The new documentary, Hondros, opening this weekend, achieves many things: it’s a portrait of war photographer Chris Hondros, who was killed in Libya in 2011; it’s a tribute by an old friend, film director Greg Campbell; and it’s a cinematic, international journey through the ravaged lands that Hondros documented so well. But what I appreciate most about Campbell’s film is how he follows up with the subjects of Hondros work, the ones you and I may have seen for a moment online or in a newspaper. The film poses challenging and rewarding questions about the lives of those people “captured” by Hondros for our daily news consumption.
Below, a brief conversation with Greg Campbell about Hondros.
You grew up with Chris. What was your relationship like and what did you think of his career as a war photographer?
Chris and I met in high school at the age of 14. We quickly developed a close friendship that lasted for the next 27 years. One of the things we had in common was an innate curiosity about the world, which led us into journalism — me as a writer and Chris as a photographer. Although I obviously worried about his safety and his well-being in covering the things that he did, I know how seriously he took his role as a witness to the major events of our time and I am extremely proud of the work Chris did as a conflict photographer.
Please describe something you learned about Chris in making the film.
One of the things we wanted to highlight about Chris was the impact he had on people he met and photographed, with and without a camera in hand. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the degree to which Chris was beloved by so many around the world. One of the real joys of this project was in finding new people who knew him, many of whom have now become friends of my own.
How would you describe the impact of the iconic photograph of Joseph Duo? What were you hoping to achieve by putting him in your film?
The photo of Joseph Duo in the midst of battle in Monrovia in 2003 is so arresting because it captures an uncomfortable duality of war — it’s violent and chaotic, of course, but as the expression on his face shows, it can also be exhilarating. Chris managed to capture that paradoxical reality perfectly. Through Joseph’s interview, we learn that Chris was more than just a photographer in this instance — he wanted to know more about who he was as a person, and when he learned that Joseph wanted to continue his education, Chris stepped up and provided that opportunity. Through Joseph, we’re introduced to this other side of Chris’s character.
Your film covers some of the same territory as Which Way Is the Frontline From Here, about Tim Hetherington, who died with Hondros. How did you navigate that?
The last day of Chris’s and Tim’s lives was remarkably well-documented by at least four videographers, which provides a clear and detailed accounting of their movements in their final hours. Because they worked practically side by side that day and were both killed in the same strike, it was inevitable that our film concludes in the same location. But as filmmakers we also knew that we were telling a different story than the film about Tim’s life, so it was less about navigating through the footage than in keeping our eyes on the heart of our story.
Visit the the official website for more information and screenings in your area.