2 Photojournalists Killed Covering Libyan Battle

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Photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed Wednesday while covering a battle in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Hetherington co-directed the documentary Restrepo and Hondros shot for Getty Images.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Two photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, were killed in Libya yesterday as they covered the battle between rebels and government forces in the besieged port city of Misrata. The men were hit by fire from the government forces, who have been pounding the city with rockets and mortars.

Hetherington co-directed "Restrepo," a documentary about U.S. troops in Afghanistan that was nominated for an Oscar. Hondros was an award-winning staff photographer for Getty Images. He'd covered conflicts around the globe since the late 1990s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

LOUISE KELLY: It's such a, in some ways, a straightforward news image. I mean here's a blood-splattered little girl, you know, crouched next to the boots of a tall U.S. solder.

LOUISE KELLY: That's Hondros in 2007 as he described one of his most widely distributed photographs to our colleague, Renee Montagne. Hondros shot the photo after U.S. troops opened fire on a car approaching an Iraqi checkpoint. Soldiers didn't know a family was inside. Both parents were killed as their six children looked on. Renee asked him why that image stood out.

LOUISE KELLY: People have cited things like the stark lighting, which is sort of reminiscent of schools of painting, and the streaks of blood on her cheeks, which reminded some people of crucifixion imagery, tears of blood. I mean, we share a huge visual memory bank mostly through painting and other images in history. And, you know, I think when a modern photograph taps into those, sometimes very subliminally, it makes people respond. You know, here's this little girl essentially all alone in the world now.

RENEE MONTAGNE: Yeah, you know, I think that actually is it. It's almost as if she's in the middle of nowhere.

LOUISE KELLY: And you know, and people ask me some time, like, was anybody trying to comfort the girl or something like that. These kind of situations are not like the movies where somebody is shot and then everybody knows that they've been shot and they sort of heroically go on. I mean, the soldiers at that point were just doing medical care and trying to figure out exactly what they could do to preserve those children's lives.

LOUISE KELLY: Chris Hondros spoke to MORNING EDITION after his ninth trip to Iraq.

NPR photographer David Gilkey worked alongside Hondros in places like Afghanistan and Haiti, where he says photographers need to stick together.

DAVID GILKEY: We all have worked together for a very long time, and that's why this just, it really especially hits home. He's, you know, one of the world's best conflict photographers. And it's not just conflict. He can also add something really beautiful to Haiti, a really, really, really unique perspective. And I think that's what drove him. So you know, whenever you saw him out, you knew he was going to do something that was out of the ordinary.

LOUISE KELLY: NPR photographer David Gilkey remembering his colleague, war photographer Chris Hondros. Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed yesterday while covering the conflict in Libya.

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