I work part time at a job I love. I'd like to be working full time at this job I love, but meanwhile, I'm exercising patience and pursuing alternate productivity on my off days. Often I spend time watching short documentaries or looking at work from other photographers I admire. People who don't use Twitter ask why I use it — this is why. To be connected to other journalists, artists, and documentarians who make work I respect so that I can be inspired and grow.
Lots of times their work is weighty. Usually this is in content alone. But sometimes it extends beyond the content and becomes about the photographers themselves.
Last week, two of these men died in Libya — Tim Heatherington and Chris Hondros. I didn't know them personally, but Chris is a fellow North Carolinian and spoke at our photojournalism program while I was in school. I know others who know him. Maybe it's strange that their deaths resonated with me so much, but they did.
My job doesn't dictate that I cover situations like they did, but sometimes my boss' does. I touch the pain of war in other ways — sometimes 15 years after the fact, when the scars are still visible and children have truly nightmarish memories. Or I see war on the small scale — tribal conflicts that never make the news, but still rend families and communities. And I wonder if I'd ever have the guts to do what Tim and Chris did, or if I would choose that lifestyle.
It seems that war photographers (most notably James Nachtwey) are revered as the gods of the journalism world. Students watch documentaries about their work, see it published in TIME magazine double-page spreads, and try to drape their scarves in just the same careless, windswept, I-just-came-from-the-zone way. They're just so awesome.
And then something like this happens and I realize that I deeply respect the work that men like Nachtwey, Heatherington, Kratochvil, and Hondros do. The risk is so high and the price is so great to preserve the horrors of history, in hopes that they will never be repeated. Any flippant college desire to do work like they do deserves serious scrutiny in moments like this. I'm thankful for Chris' photographs and Tim's films. They expose the injustice and ugliness of conflict on both sides — "good" guys and "bad" guys alike. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
Further information about both men's work, life, and death here.