Remembering Tim Hetherington
By Lili Hamlyn
Tim Hetherington was a British photojournalist and documentary filmmaker who was tragically killed in Libya in 2011 while covering the Libyan civil war. Tim is perhaps best known for the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, co-directed with Sebastian Junger, which chronicles a year with a U.S. platoon in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. Tim also worked as a photographer on 3 Generations’ co-produced The Devil Came on Horseback. His body of work includes numerous photographic projects and magazine photo essays, as well as art installations, multimedia exhibitions and short films which included Diary (2010), a ‘highly personal and experimental film’ shown below:
Hetherington was an alumnus of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, which is where I studied for my undergraduate degree in English Literature. As an admirer of his work, I felt deeply moved by his untimely death. This eventually led me, along with fellow student Sara Edwards, to co-found the Tim Hetherington Society, an Oxford University-based documentary film and photography/photojournalism society, in his honor.
By running this society I not only became more closely acquainted with Tim’s remarkable body of work but was also able to meet those who personally knew him: his friends from Oxford, his photojournalism professor Daniel Meadows, his colleagues James Brabazon and Platon and his wonderful mother Judith.
Tim did not approach photojournalism with cool detachment or any misguided belief that he could be an invisible objective observer. Instead, he engaged with his photographic subjects on a personal level, and preferred to be called an ‘image maker’ rather than a photographer.
In Sebastian Junger’s brilliant documentary on Tim’s life, Which Way Is The Front Line From Here?, we are repeatedly presented with Tim engaging in a chatty rapport with the people he’s photographing. In the film Tim states, “I want to connect with real people, to document them in real circumstances, where there aren’t any neat solutions.”
This is perhaps a perfect summation of his work and philosophy: It’s not didactic, and instead seeks humanity even in the most extreme of circumstances. Personally, I feel rather honored to have had the opportunity to connect with Tim’s impressive body of work and, through the stories of those who knew him, been able to gain some insight into this extraordinary man.