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Which Way Is The Front? | The Life and Times of Tim Heatherington

The first thing most people think about the term “war correspondent” is a glazed-eyed adrenaline  junky. The hard drinking, cynical breed that travels the world running toward the sounds of guns. They snap images as those around them are wounded and dying. But this is not how Tim Hetherington acted. He was not cynical in the least and was always looking to find the uniqueness and spirit of each person he photographed. He wanted badly to create images that reflected a truth about the anarchy and chaos of a place at war. Hetherington was killed in a mortar attack in Egypt during the recent civil war.

Molly Rowan Leach, writing in a Huffington Post piece describes him this way:

“It is rare to witness a soul who, with a combination of courage, curiosity, and an indelible passion for humanity and the human story, is able to rise above their own singular existence to bring forth images of the multiple realities occurring simultaneously in our world. A soul who is both astute witness of life and full-hilt engager of it, and ambitious if only for to bring unfiltered truth to all people. But that is just who Timothy Alistair Telemachus Hetherington was, and what he provided our world in his short lifetime. Tim was an Oxford graduate and could not simply be described as a photographer or journalist. He once said himself he was “not interested in photography per se” but in what it could communicate.”

This HBO film is currently on rotation on that channel and is a must see for anyone, not just other photographers. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger were best friends and are responsible for the Academy Award nominated film Restrepo, about a lonely band of soldiers at one the most dangerous and remote outposts in Afghanistan(Netflix streaming or available also on Youtube). The two spent several months embedded with the soldiers and worked together in many war zones across the world. This is Junger’s homage to that friendship.

Hetherington says in the film, “I was liberated by image-making” and “realized we are living in an image-based world and that would be an interesting way to communicate with people.” Tim’s father, Alistair, shares in the film that Tim would often say “do you realize how rich you are,” pointing to the privilege and particular experience many individuals take for granted in the Western world.


Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington in Restrepo

“In the wake of Tim’s tragic passing, Sebastian Junger has founded RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues) a key organization providing free training to journalists in emergency medical response. Tim’s parents, Judith and Alistair Hetherington have created a foundation in Tim’s name to support struggling students, artists and those in need in the U.K. and developing world. The Foundation will seek to encourage others in Tim’s footsteps, highlighting humanitarian and social concerns throughout the world.”

Which Way Is The Front Line From Here: The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington debuted on HBO Thursday, April 18th.

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