“I think the whole process of the book was emotional for each of us in different ways; it helped ground us and connect us with Chris,” said Piaia, who edited the book along with Hondros’ long-time photo editors at Getty Images, Pancho Bernasconi and Alexandra Ciric. “It was frustrating because it was upsetting and then we thought, “We don’t really know what he’d want,” and then we came up with this organic way of grouping it.”
The sections have no chapter titles, and are only numbered, but they follow a train of thought that has accompanied Hondros’ past projects, including the Sound and Vision shows he used to put on. At those events live classical music and opera would play against a backdrop of his photos from war.
“Daily routines, life, conflict, aftermath, and that’s how we grouped them,” Piaia said. “And then we just realized it was in four movements, we were thinking musically, and I think they mirror in a way the movements in a symphony.”
Music accompanied Hondros on every assignment. “I’m looking for music that best conveys the tragedy of Iraq,” he wrote on June 20, 2005 in Iraq. “Once I thought the answer self-evident: the compositions of Gustav Mahler. Mahler’s symphonies, with their grim marches and bombastic brass, might reflect Iraq’s epic chaos…. But now I think there isn’t really much Mahler in Iraq. This war is too ambiguous for Mahler.”
Throughout his work in photojournalism and now in the book are portraits of children he photographed in Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq and Nigeria. One of Piaia’s favorites is of a Kurdish schoolgirl wearing a deep blue dress walking to her home in Cizre, Turkey.
“Her age, in her eyes and in her face she looks so old, and she was probably 7 or 8 years old, but it was also hopeful in a way,” Piaia says. “We included a lot of his portraits of kids. I knew they were very important for Chris and I knew they were something he spent a lot of time on his trips doing.”