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Chris Hondros gave his life for his truth in the Libyan war

21 April 2011 / 20:04:09  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Two more names were added yesterday to the list of the media representatives killed on the battlefield. The Vanity Fair magazine associate Tim Hetherington and the American of Greek origin Chris Hondros from Getty Images died in Libya. Hours earlier his photograph from the cemetery in Mizrata was placed on the first page of the Washington Post newspaper.

In the past, not so long ago, only the newsreels showed the people what was happening on the battlefields. The front and the war were black-and-white, sometimes quite inconsistently mounted footage and photos of young men in military uniforms.

Today neither the war, nor the photos of them are the same. The modern war technology completely changed the conduct of military operations. We see them day and night on the TV and the Internet, in newspapers and magazines. What can not be changed, however, are the unhappiness and the pain caused by the wars. Some photographers only show us the real face of war. Others show the looks and figures of people, who see how their lives turn upside down and know that they will never be the same. One of these photographers was Chris Hondros. Until yesterday, when а mortar shell exploded next to him and several other colleagues of his.

Eleftherotypia newspaper photographer Spyros Tsakiris placed Chris Hondros among the most talented photographers in the world. A friendly, polite person and a professional, whose work was very high assessed, but the victim of a tragic accident. His Greek counterpart defined the possibility for someone to be killed in this way as a "jackpot" because the mortar range is small, only 5-6 meters. This explains the fact that the other photographers are only wounded.

Spyros and Chris met in Kosovo in 1999. The Greek origin of the photographer from the USA drew him closer to his Greek counterparts more than to the others. "He was one of those people for whom we say that the photographer a man first and then a professional. Many of the photos, for which he received dozens of awards, very clearly show that Chris respected the people he shot. This is something that makes the loss even more severe because we have good professionals, but we need better people at work."

Spyros Tsakiris has been a photographer for many years. He has been on all the hot points on the planet. He has shot the civil wars in Bosnia, Lebanon and Rwanda. He has witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, the hunger in Africa, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the wars in Kosovo and the Persian Gulf. He believes that each of the photographers who go to shoot at the peril of their lives have the inner need to be at the places where "history is written." "Photographers feel the need to tell their truth about the events. This is one of the "ambitions" of the people who work in the media, whether journalists, photographers or operators." Secondly, there is the need for information about the events that can not be otherwise presented, and of course - the adrenaline. Some take the risk because of the payment, but they are very small in number compared to the others.
You have no chance to cope with your task if you are not prepared, says Spyros. "You prepare yourself mentally, you study in detail the history of the country or place where you will go, you learn about the habits and traditions, the morphology of the terrain and the possible channels to escape the danger." This is the most important part because without it, a Westerner could not find his way out in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan, where the habits are quite different. "We always move with a local guide as without his help we could not cope with a number of difficulties." The practical preparation is associated with the provision of things like first aid kit.
Furthermore, before going to the battlefield, photographers could be trained in a camp organised by former members of the British special forces. The world news agencies send their reporters to be trained there. The United Nations also has similar training camps, but at the places where the events happen. "I visited two such camps in Zagreb and Bosnia. The training allows you to understand above all where you are. It is extremely important when you hear the sound of a shot to identify the weapon, the distance and its direction. Or to be able to give first aid to someone who does not participate in the military operations, to a colleague or someone who needs it."

UN forces require photographers to wear personal protection equipment, including a safety helmet and a bulletproof vest. "We all have them, although this is not the best option because in wars like those in Bosnia, Chechnya or Africa the bulletproof vest is one of the reasons to get killed sooner. In Bosnia the price for each photographer fitted with a bulletproof vest was 800 DM."

Tags: MediaPhotographersPhotosBattlefieldChris HondrosSpyros Tsakis
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