Friday, April 22, 2011

Ace photographers killed in Libya

British documentary image maker Tim Hetherington and US photographer Chris Hondros were killed in Misrata, Libya, whilst reporting on the conflict there. Apparently, they were killed in a mortar blast on Wedsnesday. Two other photographers, Michael Brown of Corbis and Panos Pictures Guy Martin were reportedly also injured in the same attack.

UNSPECIFIED - UNDATED: Getty Images photograph...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeTim Hetherington is perhaps best known for his film 'Restrepo' about US Marines serving in Afghanistan. If you have watched this film you will know it is a pretty raw and visceral film that lays bare the reality of war from the perspective of the ordinary soldier. At the time of his death, Tim was on assignment for Panos Pictures (hence the involvement of Guy Martin) and Chris Hondros was working for Getty Images.

The bodies of the two men were shipped to Benghazi  by boat today. Tributes have already been posted around the web. Read the BBC tribute on the BBC News site. There is also an excellent tribute with more background information on Tim on the Guardian site. You can read the tribute to Chris Hondros to Chris Hondros on the New York Times site.

Both men were highly respected for their work and as individuals. For anyone interested in documentary image making its a great loss and underlines the risks that reporters and image-makers take to bring us insights into conflict and its impact on ordinary men and women. Its often thought that such men are somehow 'hooked on' war and yet both men were known for their compassion and concern for those caught up in conflict, particularly those often referred to 'innocents'.

Fellow photographer, Tyler Hicks (recently held captive himself in Libya last month) says of his friend:

 “He’s a sensitive photographer,” Mr. Hicks said. “He never was in it for himself or for the vanity of what the job brings with it. He really believes in his work.”
Tim Hetherington is best thought of as an image maker, rather than as a photographer. He never saw himself as a 'great photographer' but believed that we are in a 'post-photographic' age. he once said:

"If you are interested in photography, then you are interested in something — in terms of mass communication — that is past. I am interested in reaching as many people as possible."
I highly recommend you check out their work. You cannot fail to be moved by the power of the imagery they created and the stories they sought to tell. Their dedication is, in the end, what cost them their lives. We owe it to them to pay attention to their message. Nor, must we forget all those who are suffering right now, least of all the civilians caught up in the conflict in Misrata and elsewhere.
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