Tim Hetherington 1970-2011

As most readers will already know by now, Tim Hetherington, the war reporter, photographer and filmmaker was killed on Wednesday 20 April 2011 in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Misrata, Libya, alongside another photojournalist Chris Hondros. The news has clearly shocked and deeply saddened the photojournalism community, but also many people far beyond the confines of that world. Bryan has written a post which provides an interesting account of how the news spread very rapidly through Facebook and Twitter and was then held back by some out of respect for the families of the deceased men, until it finally became official. I am not really involved in the world of photo-journalism or reportage, but I had been following Hetherington’s work for some time and saw his excellent documentary Restrepo only a few weeks ago. My impression was that he was a truly unique figure in his field who seemed to be aware not only of the many potential ethical pitfalls of his profession, but also of the need to break with a burdensome past to try and find genuinely new ways of telling stories. He considered himself an “image-maker” rather than a photographer and seemed to be constantly interested in trying new approaches to getting a message across. It also appears from the many tributes that have emerged in the past few hours that he was a profoundly compassionate man who managed to remain sensitive to the suffering that is caused by the violence about which he made his images. To understand what made Hetherington such a unique figure in his field, I recommend watching the last film, Diary (2010), that the uploaded to his Vimeo account. A “highly personal and experimental film” it shows how deeply and carefully he thought about his profession and its implications for his own life, and illustrates why so many people have recognised that his loss is a tragedy not only for his family and friends, but for anyone interested in hearing those stories that can be so hard to tell.

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