When photojournalist Chris Hondros was killed in Libya four years ago, he left behind a legacy of award-winning images that continue to inspire photographers today. “It’s the kind of work that so many of our generation of photographers would aspire to do,” says Kevin Frayer, a Canadian photojournalist. “He was prolific in his excellence.”
Today, Frayer has won the Getty Images and Chris Hondros Fund Award, which comes with a $20,000 to support his documentary work.
Established a few months after its namesake’s death, the Chris Hondros Fund is designed to help advance the work of photojournalists who embrace Hondros’ legacy and vision. Frayer, who is based in China, will use the grant to continue his long term work in Asia, he tells TIME.
“Right off the bat, I would have to say it was one of the most significant phone calls I’ve received in my career,” he says of learning he had won the grant. “To win this kind of award is absolutely humbling and [I feel] honored. I admired Chris Hondros’ work and his courage. He was, for me, the consummate photojournalist, somebody that worked with an intense dedication and told stories in such a wonderful compassionate way.”
Until 18 months ago, Frayer worked as a chief photographer for the Associated Press. Today, he’s a freelance contributor for Getty Images, which, he says, allows him to go more in-depth on the issues he’s covering. “I felt that the cycle of news I was working on wasn’t necessarily [allowing me] to tell the stories I wanted to tell,” he explains. “You go to the breaking news because that’s what you’re assigned to do, and as soon as the violence ends you leave that story and, maybe, never return.”
Now, his approach is more anthropological and dedicated. “You have to keep going,” he says. “In Afghanistan, for example, we couldn’t embed with the Taliban, so we continually embedded with the NATO forces, because it’s better to see something than nothing at all. If there’s a story, you have to do something to get it.”
Of course, the $20,000 grant comes with the pressure of living up to Hondros’ name. “It will inspire me to try to do strong work in the name of the award,” says Frayer. “My goal would be to take every cent and to put it towards something that I would hope Chris Hondros would be proud of.”
The Chris Hondros Fund also awarded photographer Diana Markosian, who received the organization’s first Emerging Award. The Armenian-American photographer will received a $5,000 grant.
“I met Chris as a graduate student at Columbia when he came to speak about his work,” says Markosian. “His talk [had] a real impact on me. I was a wannabe photographer. I had this dream to see the world, and I had no desire to do things the conventional way – graduate, stay in New York, work my way up the corporate ladder. Chris encouraged me to find my own way.”
Markosian, who says she is slowly finding her voice as a photographer, will use the grant money to continue her current projects. “I want to create work that is personal, that speaks to people on an intimate level, and creates a sort of experience,” she says.
Kevin Frayer is a freelance photographer represented by Getty Images.
Diana Markosian is a freelance photographer.