Friday, 22 April 2011

Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington in Memoriam

On wednesday 20th April the devastating news that two of the world's leading photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros had been killed in Misrata came out via Twitter and other social media networks, before finally making it to the mainstream news later in the evening. They were returning to relative safety from the frontline of Tripoli street in the besieged city of Misrata with a number of other photographers when they were both mortally wounded by shrapnel from either an exploding mortar or RPG round. Two other photographers Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown were also injured in the attack, Martin seriously. The news has hit the journalism community hard with many of my colleagues including myself, struggling to come to terms with their deaths, and my thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with their families and partners.




I knew both Tim and Chris, though we were not close. Tim and I travelled into Benghazi together from Tobruk during his first foray into Libya for Vanity Fair in late March and I bumped into Chris in the hotel lobby on his arrival in Benghazi and had a quick chat for the first time in a number of years and told him how dangerous I thought it was and to be careful during his stay, the next morning I left Libya for home. There is a kind of bond between people that witness the more extreme aspects of the world we live in which is hard to explain, and although our paths may not cross that regularly there is always a sense of kinship between fellow travellers that never goes away.

Tim and Chris were incredible talented and compassionate photographers, their craft admired by so many people across the globe, and anyone who has seen the documentary Restrepo could testify to Tim's incredible talent as a film maker too. In fact when our paths first crossed I couldn't help myself but say how much I admired his work, had watched his film and bought his incredible book Infidel. He cracked a joke thanking me for adding some extra change to his coffers and we carried on our journey to Benghazi chatting about our work and experiences over the years. Tim was humble, charming and like Chris incredibly brave, risking his life to highlight the plight of others in countries many people at home have barely heard of or at least never travelled to. If Chris Hondros' last published photographs from Misurata are anything to go by it is understandable why they were both willing to put themselves in the line of fire to get the story. Misrata has been under siege by Gaddafi's forces for many weeks now as one of the first cities to rise against the dictator, and some parts of the town have been reduced to rubble and possibly more than 1000 civilians have died, their only crime to have wanted to take the path towards democracy. Tim's last Twitter update read In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."  


All those that choose to report from war zones are fully aware of the risks that sometimes have to be taken to illustrate the sheer inexcusable brutality of conflict and inevitable human suffering, sadly this time it claimed the lives of two of photojournalism's leading lights and they will be missed by so many forever.












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