His words reveal an intensely committed photographer, one who has hopes of a broader purpose for his work: "One of the ongoing themes in my work... is a sense of shared humanity above the cultural layers we place on ourselves [which don't] mean that much compared to the human experience." But he also struggles with photojournalism's limitations, after repeated visits to Iraq, he writes: "Ten trips. And for what?"
He cares deeply about the suffering he witnesses, arguing passionately for intervention in Liberia in 2003, but every now and then takes a step back and wonders at the absurdity of his situation. "Why am I here?... Why am I hanging on the side of an Afghan mountain. I'm not in the Army; I didn't sign up for this. I should be back home, watching TV or canoodling in bed or having an espresso." Chris died tragically in his prime, but there's no sign that he in any way regretted his life's trajectory up until that point: "The satisfaction of photographing our era's most important issues far outweighs any discomfort, or even fear."
ABOVE: Joseph Duo, a Liberian militia commander loyal to the government, exults after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces at a key strategic bridge July 20, 2003 in Monrovia, Liberia.
"But if there's one thing I've learned doing war photography, it's never try to anticipate. There are much larger forces at play and we're just along for the ride."
ABOVE: Clockwise from top left: An Afghan man in Herat in 2010; Afghan schoolgirls in Herat in 2010; An Afghan man rides a donkey near the border with Turkmenistan in 2010; Men picnic on a traffic median in Herat in 2010.
"Great photography requires steadiness of hand and heart. Very often the window to take an important picture is only open for a fraction of a second. Waver or hestitate, even if the world is crashing down around you, and the moment will pass."
"At 6 p.m. in winter, Tal Afar isn't quite dark yet. That night, there was just a hint of dark-blue light from the sky. No one was out. As the platoon I was traveling with made its way down a broad boulevard, I could see in the distance a car driving toward us... Then came the sound of crying children from the car."
In an essay in "Testament," French journalist Régis Le Sommier recalls how a few weeks after this image was published, Hondros was invited to have lunch with Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's second-in-command. "[Wolfowitz] knew all too well how the picture could have an impact, but was eager to get a sense of who took it."
. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of troops loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi on April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah, Libya. Chris Hondros was killed in Libya six days after this image was made.
In "Testament," Hondros describes a night spent sleeping in the desert in Iraq: "The moon had set and it was ethereally dark and quiet, and I listened to Beethoven's cavatina as I stared up into a black sea sprinkled liberally with the lights of the cosmos. And I felt, for just a moment, that I almost understood why I was there and what it all meant."
"Testament" is published by Getty Images and Powerhouse Books. Getty Images' proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to The Chris Hondros Fund, which works to support and protect photojournalists.