feb.1, 2004 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
We had tapped Hondros to be a guest speaker and judge at our 2004 POY meeting for the North Carolina Press Photographers Association.

Chris’ talk was entitled “Retrospective: Two Years and Four Wars”, but at the last minute he decided to switch the topic. And what he did was something I think would strike fear in the hearts of most photographers no matter what genre they shoot in. Chris decided to show his raw take of a four-hour battle in Monrovia. He warned it was very graphic, it was.

The audience of almost 100 guests was transfixed. Many folks, including myself were brought to tears by the images. But I have never seen anyone just throw their raw take in front of a crowd as he did. Sure, as photojournalists, we have all been edited by picture editors, but that’s usually one-on-one. Personally, I would rather run through a cactus patch naked than have the raw take from any assignment displayed before a group of my peers.

I don’t exactly know why I feel like that. Maybe it’s an irrational fear. I’ve tried to analyze that day and my thoughts but I honestly still haven’t figured it out. Maybe I’m insecure about my work and don’t want anyone to see how I struggle to even make a photo. Maybe it is the vulnerability. Chris didn’t have that problem. I think it’s somewhat amazing how we often see a single image from an event, not realizing what really went into making a photograph.

As I remember it, Chris showed about 200 photos. It was horrible. It was mesmerizing. He put you so close to the gunfire and chaos you could almost smell the cordite in the auditorium. He shot close. Very, very close. But the amazing thing was there were so many “keepers” from that take I wondered how you could possibly edit it down to a manageable number of transmissions. The audience was somewhat stunned by what they saw.

Questions came slowly but then in rapid-fire succession. We finally had to put a cap on the session due to time constraints. Chris answered each question thoughtfully and often with brutal honesty.

I am not a “war” photographer.

I am not a “conflict” photographer.

I’m an old newspaper guy who has been fortunate (depending how you look at it) to cover war and disasters over the years and have made a couple of photos I am proud of, even while working alongside Chris.

But, I was truly humbled that afternoon by the honesty and openness of this young 33-year-old guy who grew up down the road in Fayetteville, N.C.
Chris was killed while on assignment in Libya on April 20 while doing what he did so well.

It might seem trite and over-used but he was truly one of a kind.

He leaves a legacy of work to be proud of.

Chris Hondros was a credit to all of us in this business and he will be missed.

Chuck Liddy is a staff photographer with the Raleigh News & Observer.

Contents copyright 2018, Do not republish without permission.
Getting paid to eat pizza, smoke cigars and drink beer? One lucky photog ::..