A new HBO documentary showcasing the life and career achievements of British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, airs on April 18. Two years ago, at age forty, Hetherington’s life came to an abrupt end in a mortar attack, while he was covering the civil war in Libya on April 20, 2011. Hetherington was known for braving the war zones of Afghanistan, among other areas of international conflict, giving a voice to soldiers who dedicate their lives to war. He has created an array of photographs that recount the Afghanistan War from the individual’s perspective.
Award-winning journalist Sebastian Junger is now releasing his own account of Hetherington, Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. “I think it is very easy in some ways for journalists to dehumanize other people, particularly people in third-world countries and war zones. I think it’s a self-protective mechanism because you don’t want to reconcile the suffering they’re going through,” Junger told Wired. “But Tim always refused to do that.” Hetherington was not a typical war photographer–exhibiting with fly-posters, mobile phone downloads and multi-screen installations–more concerned about effectively translating stories through his lens than with the technical side of photography.“I have no desire to be a kind of war firefighter flying from war zone to war zone,” said Hetherington in the film. “I have no … really I don’t really care about photography. I have no interest in photography per se. I’m interested in reaching people with ideas and engaging them with views of the world.”
Junger and Hetherington worked alongside each other in the Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, one of the areas exposed to some of the highest levels of combat during the war. This partnership resulted in the production of the book titled WAR and the Oscar-nominated documentary RESTREPO, both released in 2010. The documentary features three main highlights of Hetherington’s career as a war reporter in Liberia, West Africa and Afghanistan. Hetherington was one of two foreign journalists on the rebel lines during the Liberian Civil War, and once the war ended, he remained in West Africa for several years to continue reporting. Following Africa, Hetherington ventured to Afghanistan where he spent the majority of his time among U.S. troops. It was during this time that he shot one of his most famous photos–a lethargic soldier leaning against a wall with his eyes covered–that won the World Press Photo of the Year in 2007. In addition to the film, Junger started an organization called Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC). The mission of the program is to provide emergency medical training and risk assessment tools to freelance journalists covering stories in war zones.
Resource had the privilege to interview Tim Hetherington in our Fall 2010 issue.