April 11th, 2013

New Movie Explores Life and Work of Tim Hetherington Through His Family and Friends

There’s a long moment of dread near the beginning of Sebastian Junger’s new film about the life and death of Tim Hetherington. A video camera pans around a car full of journalists covering the uprising in Libya in April 2011. Hetherington and Chris Hondros are among them. As the car sets off through war-ravaged streets, Hetherington can be overheard asking, “Which way is the front line from here?”

That scene foreshadows the tragic ending of the film. Hetherington and Hondros died that day in Misrata when the rebels they were with came under mortar attack. Junger unspools those final moments with a deliberate and dramatic recounting by other photographers who were at the scene.

The film–Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington–will have its broadcast premiere on April 18 on HBO, which funded the production. The film is both biography and homage, depicting Hetherington as an exceptional photographer and humanitarian, as well as as a warm, funny, generous man. It is also rich with insight about what really matters in photography, and more importantly, life, though the lessons came for Junger–and viewers–at a high cost.

A master story teller to start with, journalist and director Junger could not have had a more sympathetic subject.  He also had an unusually rich trove of material to work with: interviews–many of them quite raw emotionally– with so many people who were close to Hetherington, his remarkable photography archive, and plenty of existing video footage.

Much of that was behind-the-scenes footage from Restrepo, the Oscar-winning documentary about a platoon of American soldiers in Afghanistan that Junger and Hetherington made together. But Junger also had plenty of other footage to draw from, most notably that of Hetherington covering the war in Liberia during the 1990s. It was shot by James Brabazon, whom Hetherington worked with at the time.

Junger, an adventure writer and best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, is fascinated by the courage of men who risk their lives with adrenaline-infused feats of derring-do. And Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? is, on one level, a celebration of courage. War is risky. It’s dramatic, and it pulls in audiences. (And Junger explains in the film that he took Hetherington on to help shoot Restrepo partly because of the courage Hetherington had demonstrated in Liberia.)

But Junger is interested in courage in the service of  some higher purpose, and Hetherington certainly had that.  From the start of his career he was interested in the physical and psychological toll that war takes on individual people. Moreover, he always went in search of hope, not just suffering.

As photojournalist Chris Anderson and others interviewed in the film point out, Hetherington’s work was not primarily about war, but about human nature.

Hetherington says in one of the film’s clips that moral outrage motivated him but wasn’t a useful tool to get people to engage with the stories he told. “I think we need to build bridges to people,” he said. Within Junger’s film is a tutorial on how Hetherington went about it.

In one clip he says he doesn’t care about photography “per se;” for him it was a means to an end, which was to connect with people. That informed his approach, too.  Hetherington shot medium format in order to get the camera away from his face, so he could engage directly with his subjects. Those interviewed for the film–including his parents, colleagues, and friends–talk about Hetherington’s warmth and humor toward everyone he met.

And Junger shows it, with numerous clips of Hetherington interacting with all types kinds of subjects, from children to warriors.

Much of Hetherington’s work is about what happens to soldiers who fall under the spell of war. Restrepo, for instance, explores the bonding and self-sacrifice of soldiers in close quarters, trying to help one another survive. One of Hetherington’s central questions, Brabazon points out in the film, is: How do young men see themselves in war, and why? The question infused Hetherington’s work from Liberia to Afghanistan.

Junger’s film suggests that Hetherington ultimately fell under the spell of war himself, and that was his undoing. By various accounts, he was ready by 2010 to quit photographing in and around war. He’d had close calls in Afghanistan. He also feared ending up alone, without a wife and family, if he kept running off to cover stories in conflict zones.

But Hetherington was having difficulty flipping between the realities of his personal life and his work life. And Junger points out that winning the Oscar award for Restrepo was both intoxicating and alarming for Hetherington, presumably because it so strongly affirmed the career path he was trying to escape.

When Libya exploded, Hetherington saw photojournalists–his own band of brothers–running to cover the action. He couldn’t resist the urge to join them. His father, who is interviewed extensively in the film, warned him not to go. So did Chris Anderson, who says in the film that he told Hetherington:  “This is not your story right now.” And it wasn’t. The point of Hetherington’s work had never been to document fighting.

Junger’s new film portrays Hetherington as a a rare talent and inspiration, but in so doing it also raises despair, and an imprecation: If only Hetherington had glanced at Libya, and heeded the internal voice that was telling him it was time to leave conflict journalism behind…

Related:
Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya
Chris Hondros Dies in Libya

February 11th, 2013

Guy Martin, CJ Chivers Give Testimony in Inquest Into Tim Hetherington’s Death

The Coroner’s Court in Westminster, UK, carrying out an inquest into the death of photographer Tim Hetherington concluded that his death was “unlawful,” The Independent reports.  The photojournalist and documentary-film maker died April 20, 2011 in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya, where he was covering fighting between forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and rebel fighters. Photojournalist Chris Hondros was also killed in the attack.

The court heard a written statement from Istanbul-based photographer Guy Martin, one of two photographers who were wounded by shrapnel in the same incident. Testimony was also provided by New York Times journalist CJ Chivers, who toured the scene of the attack later, and concluded the mortars which had struck the building in which the photographers were killed had been fired by Qaddafi loyalists. In giving her verdict of “unlawful killing,” deputy Westminster coroner Dr. Shirley Radcliffe said of Hetherington, “He was not a soldier, he was an innocent photographer.” It’s unclear if the ruling means Hetherington and the other civilians had been targeted by Qaddafi loyalists.

Martin’s written statement, in which he described the “catastrophic” violence the band of photographers had witnessed that morning, as well as his last glimpse of Hondros, makes chilling reading for anyone who knew the two slain photographers.

Martin stated, The Independant reports, that after seeing “hand-to-hand fighting” and “incoming mortar fire coming from miles away, “ the photographers returned to their base and discussed what to do next. According to Martin, Hetherington argued that they should continue to follow rebel fighters. Martin said that shortly after he was struck, he lost consciousness, and only learned of the deaths of his colleagues a week later, when he was trying to flee Libya.

In her verdict, Radcliffe also said the cause of Hetherington’s death was  “massive hemorrhage.”

After Hetherington’s death, his friend and collaborator, writer Sebastian Junger, said Hetherington could have survived his injuries if someone on the ground had administered basic lifesaving techniques. Junger has established Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) to provide free first-aid training to journalists covering war zones.

Outside the court after yesterday’s inquest, Judith Hetherington, the photographer’s mother, broke down in tears while speaking to reporters. “”He was a wonderful humanitarian,” she said.

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Sebastian Junger’s Tim Hetherington Doc to Premiere At Sundance

December 6th, 2012

Sebastian Junger’s Tim Hetherington Doc to Premiere at Sundance

© Tim Hetherington (center), courtesy Sundance Film Festival.

“Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington,” Sebastian Junger’s documentary about the life and work of his friend and colleague, the award-winning photographer, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January in Park City, Utah.

Hetherington was killed in a rocket attack in Libya in April 2011 while covering the uprising there.

When the premier was announced earlier this week, Sundance Film Festival programming director Trevor Goth told CBS News: “For me, it just adds another layer to the human cost of what that these guys are trying to expose. I think it’s going to be a very emotional moment at the festival.”

When the project was announced last year as a joint production of HBO and Nick Quested’s Goldcrest Films (Quested also produced Junger and Hetherington’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo”), Quested told RealScreen that the film would be based on a wealth of existing material, including interviews with Hetherington and footage of him working. “Tim was one of the most well-documented people you could possibly imagine,” Quested said.

According to Goldcrest Films, after the documentary premieres at Sundance, it will air on HBO.

April 20th, 2012

Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros: Remembering Them As They Lived

© chrishondrosfund.org

Anniversaries like today are difficult, in part because they remind us how the people we mourn died, not how they lived.

To bring some good out of tragedy, the families and loved ones of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who died a year ago today in Misrata, Libya, asked that gifts in their memories be made to charities and funds that continue the work to which they gave so much of their energy and time. These memorials have already resulted in scholarships and other good works that continue their legacies and remind us of the commitment that inspired their careers.

 

© timhetherington.org

After his death, the family of Tim Hetherington selected three charities that he supported:

Human Rights Watch, the independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights; Hetherington was documenting the humanitarian crisis in Libya for Human Rights at the time of his death: hrw.org

Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone,
a school where Hetherington photographed and worked with students (and set up a pen-pal exchange) who had been intentionally blinded by the Revolutionary United Force: www.miltonmargaischool.org

Committee to Protect Journalists,the non-profit organization which since 1981 has promoted press freedom around the world by protecting and defending journalists from fear of reprisal: cpj.org

In addition, Hetherington’s parents, Judith and Alistair Hetherington, are now setting up a non-profit foundation in the UK and US “to help students, artists and those in need here and in the developing world, so that his commitment to highlighting the truth and humanitarianism will continue.” Information is available on timhetherington.org.

Hondros’s fiancée, Christine Piaia, and his friends and colleagues at Getty Images set up The Chris Hondros Fund to support aspiring photographers and raise public awareness about the contributions of photojournalists: www.chrishondrosfund.org.

The first of the Chris Hondros scholarships was given last fall at the Eddie Adams Workshop (which Hondros had attended) to photographer Enrico Fabian. At the same ceremony,  the Tim Hetherington Memorial Award was given to photographer Dominic Bracco II.

The first Tim Hetherington Grant, administered by Human Rights Watch and World Press Photo, was awarded last year to Stephen Ferry to support his long-term documentary project on the effects of the guerilla war in Colombia.

In more recent news, the first session of the Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), a free first-aid course for journalists covering conflict, began in New York City this week.  The program was started by Hetherington’s friend and frequent collaborator, writer Sebastian Junger. Supported with donations from ABC News, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast, Getty Images and the Chris Hondros Fund, RISC training programs will also be held in London and Beirut. (Information can be found at  risctraining.org/)

The goal of the program is to train more journalists so that, if needed, they could help colleagues injured in the field.

Helping journalists help journalists: That seems like a fitting tribute as we remember two colleagues who gave so much to their community. Of course, we’ll still be thinking of them, and all who mourn for them, long after this one-year milestone has passed.

Related Articles:
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Stephen Ferry Wins First Tim Hetherington Grant

Free Conflict-Training Course Now Accepting Applications

http://pdnpulse.com/2012/03/free-conflict-training-course-now-accepting-applications.html

Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington: A Reflection

March 29th, 2012

Free Conflict-Training Course Now Accepting Applications

Photojournalists covering conflict zones can now apply for Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) training. RISC, which was founded by journalist and author Sebastian Junger, currently has courses scheduled for New York City in April 2012, London in fall 2012 and Beirut in winter 2012/2013. Each three-day workshop focuses on teaching attendees crucial combat medical skills.

Junger was a friend of the late photojournalist Tim Hetherington, with whom he collaborated on the documentary Restrepo. He started RISC after he learned that Hetherington, who was killed by a mortar in Misrata, Libya, last year, could have survived his injuries if someone on the ground with him knew basic lifesaving techniques.

“Combat photographers like Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington regularly take chances that many writers wouldn’t dream of, and as a result they suffer a disproportionate number of casualties,” Junger says. “RISC is an attempt to train freelancers in battlefield medicine and equip them with combat medical packs so that they can render aid immediately and effectively. The industry has gone far too long without providing any medical training for the people—mostly freelance photographers—who run most of the risks.”

Most conflict-training courses can be costly. However, applicants accepted into RISC courses are only required to pay for their own travel and food expenses. Housing and workshop costs are covered with funds raised by RISC. Many media organizations have donated funding for the first round of workshops, including ABC News, National Geographic, Vanity Fair and Condé Nast, and Getty Images.

The first workshop takes place in New York City April 18 through 20, which is the one-year anniversary of Hetherington’s death. At the time of this writing, all but three of the 24 spots were filled, with eight people on the waiting list. Applicants were chosen based on the amount of time they’ve spent in conflict zones. RISC’s mission is to train experienced conflict reporters, photojournalists and other members of the media who will use the medical skills on future assignments. The workshops do not include hostile environment training, such as preparation for loud noises, surprise attacks or mitigating personal risk.

Though the dates aren’t set for the London and Beirut workshops, RISC has already received applications for both cities (42 and 15, respectively). Regardless, the organization encourages journalists to continue to apply since it plans on holding courses once a year in all three cities.

Go to risctraining.org to apply for workshops and get more information.

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Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington: A Reflection

March 6th, 2012

Tim Hetherington on a Photo He Didn’t Take in Liberia

The late photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington created one of his first major projects by embedding in 2003 with a Liberian rebel group attempting to overthrow then-president Charles Taylor. Hetherington’s Liberia work was collected in his 2009 book Long Story Bit By Bit: Libera Retold.

In a new paperback book, Photographs Not Taken (Daylight, $14.95), edited by photographer Will Steacy, Hetherington is among 70 photographers who described photographs they were unable or unwilling to take.

Hetherington wrote about living with “a rag-tag army of heavily armed young men” as they fought their way into the capital, Monrovia. In his story, which is excerpted today on the Web site of Obit magazine, Hetherington describes advancing with the rebels into the city, only to retreat exhausted and outgunned during a counter-attack.

The experience of being under fire and out of control sapped Hetherington of his ability to photograph a horrific auto accident he witnessed just as he and the rebels he was with escaped danger. “My brain was like a plate of scrambled eggs,” he recalled.

Read Hetherington’s full story at Obit magazine.

For more about Photographs Not Taken visit Daylight’s Web site.

December 1st, 2011

San Fran Restrepo Screening to Benefit Committee to Protect Journalists

A special screening of “Restrepo,” the acclaimed Afghan War documentary directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, will be held next week at the San Francisco Film Society/New People Cinema.

Sponsored by Open Show, the San Francisco Film Society and National Geographic, the December 7 screening is being held in memory of Hetherington, who was killed in Libya in April 2011. Proceeds from ticket sales and the auction of several limited edition posters from Hetherington’s exhibition of his “Infidel” body of work will benefit the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization dedicated to the global defense of press freedom.

For more information on the screening visit Open Show.

October 12th, 2011

Hondros, Hetherington Prizes Awarded at Eddie Adams Workshop

Among the awards given out at the 24th annual Eddie Adams Workshop, held October 7 through 10 in Jeffersonville, New York, were two prizes created in memory of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who were killed in Misrata, Libya on April 20, 2011.

The Chris Hondros Fund, created after his death to support young photojournalists, gave a $2500 prize and a print to Workshop attendee Enrico Fabian.  The Tim Hetherington Memorial Award, a $2,000 prize, was given to Dominic Bracco II. The prize was funded by a collection taken at a gathering of Hetherington’s friends and colleagues held at New York’s Bubble Lounge days after his death.

Each year, the intensive, four-day Workshop ends with a memorial to photojournalist Eddie Adams, the Workshop’s founder, and six of his Vietnam-era colleagues who were killed covering war. This year, the memorial was made more poignant with the addition of tributes to Hondros and Hetherington.

Hondros, a 1993 Workshop alumnus, was remembered with a screening of short interview excerpts from the 2007 documentary In Service: Pittsburgh to Iraq. In one segment, Hondros, who had covered the Iraq war for Getty Images, spoke about the gap between American and Iraqi culture, saying, “Our government is infatuated with Iraq but our people are not.”

Jamie Wellford, international photo editor at Newsweek, told the audience that Hetherington had been looking forward to attending this year’s Workshop. On the day he died, Hetherington had emailed Wellford, but he didn’t receive it until after Hetherington’s death, because it  “spent a week in digital purgatory.” Wellford introduced a screening of Hetherington’s 19-minute film Diary. Made in 2010, it is a kaleidoscopic, deeply personal compilation of footage showing Hetherington’s view of his life as a war photographer.

Among the other prizes given out during the Workshop to Barnstorm participants:

The Colton Family Award, for the student who best embodies the spirit of the workshop, a $1000 Award and a spot on the Black team at next year’s Workshop:
Scott Mcintyre

$1000 Cash Awards From National Geographic (two):
Kiana Hayeri And Arthur Bondar

$500 Awards From LIFE Magazine (Two):
Gregory Gieske, David Maurice Smith

Assignments from Newsweek, People, Sports Illustrated, Esquire Digital, AARP and AARP Bulletin, AP, Getty Images, The Los Angeles, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and publications were also given out. Additional awards of services or gift certificates were offered by Altpick, B& H Photo, Mac Group and PDN.

A full list of 2011 participants is available on  www.eddieadamsworkshop.com.

–with reporting by Jill Waterman

September 1st, 2011

Bronx Documentary Center Holds Fundraiser for Hetherington Exhibit & Public Programs

The Bronx Documentary Center, the new non-profit photography exhibition space in the South Bronx, will hold a silent auction on September 12 to raise funds for an exhibition of photographer Tim Hetherington’s final images from Libya. Hetherington was killed on April 20 in Misrata, Libya in a rocket attack that also killed photojournalist Chris Hondros.

Proceeds from the event, to be held at the Bubble Lounge in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, will also benefit education initiatives and public programs at the BDC, according to a release by BDC founder Michael Kamber and project director Danielle Jackson. The Hetherington show is also supported by Committee to Protect Journalists and Foto Care.

Kamber, a photojournalist, founded the BDC as a “new place for photography, film and new media from around the globe.”  Located at Cortland Avenue and 151st Street in the South Bronx, it began hosting events this summer, including a showing of Zana Briski’s documentary, Born Into Brothels, and a talk by New York Times photographer Joao Silva, who lost his legs while embedded with US troops in Afghanistan.

In anticipation of its first exhibition in September, the BDC’s site, powered by Tumblr, has been updated throughout the summer with photographs documenting the surrounding neighborhood as well as photography news. Tonight the BDC will host a “Movies at Sundown” event, featuring the film Fernando Nation, to be followed by Q & A with the director, Cruz Angeles.

You can buy tickets to the fundraiser here.

–Kayla Epstein

May 25th, 2011

Hetherington Memorialized by Family, Colleagues and Subjects

Tim Hetherington’s friends and family were joined by soldiers from the platoon depicted in Restrepo, Hetherington’s award-winning documentary, to celebrate the photographer/filmmaker’s life and recall his talent and generosity at a memorial service held May 24 in New York City. Hetherington was killed in Misrata, Libya, on April 20 in a rocket attack that also killed photographer Chris Hondros and wounded two other photographers.

Standing at the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church with three other soldiers from the platoon with which Hetherington had been embedded in Afghanistan, former Sergeant Brendan O’Byrne spoke before a crowd of several hundred mourners. He began to deliver a prepared speech, then stopped. He said the speech “didn’t feel right,” and he wanted instead to speak directly about “what Tim meant to us,” the soldiers deployed to the remote Restrepo outpost in the Korengal Valley. “He came a stranger and left a brother,” said O’Byrne. “He went out there again and again and again. He didn’t have to.” He noted, “If it weren’t for him, our stories would have been lost in the chaos of war.”

O’Byrne said Hetherington continued their friendship after their time in Afghanistan.  “I came home with a massive amount of PTSD. Tim let me stay in his house,” and asked for nothing in return. “He said, ‘Get your feet on the ground, and don’t drink.’ ” O’Byrne said he had no words to describe what Hetherington meant to the platoon. “We cared about him so much.”

In his eulogy, writer Sebastian Junger, Hetherington’s frequent collaborator and co-director on Restrepo,  explained how Hetherington earned the respect and trust of the soldiers. “He was terrifyingly brave, and he made them laugh. If you can do only those two things and not fall behind on patrol they [the soldiers] are good to you.”

Junger said, “Tim changed the world with his work, and the world changed him. He was seeking those changes.” He said Hetherington “allowed people access to his heart.” In his work in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, Junger said, Hetherington was a better journalist thanks to his openness to experiences and people.

Idil Ibrahim, Hetherington’s girlfriend, said many mourned him as a talented photographer, filmmaker, teacher, colleague, friend, “and brother from the front line.” To Ibrahim, however, Hetherington was, among other things, “partner, love, future, friend,” as well as “movie star,” “preferred dance partner,” “poet,” and “fashion stylist.” Though she said, “I mourn the loss of our future together” and “the children we’ll never have,” she noted that shortly before Hetherington left for Libya, they had a conversation about death. “I’ve truly lived,” Hetherington told her. She said Hetherington “exuded joie de vivre,” and was “the most brilliant person I know.” She said, “He taught me most about love and for that I’m truly grateful.”

Photographers Chris Anderson and Mike Kamber talked about the Hetherington’s photography. Anderson said that while poring over Hetherington’s work recently, he forgot about photographic craft, and felt that he was seeing into people’s lives. “His work was not about reporting a story but about recording an experience he shared with people,” Anderson said, before reading an impressionistic passage from the foreword to Hetherington’s first book, Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold, in which he had described the sights and rhythms of a street in Monrovia.

Kamber said that for a generation of photographers, Hetherington seemed to be “leading us forward. He was changing photojournalism. He was also leading us forward as a human being” through his humility and imagination. Hetherington, he said, was capable of “flights of fancy,” like an idea he had to do a piece on soldiers sleeping in their outpost in Afghanistan. The idea became Hetherington’s acclaimed multimedia installation, “Sleeping Soldiers.”

Hetherington’s sister and brother, Victoria and Guy, shared stories of how Hetherington’s energy, curiosity and desire to engage with people were evident even at a young age. Both siblings emphasized that Hetherington, who was born in England, “loved his life in New York,” and in particular, Victoria noted, “the lifelong friends” he made there.  Victoria noted how much Hetherington enjoyed the company of his friends’ children and his own nephew and niece.  After she informed her children of their uncle’s death, she said, her four-year-old daughter worried that God wouldn’t let him into heaven: “Because he’s the naughtiest person. He throws us in the swimming pool with all our clothes on.”

Victoria quoted a line attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “In the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” and expressed her gratitude that her brother had experienced so much in his 40 years.

At the end of the memorial service,  O’Byrne and the three soldiers from his platoon walked up the aisle of the church and presented Hetherington’s family with a folded US flag.

After the memorial, a reception was held at the Aperture Gallery, where an installation of “Sleeping Soldiers” and Hetherington’s video, “Diary,” about his work covering conflict, are on view through June 23.

Related Stories:

Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

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Chris Hondros Remembered as Humanist, Friend

Hondros Dies of Injuries in Libya