Tragically, photojournalist, Tim Hetherington, was killed by shrapnel , whilst covering the Libyan Civil War, on 20th April 2011. His photographs rightfully received many accolades, bringing many conflict zones to the public’s attention.
Whilst in Afghanistan, Hetherington captured many ‘behind the scenes’ images of young American soldiers dealing with the strains and stresses of war. His image of an exhausted soldier resting in Restrepo bunker won the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year.
Due to its size, portability and Internet capability, Tim Hetherington used his iPhone to capture many of his images. His phone enabled him to capture very close and personal photographs of soldiers in the midst of war. They were taken at a similar angle and height as the many photographs others take on their smartphones. Since many people would view his images on their phones, they find a connection to the subjects.
Subsequently, Hetherington’s Afghanistan photographs show the vulnerable, human side of the soldier. His project is a contrast to the fast paced action shots commonly accompanying news segments or in the movies. Consisting of a mixture of portraiture and snapshots of everyday activities, such as sleeping and eating, Hetherington has collated a ‘family album’ of the 2nd Battalion Airborne. The viewer is even able to see the soldiers’ tattoos and scars. We even know the names of those being photographed.
In 2010, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger directed a documentary film about Restrepo. The film consists of footage from their year with the soldiers, on assignment with Vanity Fair. It is clear from the connection created between the subject and the viewer, that Hetherington had dedicated a long time with the platoon.
The unguarded, up-close-and-personal view of life on the battlefield, is credit to how Hetherington has managed to gain the trust of his subjects. For a photojournalist’s images to be believed, they need to appear realistic and not cliched. Hetherington has achieved that. His photographs remind me of those of the citizen photojournalists who post images of atrocities as they occur on their camera phones.
Unfortunately, Hetherington has paid the ultimate price for getting so close to the action, with his life.