The Dangerous Lives of Combat Photographers in Michael Mann’s “Witness”

Christiane Amanpour, Mary-Rose Abraham, David Miller & Mark Monroy
Around the World

The pictures are powerful. From the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy to a battle in the streets of Syria to the countless victims in the daily drug wars in Mexico. And behind every one of those images, there is a person putting his or her life on the line. Combat photographers are those who not only run into danger when everyone else is fleeing, but bear witness and document history.

Combat photography is nearly as old as the invention of the medium itself. Mathew Brady is credited as the father of photojournalism as he documented the American Civil War in the 1800s, following troops on the bloody battlefields of that conflict. Photography has helped define later wars as well, each with its own iconic image: a girl fleeing a napalm strike in Vietnam; the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Yet in bearing witness, combat photographers have oftentimes become the victims. French photojournalist Remi Ochlik was killed alongside reporter Marie Colvin after a rocket attack in Syria in February 2012. The ongoing conflict in that country has also claimed at least two Syrian documentary filmmakers who have died while filming the rebellion. And in April 2011, Tim Hetherington and fellow photographer Chris Hondros were killed by Libyan forces in a mortar attack in Misrata.

A new television series chronicles the journeys of young combat photographers in Mexico, Libya, Brazil and South Sudan. The documentary series "Witness" is airing on Mondays through November on HBO. Christiane speaks with the executive producer, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann.