Hetherington will long be remembered as a consummate war photographer and humanitarian. He trained his lens less on the drama of battle than on the terror and psychological assault that defines the war zone. Among the work on his website are portfolios of the civil war in Liberia, of war graffiti, and perhaps most subtle and affecting, a portrait series of US soldiers asleep in their outpost camp on the front lines of the Afghan war. In their faces and postures, Hetherington recorded the trauma many of these men are sure to carry long after their wartime service ends.
In Darfur Bleeds, a brief film made by Hetherington for Human Rights Watch, the humanitarian concerns that motivated his work are fully on display. The film documents the destruction of a village in Chad, ostensibly demonstrating how the war had spilled over the border from Darfur. But Hetherington refuses to turn the event into an abstraction, and pays moving tribute to the individuals who perished in the attack.
I had the good fortune to meet Hetherington this past July, when he was at the New York State Museum screening Restrepo, the documentary he made with author Sebastian Junger about American soldiers in the Korengal Valley of East Afghanistan. I had more than a general interest in the film. At the time, I was preparing the photo exhibition Battlesight , and knew the work of one of the photographers in the show, Balazs Gardi, depicted the same part of Afghanistan where the film was made. Indeed, as I discovered, Balazs's photographs were of the identical Army unit and villages in Korengal, even of the same four-day battle seen in the movie. It was remarkable; more than one combat scene in Restrepo was also documented in Balazs's powerful stills, and Balazs is among those acknowledged by Junger and Hetherington in the end credits.
Hetherington and I arranged to do a telephone interview a few days later, when he was back home in New York. He was called away before the interview was completed, so it went unpublished. I looked at it again today, and feel now as I did then, that I was speaking to an exceptional and courageous artist and man. In Hetherington's memory, I offer excerpts of that conversation now. It begins with my question about a scene from the film.
|Tim Hetherington at the New York|
State Museum, July 2010