The Harrowing Lives of War Photographers

War photographers routinely put themselves in grave danger to document the violence of war and conflict. This excellent video talks about the legacy of those photojournalists who have been injured or lost their lives and how others are using their skills to teach young people about photojournalism.

In this story for CBS Sunday Morning, Ted Koppel looks at the lives and legacies of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who were killed in 2011 by a mortar targeted at photojournalists. Koppel also takes time to speak with filmmaker Greg Campbell and journalist Sebastian Junger about what it's like in battle zones and with Mike Kamber, who helped create the Bronx Documentary Center. There, he helps teach children about photography and photojournalism. Junger went on to create RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues), a free program that teaches journalists first aid techniques that can be applied in the event that one of their peers is injured in the field. The video is well worth taking nine minutes to watch, and it's an excellent reminder that the images that help to show us what's happening in war zones are captured by humans who put their own lives on the lines to create them. 

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44 Comments

Tim Ericsson's picture

It’s refreshing to see people rightfully praise and respect the efforts of these photojournalists, rather than the current climate where some feel emboldened to demean the profession with knee-jerk accusations of “fake news.”

Saw this clip on tv and thought “I hope Fstoppers shares this.” And here it is! Thanks

Exactly. Nowadays it seems like most people think that you have to be on one side or the other, but a true journalist/photojournalist doesn't have sides, they just document.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Agreed. I think some people conflate the professional decision-making process with being biased. Photojournalists choose what events they document, decide what to include in the frame, and often curate the images to present to the public. But this isn't "choosing a side" or doctoring a photo. Big difference.

It's nuanced. And some people can't handle nuance well, lol

user-156929's picture

Great video! Thanks for sharing.

William Howell's picture

Interesting factoid, the oldest journalism school in America is only a little over one hundred years old. The Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. All you need to be a “journalist” is a camera or a blog or a printing press.
So one could see how journalism became a corrupt endeavor, mostly leaning left, in my opinion.

The first journalism school was established in France and is only nine years older than the American school (thanks Google!). What does the relatively recent phenomenon of such schools have to do with journalism becoming corrupt, let alone left-leaning? Seems to me that with the establishment of journalism schools practitioners were seeking to became more professional and less corrupt, n'est pas?

William Howell's picture

The corruption comes from the student being graded on a leftist curve, as most instructors are leftist at the collegiate level.

"...graded on a leftist curve.." - what does that even mean??

Carl Murray's picture

I've heard this rhetoric so many times, and it is ALWAYS from baby boomers... often drop outs who never went to uni, and are maybe just a little jealous they're not very well educated?

Tim Ericsson's picture

This is a non-sequitur: the professionalization of journalism at the turn of the 20th century through degree programs in higher education proves that you need more than a camera and a blog to be considered a journalist.

The age of the institutions is irrelevant. The first professional cooking schools appeared in America around the same time, and you still need more than a frying pan and a spatula to be considered a chef.

Rob Davis's picture

William, you'd be so much happier bathing in the cascade of confirmation bias in the Fox News comments section. It's okay. We'll be just fine. I hate to see you suffer here. If you hurry you can still be join the men's chorus in time for the holiday "Lock Up Killary" performance. Go my friend. Be free.

William Howell's picture

Fox News don’t do comments. I come here for the amazing photography, of which you haven’t any, and for the entertaining articles. (Sniff)

Rob Davis's picture

Might I suggest talking about the actual articles then and not veering off into tired political cliche?

William Howell's picture

And may I suggest, Rob, you post some photography.
I know I’m a wanna be, but I still post some of my work.

Rob Davis's picture

I like to have discussions about subjects without them permanently archived (and searchable) for the rest of my life. It's not worth it. Some people might decide whether or not my opinions are worth listening to depending on the contents of my portfolio and that's okay. If it really matters to them, I'm sure they can infer what they need to based on the content of my comments. Anonymity is worth more than promotional value.

William Howell's picture

Well, ten or so photographs isn’t going to that exposing or revealing, right?

Tim Ericsson's picture

Careful; William is deflecting because he knows you have a valid point that he can't answer. That's why he wants to make it about you rather than him. He's done it before.

It's also why he's ignored my points: he's scared and he gets sloppy.

Color Thief's picture

Here's a question (that I don't have an answer to): when you romanticize war photographers, do you romanticize war?

Mihir Shah's picture

I don't think so. War photographers are usually there to portray the reality that IS happening. I personally feel wars have never brought in peace or achieved the objective it was started for; but we need to tell stories of such war photogs to ensure that people don't take news they get as granted or more importantly value news brought by these fellows rather than arm chair social keyboard warriors.

user-156929's picture

I thought the video was more about lauding their courage and sacrifices, not romanticizing their lives.

Color Thief's picture

Isn't lauding courage and sacrifices exactly what we do when we romanticize?

user-156929's picture

I suppose it could be. I guess I was thinking more of a scenario where they're sipping cognac from a crystal tumbler in between taking photos wearing a jaunty smile. And then sharing a romantic interlude with a beautiful correspondent from the BBC before riding off in their turbo charged Land Rover.
Too much James Bond? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Since none of the photographers kill anyone and most of their footage is seriously upsetting and harrowing, hardly love.

Color Thief's picture

Don't call me 'love', that's seriously patronizing. I don't think you understand the question. To romanticize the job of war photographer doesn't require them to kill anyone or for their footage to be non-upsetting. What I am asking is this: if we characterize the job of war photographer as something heroic, is that just one more way of making war seem glorious rather than a disaster? This could be the case even if the photographs themselves show the true nature of war.

Rob Davis's picture

There's nothing a war photographer is going to distribute into society that could compete, especially here in the United States, with the constant barrage of military worship we're exposed to from our government, commercials and TV media. Try to go one day watching the news watching a soldier return home from service surprising a child who hasn't seen their parent in months to oohs and awws and never do they question, "Is this worth it?"

Color Thief's picture

I am not suggesting that photographers are romanticizing war (even if their work has often been used as propaganda). I am just wondering if romanticizing the job of war photographer is just one more embodiment of of what you are calling military worship.

Rob Davis's picture

If anything I think it has the opposite effect. These wars would happen anyways. This is an antidote to propaganda.

Some great documentaries about some of the guys mentioned in this video (both of whom were killed on the job):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK-ATX2k9YI

(Available on HBO also)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7VSRQtBecc

(Available on Netflix)

Another excellent one that can be seen for free is this one:

https://archive.org/details/wphoto

The story surrounding the Kevin Carter vulture image is another good case study. He later took his own life after having seen what he saw.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/watch/the-vulture-in-the-fram...

Rob Davis's picture

Another case study is how the reporting from Vietnam helped spur the anti-war movement in the 1960's. It was often called "the first televised war" and people were shocked because it was the first time they saw war uncensored like that vs. the heavily propagandized newsreel footage they'd seen during WWII.

"By seeing the war on television, the anti-war advocates argued that the war was unnecessary, and hundreds of thousands of “American boys” were not dying for a noble cause."

https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2018/01/25/vietnam-the-first-televis...

Mihir Shah's picture

Salute to every photographer, journalist who braves these conditions to bring the true story to us. Wish we all have 1/10th of their bravery to fight fake and disrupting stories in our own societies.

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