A War Photographer's View of Iraq Chris Hondros has done nine tours in Iraq as a photographer. He talks about memorable images, including that of a little girl — splattered with her dead parents's blood — crouched in darkness near a U.S. soldier.
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A War Photographer's View of Iraq

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A War Photographer's View of Iraq

A War Photographer's View of Iraq

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One night in Iraq led to a searing image of war from photographer Chris Hondros. He was on patrol with U.S. troops when a car approached. Soldiers fired warning shots. The car ignored those warnings. More warning shots, then a quick volley of bullets stopped the car. A soldier shouted, civilians. And before turning to the rest of the story, I want to welcome Chris Hondros of Getty Images to our program. Hello, good morning.

CHRIS HONDROS: Hello, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What happened next?

HONDROS: But they were all covered in blood and so they weren't sure who had been injured and who not. So they brought them over to the sidewalk, and it's one image of a little girl terrified standing next to a soldier that has been most widely distributed of that series.

MONTAGNE: There are photographs of wounded children, and sadly you see them all the time now. But have you figured out what made this one stand out?

HONDROS: 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.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, you know, I think that actually is it. Almost like she's in the middle of nowhere.

HONDROS: And, you know, and people ask me some time, like was anybody trying to comfort the girl or something like that. And these kinds of situations are not like the movies where somebody is shot and then it's 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.

MONTAGNE: You've been writing a blog with some of your more recent photos. There's one I'm looking at right now and you title it "A Drive Through Baghdad." Every photograph that goes along with this particular blog entry, what do they have in common?

HONDROS: People shopping, people chatting. I think I had a man and a woman, at least it looked like they were flirting a little bit. Now, I didn't actually - when I'm driving through Baghdad with our own drivers, when I'm not embedded, you know, we don't go through Humvees or anything. But I also don't have any real photos of that because that would be quite dangerous. So we illustrated the blog entry about me driving around in Baghdad with our drivers with some of these photos of driving through the Humvee windows.

MONTAGNE: And then what's interesting about your blog entry is it's completely mundane. You're talking to your driver, and you call him Wadeen(ph).

HONDROS: Yeah. I think it's important at this point, four years into the war now, that people understand that there is a sort of mundaneness about Iraq. You know, there's a vision sometimes of Baghdad being a 24-hour-a-day, every- square-inch war zone. Wadeen Haree(ph), you know, had bad eyesight and he'd saved up some money to get laser eye surgery and he was telling me all about it. And that's the kind of thing that you talk to with Iraqis. You know, and I tried to emphasize that in my blog.

MONTAGNE: But I mean I'm reading it, you're responding in the same way while you're talking to him, laser eye surgery? You did a double take.

HONDROS: I did. I wasn't thinking you could get that in Baghdad. But he'd saved up his money to fly to Jordan and have it done there.

MONTAGNE: Let me ask you if you would read a little from your blog entry. And it begins with two of the children were stabilized.

HONDROS: Two of the children were stabilized. The oldest, a girl of 10, was soon positively Churchillian in her stoicism. Replacing her tears with wide- eyed wonder and only letting out a yelp when confronted with a needle for her IV. But the youngest, a boy of only a year old, would not stop crying. Eventually, the mother crawled on the gurney with him and he calmed some.

MONTAGNE: And that was in Baghdad's main military surgical hospital.

HONDROS: I also thought it was interesting because, you know, we're so used to Iraqi women in this sort of covered and fairly demure ways. But, you know, this kind of shows a little bit of their reality. She wasn't worried if had her hair covered and she was running around telling the doctors what to do practically. You know, so we don't see that enough sometimes in our journalism because it's so hard to access certain areas of their lives.

MONTAGNE: Your pictures - a woman holding up a finger, she's obviously just voted, empty boots at a forward operating base.


MONTAGNE: Is there a picture that you keep on your wall from Iraq?

HONDROS: You know, so I think you need a little bit of distance away from some of these events. History will probably decide which pictures from Iraq endure on that level. I'll be curious to see which ones they are.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us and sharing this with us.

HONDROS: My pleasure, Renee. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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