Among the photos readers of PDNOnline voted as among the most influential photos of the decade was this series taken in 2005 by Chris Hondros as he accompanied a US battalion in Iraq. Below, Hondros shares the story of what happened after the images were published around the world, and the fate of the boy injured in the incident.
TAL AFAR, IRAQ – JANUARY 18, 2005: US Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division out of Ft. Lewis, Washington approach a car while a wounded boy tumbles out after shooting it when it failed to stop and came toward soldiers despite warning shots during a dusk patrol in Tal Afar, Iraq. The car, which held a frightened Iraqi family, was riddled with bullets and the mother and father were killed. Their five children survived in the backseat, one with a non-life threatening flesh wound.
A terrified Iraqi girl screams after her parents were killed.
Iraqi children cry after their parents were killed.
A terrified Iraqi girl screams while a soldier checks her for wounds after her parents were killed.
Five years later, Hondros says he’s received emails and letters about the images from people around the world, but his feelings about the photos are “mixed.”
“I think some well-meaning people imbued the pictures with expectations they couldn’t possibly live up to, like ending the war in Iraq or even being of much help to the orphans themselves. Yes, the family’s oldest boy, 12-year-old Racan, was seriously wounded in the incident and was indeed flown to the United States for medical treatment as a result of the outcry these pictures prompted. But then he was returned back to Iraq at his family’s behest, and a few years later, tragically, he ended up getting murdered by insurgents in his new home. We don’t know if the attack was tied to the high-profile incident and to his receiving medical care in America. But I suspect that it was.
“When I give talks or lectures people often ask me my personal feelings about war, usually I dodge the question. Sometimes I say that I don’t expect my pictures to stop wars, but rather I hope they help citizens to understand what going to war means. On that level at least I think the Tal Afar pictures fulfill my goals as a photographer; for they shine a rare and unsparing light onto war’s brutal-yet-routine realities. And people should know about them.