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On the Media: War photographers change their focus

The deaths in Libya of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros hit home with their fellow photojournalists.

April 23, 2011|James Rainey

The deaths of Hondros and Hetherington so profoundly troubled Carolyn Cole, the Los Angeles Times' stalwart chronicler of danger zones, that she left an assignment and returned home to New York.

Cole recalled that it was Hondros who helped her find her way to the front line in Liberia in 2003. She would win a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for her pictures of the civil war. Hondros would be a runner-up for spot news. More importantly, they helped bring world attention to an ugly conflict that had gotten little notice in the West. The two worked together many times after that.

Even before the deaths, Cole had begun to recalibrate. She doesn't plan to be at the point of the attack, as she has many times over the last dozen years. She will not embed with military units anymore, she said, because "you are taking the position that would otherwise be a soldier carrying a gun, so you are endangering the soldiers around you."

She has no plan to step away from the trouble zones entirely. Speaking for many of her colleagues, she said: "There are still important stories to be told of the human toll inflicted by war."

Still, choices have to be made. Carol Guzy, the four-time Pulitzer Prize winner (most recently this week) who works for the Washington Post, "crashed and burned" after many years in disaster zones. She then spent nearly a decade avoiding those stories while she worked on other things and got her life in order before returning to Haiti last year to cover the earthquake.

In the old days, Guzy's personal life always came second to her work. But now her mother has end-stage Alzheimer's disease. She doesn't plan to venture far from home soon.

"There is always another story," Guzy said, "but I only have one mother."

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