The LA Times’ James Rainey writes on the reaction of in the photojournalism community to the deaths this past week of two acclaimed and popular photographers, Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington.
Some photographers pulled back from their work. Others vowed they would stay in the game but change their personal rules of engagement. Many revisited their worst misgiving — that no matter how many times they risk their lives, much of the public can’t be bothered with misery in far-off places.
Photographer Ashley Gilbertson talks of an experience he had after an Iraqi woman was killed by insurgents and how it changed his perspective:
“Standing there at her funeral,” Gilbertson said, “I thought nothing is going to bring her back. It all just became too much. I felt like I wasn’t helping anymore. Readers didn’t seem to be engaging. I felt like I had to find a different way to do this.”
It’s kind of hard to imagine the drive and passion one must have for such work to willingly travel into some of the scariest places on earth. Many escape one close call after the next, but as recent events remind us, you can only tempt fate so many times.
As a recent Newsweek piece says:
Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, has plumbed the psyches of some 350 veteran combat journalists, finding that nearly a third suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, sparked in part, he believes, by the tension between being an actor and an observer, seeing suffering but not helping. Many are burdened with a sense of alienation, unable to explain to friends in the “straight world” what they’ve seen and why it keeps drawing them back. Some have lost all perspective on what they’ve experienced. War reporters are unique, Feinstein concludes in his 2006 book Journalists Under Fire, because for them alone, “war is the catalyst, not the nemesis, to their creativity.”