The Toll Of Covering Conflict : The Picture Show NPR Host Jacki Lyden writes about photojournalists and conflict, in wake of the deaths of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.
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The Toll Of Covering Conflict

Award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year. Tim Hetherington hide caption

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Tim Hetherington

Award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year.

Tim Hetherington

Joao Silva. Lynsey Addario. Tyler Hicks. Tim Hetherington. Chris Hondros: the names of photojournalists grievously wounded, kidnapped or killed in the line of duty since October 2010. The names and casualties of journalists harmed during conflicts seem to be mounting, leaving many of us who knew them or who have worked with them or - even those a few steps more removed - feeling a bit more vulnerable.

Nearly all journalists in conflict areas, or areas of disaster, take risks. Photojournalists, I think, are the biggest risk-takers for the cause because they must be more proximate, and the lens attracts attention.

If you knew the cause would take a limb or your life, or leave you beaten or raped, would you do it?

Phil Robertson, a New York based writer, has been close to Chris Hondros since they covered Afghanistan together beginning in 2002. As he told me today, "Conflict is a meat grinder and it destroys people's lives. We've seen way, way too many people get killed or injured, but this is OUR part of the war. It makes me realize more and more what the local civilians go through and how they feel."

I agree. And not only them, but the many local journalists who work for foreign organizations – like NPR. War is a terrible, uncertain, lethal condition. There will be other Misratas and Fallujahs and Korengal Valleys. I think the legacy, the honor, is to remember the people who put faces and feelings and emotions in front of us from those places, and reflect that there have always been stories, songs, and images of war and disaster. Perhaps their details blend over time, but we would not have the details except for those brave enough to gather them.

Photojournalist Chris Hondros poses with a a former Liberian government soldier, at his home in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2005. Hondros' picture of Duo jumping into the air in exultation during a battle with rebel forces in 2003 was distributed around the world. Hondros was killed April 20 in Misrata, Libya. Getty Images hide caption

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Robertson is writing a book at home now, in New York. He's the father of a toddler. But he has certainly taken risks and is thinking of Chris Hondros today. They shared rides in Afghanistan and a terrifying open-air truck ride in Fallujah.

And he and Hondros shared another ride. "He drove my wife and me and our new baby home from the hospital the day after our daughter, Zaina, was born in 2009," he said. "We were together on the most terrifying and beautiful days I have ever known."

Jacki Lyden is a correspondent and host for NPR.