More sad news can be added to the list of tragic events occurring on April 20th as Thompson on Hollywood reports that British photojournalist Tim Hetherington has been killed while reporting in Libya. He is most well-known among film fans for co-directing the 2010 gritty war documentary Restrepo, which takes place at one of the most dangerous U.S. military posts. Hetherington was covering fighting in Misrata between Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and Libyan rebels when he and three other journalists were caught in a mortar attack. Hetherington is the only member of the group to have been killed while the others sustained injuries. He was 41.
Behind the camera during the filming of Restrepo, Hetherington often put himself in harms way as he followed soldiers unarmed through the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The guerrilla filmmaking style that Hetherington and his co-director Sebastian Junger employed can be described as heart-pounding as it puts the viewer in the middle of tension-filled, high stakes situations. Their endless pursuit of truth was harrowing and refreshing and made for one of the best war documentaries I have ever seen.
On top of Restrepo, Hetherington also did the cinematography for The Devil Came on Horseback, a documentary that exposes the genocide in Darfur. His photojournalism was featured in Vanity Fair and numerous other publications and in 2007 he won the World Press Photo contest for an image of a soldier covering his face in the Korengal Valley (seen below). It is a beautiful image that captures an honest expression of a human emotion that even the most trained actors could not produce. The soldier pictured displays horror, shock, exhaustion, and relief with one gestured and Hetherington beautifully captures the image in a camouflage environment.
In 2010, Hetherington produced a short film called Diary, a beautiful audio and visual experiment that links common Western imagery with sights and sounds that the media presents daily. He described it as an attempt to “locate [himself] after ten years of war reporting. The entire 18-minute short film can be viewed on Vimeo or seen below.
Fewer than 24 hours ago Tim Hetherington posted this Tweet:
In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.
It is striking to me that through the power of social media the entire world can be aware of a man’s thoughts mere hours before his death. Even more striking to me is how senseless and tragic Tim Hetherington’s death is. This was a man who attempted to photograph real war so that everyone in the world could be exposed to its ugliness. Few have gotten as up close and personal as Hetherington and his death underscores the desperate need for peace. Let not his death be in vain.