20 incredible photos from one of the most legendary war photographers of all time, who was killed on assignment during the Arab Spring

Nic Bothma/Courtesy of HONDROS FilmChris Hondros in action.
  • Photojournalist Chris Hondros was killed while photographing the conflict in Libya in 2011.
  • He was a renowned photojournalist who covered the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone, Egypt and elsewhere, believing it was his responsibility to bring the story of those impacted to the world.
  • His childhood friend and fellow journalist Greg Campbell was with Hondros during his final assignment, and directed a documentary tracing his life called HONDROS.

After 15 years covering major conflict zones, Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Chris Hondros was killed by a mortar shell on April 20, 2011 while travelling with rebels in Libya.

It was and still is an unmitigated tragedy.

Hondros’ photos from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Liberia, among other places, constitute one of the most affecting bodies of work in photojournalism.

His childhood friend, fellow journalist, and frequent story companion Greg Campbell had left Libya just a week before.

“He cared a lot about the people he shot,” Campbell told Business Insider. “He always brought the focus to the people impacted by the events he covered. He became well-known for being able to find the human thread through everything.”

In a war-zone for the first time in years, Campbell began filming Hondros at work to occupy his mind. After Hondros’s death, Campbell decided to collect that footage and to go back to many of the places Hondros photographed to trace his life and work. The documentary, called HONDROS, will be released in March.

Campbell spoke with Business Insider about his relationship with the legendary photographer and shared some of Hondros’ most iconic images.

Editor’s Note: Some of the images below show graphic scenes of blood and war.


Campbell and Hondros first met freshman year of high school. The two bonded instantly. “He had this unnatural confidence that you don’t see in kids that age … That self-assurance that he exuded became his trademark throughout his life,” Campbell said.

Greg Campbell/Courtesy of HONDROS FilmChris Hondros, photographed by Greg Campbell when the two were both covering Sierra Leone.

Campbell described Hondros as a person who “set his own rules” and had a “unique ability” to look at a goal, like becoming a foreign correspondent, and set out the building blocks to get there.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA U.S. Marine takes down a portrait of Saddam Hussein at a school in Al-Kut, Iraq just a month after the invasion began in March 2003. The team was looking for weapons and explosives caches.

“It’s empowering to have someone in your life like that.” he said. “He was always there to give you a shot in the arm.”

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA rebel rolls a burning tire into a room of loyalists in Libya in 2011.

Hondros’ first experience covering conflict was the Kosovo War in 1998. “He went out to that and never looked back,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA U.S. soldier with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division walks the streets during a dusk patrol on January 18, 2005, in Tal Afar, Iraq.

Hondros was particularly well-suited to war photography because of his “natural ability” to stay clear-headed in dangerous situations, identify risks, and still locate the story, Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmJournalists, U.S. troops and Iraqi police run for cover during a firefight with insurgents January 16, 2005 in Tal Afar, Iraq.

Hondros felt very strongly that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan needed to be covered extensively, believing they were “the most important story of our time,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmIn the orange fog of an Iraqi sandstorm US troops of the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division fire warning shots at three Iraqi men in a field who started running from their joint morning patrol with members of the Iraqi National Police on May 16, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq.

“It is the occupation of a country by US forces. People were dying because of the politics and policies put in place by the US,” Campbell said of Hondros’ rationale.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmSamar Hassan, 5, screams after her parents were killed by U.S. Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division in a shooting January 18, 2005 in Tal Afar, Iraq.

Hondros grew frustrated that as the wars dragged on, news organisations lost interest in coverage. “He felt people needed to be there for the American public to witness it. He took that responsibility very seriously,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmJust before this photo was taken in 2005, this Iraqi girl’s parents were killed by U.S. soldiers, who fired on their car when it approached them during a dusk patrol in Tal Afar. Hondros’ photos from this event have won dozens of international awards.

Campbell and Hondros frequently covered stories together, in particular travelling together to Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmU.S. Army soldiers shield their eyes from the powerful rotor of a Chinook helicopter that has come to pick them up from a mission in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

But Campbell eventually shied away from the front lines. Hondros never did. “I had never seen anything so horrible or been in such a bad conflict environment, but I had seen enough to know that I didn’t need to go any further,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA supporter of then-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak rides a camel through a clash between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square.

Hondros was always trying to get Campbell to join him on assignments. Campbell said he always found some excuse not to go.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) stands among hundreds of shell casings August 6, 2003 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Hondros became known for finding “humane moments” in the conflicts he photographed, with a particular focus on the children caught up in the wars he covered.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA small boy brandishes an assault rifle near the front lines August 3, 2003 in Monrovia, Liberia.

In 2011, Hondros asked Campbell to join him in reporting from Libya. “For some reason, I said I’d go. I had every reason not to go,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of troops loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi April 14, 2011 west of Ajdabiyah, Libya

“He was always pestering me to go along with him, and then I ended up acquiescing on what would be his last assignment,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmRebels carry a wounded soldier, who was shot while trying to take out loyalists who had been firing on them from the building behind.

The two reported on the conflict from Benghazi together. It was Campbell’s first time to the front lines in a long time. He coped by filming Hondros with a video camera.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA rebel fighter runs up a stairwell to take out loyalist troops who were holed up upstairs in Libya in 2011.

“I found quickly that I needed something to occupy my mind [on the front lines],” he said. When the conflict moved to Mizurata, a 20-hour boat ride away, Campbell decided to head home.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmRebel fighters in Libya move up stairs cautiously in 2011.

This photo was taken by Hondros on the day he died after being hit by a mortar shell. New York Times photographer Tim Hetherington also died in the attack.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmRebel fighters fire at government loyalist troops during street fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misurata April 20, 2011 in Misurata, Libya.

“It took me a nonstop year to come to terms with his death. What if I changed the calculus and told him not to go? There was a lot of second guessing. It all seems pointless to wonder about now,” Campbell said.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA Libyan rebel fighter covers a burning room containing ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya.

After Hondros’ death, Campbell began to retrace his career by going to places he had photographed. Campbell was contacted by this man, Joseph Duo, who told him that Hondros had returned to Liberia to help him graduate high school, college, and law school.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA Liberian militia commander loyal to the government celebrates after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces on a key strategic bridge in Monrovia.

As Campbell travelled to the former conflict zones, he said he found people “from every corner of the globe” who loved Hondros. Visiting the conflict zones allowed him to do what Hondros would have wanted, which was bring the focus in the documentary to the people affected by the events he photographed.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Courtesy of HONDROS FilmA young female soldier sits in a truck just prior to a rebel attack July 19, 2003 near front line positions just outside Monrovia, Liberia.

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