Often described as a conflict photographer, Tim Hetherington’s mission was more complicated. “Trying to understand my own fascination with conflict and war has become something that’s started to focus on what it means to be a man. What is it about war that really draws men?”
After graduating from Cardiff University in 1997 with a degree in photojournalism, Hetherington experimented with multimedia, persistently rehearsing his pioneering approach in privately circulated multimedia pieces that ultimately culminated in his Academy nomination for the documentary Restrepo in 2010. Later in 2010, he self-published Diary, a manifesto of documentary narrative in a new form that broke the conventions of linear storytelling.
For Hetherington, it was never enough to simply witness events, he had to experience the lives of his subjects. He spent nearly eight years working in West Africa and lived through the second Liberian civil war with unprecedented access to the rebel forces. It was this insight and passion that subsequently qualified him to work with the United Nations Security Council as an investigator for the Liberia Sanctions Committee.
In 2007, he accepted an assignment from Vanity Fair to work with writer Sebastian Junger to document the American campaign in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. The assignment extended into a two-year study that resulted in an astonishing array of work that included traditional journalistic coverage of the Afghan war and a profound study of fighting men in the multi-screen multimedia project Sleeping Soldiers, a fly-poster exhibition, the book Infidel and the feature documentary Restrepo.
Hetherington was as well known in television and film circles as he was in print with an Oscar nomination, two Emmy’s, the World Press Photo premiere award and an eclectic client list that included ABC TV, Vanity Fair and Human Rights Watch.
Tim Hetherington died in 2011 aged 40, while covering the Libyan civil war.