Greg Campbell first got to know Chris Hondros when they were teenagers in Fayetteville, N.C. They went to the same high school, worked in the same restaurant and both had an interest in journalism — Campbell as a writer, Hondros as a photographer.
They went their separate ways in college — Campbell to UNC-Greensboro, Hondros to NC State — but managed to stay connected. As their professional careers unfolded, both found themselves covering conflicts and unrest in foreign lands, be it in Kosovo, Nigeria or Libya. Campbell wrote books and newspaper articles, while Hondros became an acclaimed photographer who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
“We never really fell out of each other’s lives,” says Campbell, who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Greg Campbell and Chris Hondros in 1996 (Photo courtesy of Evan Eile).
Mindful of his young family back in the United States, Campbell eventually pulled back from reporting in such dangerous places. Hondros, meanwhile, continued to travel from hot spot to hot spot. “He was hooked on foreign reporting,” says Campbell. “He saw it as a real calling in his life, to be a witness to these kinds of events and document them.”
In 2011, Hondros convinced Campbell to join him in Libya. Hondros was there documenting the uprisings connected to the Arab Spring, but he was also talking about pulling back a bit and starting his own family. “When I was there in Libya with him, I was really proud,” Campbell says. “He had developed into the elder statesman of conflict photographers. Everyone respected him, even his competitors. He was a master of his environment. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Campbell had returned home to Colorado when he got the news that Hondros had been fatally wounded in a mortar attack in Libya. “My heart skipped a couple of beats,” Campbell says. “It seemed surreal. But it was followed by the unfortunate, sad realization that it was probably true. What he was doing was extraordinarily dangerous.”
Soon after Hondros’ death, Campbell learned something new about his longtime friend. Campbell was contacted by a man named Joseph Duo, a Liberian who had been the subject of one of Hondros’ most acclaimed and well known photographs. Hondros had photographed an exultant Duo, an armed combatant in the Liberian Civil War. The photo was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
But what Campbell learned was that Hondros had returned to Liberia a couple of years later and found Duo. The two had connected, and Hondros had agreed to pay for Duo to get a high school and college education. Thanks to Hondros, Duo would eventually finish law school.
It was yet another vivid illustration to Campbell of the impact that Hondros had on the lives of many, through his professional work as a photographer and the human connections he made around the world. Campbell felt that it was a story that needed to be shared with a larger audience.
And so he decided to make a documentary about his friend’s life and work. It was an idea that Campbell had toyed with when Hondros was alive, but he worried after Hondros’ death that his life would not be properly memorialized.
“No one else, frankly, was stepping up to do a film about him,” Campbell says. “I was a little bit concerned that interest in his life would fade away.”
One of the first challenges facing Campbell was how to pay for the film. Friends encouraged him to try Kickstarter, a “crowd-funding” company that gives people the ability to raise money for projects by soliciting donations online. Campbell was skeptical (“I had to be dragged kicking and screaming,” he says.), but eventually agreed to give it a try. He started with what he considered a modest goal of $30,000 in 30 days, enough to do some initial filming in Liberia with Duo and others. Within three days, the project had exceeded its $30,000 goal.
“It blew me away how quickly the money rolled in,” Campbell says.
So Campbell raised the goal to $55,000, enough to cover a trip to Iraq. Within 10 days, that goal was met, and Campbell realized he could be even more ambitious. The goal now is $100,000, and only a few days remain in the campaign. The new goal would enable Campbell to get the footage he needs in Libya, Iraq and Liberia.
Eric Scholfield, who runs an insurance agency in Raleigh, was one of the many who were happy to contribute to the project. Schofield also grew up in Fayetteville with Campbell and Hondros. He also studied at NC State with Hondros, and remained friends after college.
“We obviously want to preserve Chris’ legacy,” Schofield says. “Not only was he a gifted photographer, he was an absolutely amazing person. I would like for people to not only see some of his work, but also get a deeper understanding of who Chris was as a person.”
Campbell has been struck by the outpouring of support, financial and otherwise, for a film about Hondros. More than 500 people — from fellow photographers, other NC State alumni, friends and supporters — have contributed through the Kickstarter campaign. With just a few days remaining, Campbell hopes they can reach their goal of $100,000, even as he is mindful that even more money will be needed to finish the film.
“What I hope to do with this film is honor his life and his career,” Campbell says. “He was one of the greatest photographers of all time. He deserves it on that basis alone. But there is this underlying complexity to him. We’ve been flooded (with contributions) from people who knew Chris at some time and he made an impression on them.”
Portrait of Chris Hondros taken April 18, 2011, Misurata, Libya. Photo courtesy of Katie Orlinsky.
Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Chris Hondros ’93, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist who was fatally wounded in Libya last year while on assignment. And Artspace is hosting a retrospective of his photographs to celebrate his life and work.
The exhibit, which features Hondros’ work from time covering civil unrest and war in Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, is a collaboration with the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NC State. The pictures span from his early career to photos from his last assignment in Libya.
“We are showing 22 pieces that kind of span the decade of conflict photography he’s involved with.” says Lia Newman, director of programs and exhibitions at Artspace. “He’s really covered every major conflict. …There are images where obviously people are dying but also some really sweet images of children.”
Two Iraqi girls watch American troops on patrol June 21, 2007, Baghdad. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Chris Hondros.
Hondros graduated from NC State in 1993 with a degree in English. He worked for The Fayetteville Observer and Getty Images. In 2004, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and he received the Robert Capa Gold Medal, photojournalism’s highest honor, in 2006.
“It’s been interesting having people come in and see the show,” Newman says. “Some people come in and know about Hondros. And others walk in who may not know but they recognize these images. …He’s really taken the images we associate with a lot of these conflicts.”
The New York Times is reporting that acclaimed war photographer Chris Hondros, a 1993 graduate of NC State, has died after being injured Wednesday in Libya.
The Times reported that Tim Hetherington, the director and producer of the film “Restrepo” was also killed when he, Hondros and a group of photojournalists came under attack in Misurata. The Times said Hondros spent several hours in a coma before he died.
Hondros knew he was interested in photography before he even arrived at NC State, showing up at the offices of Technician with a portfolio of his work from high school. Within a couple of years, Hondros was named student photographer of the year in North Carolina, according to Marc Kawanishi, who was an editor at Technician when Hondros showed up looking for work.
“He was destined to do great things,” Kawanishi said. “He really thrust himself into some amazing positions.”
Joe Johnson ’93, who was editor of Technician his senior year, said Hondros was always willing to do whatever it took to get the right photos.
“He made ordinary situations extraordinary when he went to take a picture of them,” Johnson said. “He was willing to stay to the end with a story, to stick with it as long as it needed to be told.”
Hondros worked at both Technician and the Agromeck during his years at NC State. Todd Bennett ’93, who was editor of the Agromeck when Hondros was photo editor, said Hondros talked during their senior year about becoming a war photographer.
“He was a firm believer in being in the middle of the story,” Bennett said.
Bennett, who now works as a travel photographer in Greensboro, recalled being at a party with Hondros one night during their senior year. He said they were talking about war photography and the conflict in Sarajevo. They pulled a dry erase board off the refrigerator and drew a crude map of Europe, plotting how they might take a detour during a spring break trip to France and Germany to get to Sarajevo.
“That was Chris, that was something he was really passionate about,” Bennett said.
But Bennett, who has kept in touch with Hondros since their college days, said Hondros may be more intrigued by those touched by conflict than the conflict itself.
“There’s reporting the conflict, but also reporting the way people are impacted by war,” Bennett said. “He covers war, but there aren’t just people fighting in wars. It’s not just about a war between two groups or two different sides. It also effects innocent people.”
Access to the front lines was difficult, but a fellow photographer and I persuaded some KLA soldiers to take us to a front-line base and then to the front lines themselves, trenches dug at the fringe of a broad field and filled shin-deep with frigid, muddy water. KLA snipers crouched in the trench as random gunfire and shelling rattled overhead.
A 2002 profile took a broader look at Hondros and his work in war-torn countries. Hondros said in that story that he was not looking for the adrenaline rush often associated with such danger, saying he was trying to build a “stable career” doing such work.
But he also spoke about what drove him to do such work.
“Journalism is hopefully a humanitarian endeavor,” Hondros said, “helping people in one way or another through raising awareness.”
Bennett said Hondros was not a violent person, even if he lived his life in violent conditions. But he said Hondros felt strongly about the power of photography to show others what they can’t see for themselves.
“Sometimes we have to be a witness to these things,” Bennett said. “If we’re not there, does it really happen?
Chris Hondros ’93, an award-winning photographer for Getty Images News Services, talked about his 13 trips to Iraq since 2003 this week on WUNC’s The State of Things. He’s also covered wars in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Kosova, and his photos have appeared in The Economist, The New York Times and Newsweek. View his incredible photos on his Web site.
He was named American Photo magazine’s 2007 “Hero of Photography” and was a finalist for a 2008 National Magazine Award. Read a 2006 story in Smithsonian Magazine that takes you behind the scenes of his coverage of the civil war in Liberia, which made him a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography. Get a preview after the jump.