It was one of the most searing images of the war in Iraq: a tiny girl, splattered in blood and screaming in horror after her parents had been shot and killed by American soldiers who fired on the family car when it failed to yield for a foot patrol in the northern town of Tel Afar.
Taken by Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, who was embedded with the patrol, the January 2005 photo offered powerful visual testimony to the horrific impact of the conflict on Iraqi citizens. It came as the American public was beginning to question the rising death toll and purpose of a war that was starting to look unwinnable.
Hondros was inured to the chaos of war. By then, he was a veteran combat photographer who had served as a witness for the world on the frontlines of conflicts in far-away places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. But Hondros wasn’t merely fueled by the adrenaline of covering war. He was there to document the impact of conflict on people, both soldiers and civilians, to discover something deeper about humanity through war.
“He tried to make sense of what was happening around him, to really understand the chaos that he often found himself in,” recalled Sandy Ciric, a longtime photo editor at Getty Images who was one of Hondros’s closest friends and colleagues. “He was a professional, and he knew it was his job to document. But he was also human. He was really affected by the people he met and the things he saw… He was always thinking and writing and shooting and working, trying to understand the terrible complexity of war and the impact it had on people.”
So it was a horrible and painful twist of fate that a photographer so determined to show the world the human impact of conflict died trying to do just that. Hondros was killed in a mortar attack along with fellow photojournalist Tim Hetherington in April 2011 while covering the war in Libya.
He left behind an adoring mother, a fiance and a tight-knit group of friends and colleagues who were devastated by his death but also determined to preserve his memory and legacy as one of the most promising photojournalists of a generation who died too soon.
It’s that career that is the subject of “Testament,” a new book of Hondros’s work published by Powerhouse Books and Getty Images (which is donating its portion of the proceeds to The Chris Hondros Fund). The book, edited by Ciric and Pancho Bernasconi of Getty Images and Christina Piaia, Hondros’s fiance, features not only images that Hondros took over more than a decade of covering conflict, but also his own words, taken from stories and essays he wrote about his experiences on the road as he sought to understand what he was seeing through his lens.