Tim Hetherington (1970 − 2011)
Tim Hetherington photographed the experience of war from the perspective of the individual, mostly in West Africa and the Middle East. His film Restrepo, which he co-directed with Sebastian Junger about a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 for Best Documentary Feature.
Through his photographs, writing and films, Tim explored new ways to look at and think about human suffering.
Born in 1970 in Liverpool, Tim studied literature at Oxford University, and Photojournalism at Cardiff University. A member of the London based Network Photographers agency and later working with Panos Pictures, his photography archive is posthumously represented by Magnum.
In 2007 Tim published his first book of photography documenting the civil war in Liberia: Liberia Bit by Bit: Long Story Retold (Umbrage Editions).
He later published a book of his photographs from Restrepo entitled Infidel (Chris Boot Books 2010) which was exhibited with Foto8 in London and New York.
On April 20, 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya, Tim Hetherington and fellow photographer Chris Hondros were killed by Libyan forces in a mortar attack on the besieged city of Misrata.
The website, TimHetherington.org exists for all who wish to share personal messages.
The term ‘Documentary’ was not coined until the 1920s, and then used by the British film-maker, John Grierson, to refer to moving pictures. It has a long and continuous history in British photography, reaching back to the invention of the medium. Many critics claimed that the documentary impulse, which can perhaps be best defined as the systematic recording of visual reality for the purpose of providing information and encouraging understanding of the world, is inherent in the medium itself. It was this view which came to be known as the realist paradigm - the belief that a photograph represents a ‘slice of reality’ easily understood by the viewer. This belief governed understanding of photography from the moment of its invention in the era of positivism in the 19th Century, until it was itself subject to interrogation in the 1980s.
Early British practitioners included John Thomson whose visual essay Street Life in London (1876) documented the life of the London poor, and Hill and Adamson who portrayed, in the mid 1840s, the customs and way of life of the fisher folk of Newhaven near Edinburgh. In the early 20th century, following the emergence of documentary film-making and Mass Observation (a study undertaken in the North of England by the anthropologist Tom Harrisson), this new aesthetic found its most persuasive outlet in the mass circulation weekly magazines, such as Picture Post and Life. In time, however, pressure from advertisers combined with the restrictions of group journalism and curtailed the independence of creative photographers, with only exceptional individuals such as Bill Brandt able to survive as both a photojournalist and an independent photographer. His images of Britain’s class-ridden society along with his more experimental nudes, portraits and landscapes had a profound influence on a younger generation and established Brant as a major creative force in the development of modernism in Britain.
Mass Observation was designed to emulate the radical achievements of the worker-photography movement which had arisen in Germany during the 1920s. It proved influential on the evolution of British documentary, especially on those photographers associated with the Side Gallery in Newcastle. The gallery fostered a regional, community-oriented form of documentary practice. Its philosophy was rooted firmly in the notion that an authentic document can only be generated by those familiar with the local community. Photographers associated with Side Gallery included Sirkka Konttinen, Isabella Jedrecyck, Graham Smith, Peter Fryer, Chris Killip and Julian Germain.
It was, however, across the Atlantic that the more enduring legacy concerning the ethics and status of documentary was to be found in the work of the photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the plight of the American rural poor during the Depression. One of its outstanding photographers was Walker Evans whose use of signs and symbols (such as billboards and advertising hoardings) as images of desire created a text or narrative to accompany the careful sequencing of images. The direct inheritors of the photograph as social sign were the American photographers of the ‘social landscape’, namely Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus whose unsympathetic vision of the American landscape reflected the anxieties of urban life during the booming consumer decade - store fronts, billboards, graffiti and advertising. They chose to portray people, situations and artefacts in a casual and objective way that allowed the viewer to interpret the work freely; a strategy that became known as the ‘snapshot aesthetic’. One of those who experienced many of these developments first hand was the British photographer Tony Ray-Jones. His work was widely reproduced in the 1960s and his book A Day Off (1974) proved a particular inspiration for the generation of documentary photographers who developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The work of early documentary photographs can be found in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society www.rps.org)
The Mass Observation archive is held by the University of Sussex www.sussex.ac.uk/library/massobs/
The work of the Side Gallery can be seen at www.amber-online.com/gallery/
The archive for the Farm Security Administration is now in the Print and Reading Room Collections of the Library of Congress in Washington www.loc.gov/rr/print
A transparent, flexible plastic material, usually of cellulose acetate or polyester, on which light-sensitive emulsion is coated, or on which an image can be formed by various transfer processes.
Current & upcoming exhibitions
- India, Mumbai, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
- India, Kolkata, The Harrington Street Arts Centre
- India, Delhi, IGNCA
- UK, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University
- UK, London, Brunei Gallery
- Qatar, Doha, Waqif Art Centre - Souq Waqif
- United Arab Emirates, Riyadh, Museum of Islamic Civilization
- Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Riyadh National Museum
- Saudi Arabia, Jeddah, Bait al Bont
- Bahrain, Manama, Beit Al Qur'an
- Oman, Muscat, Bait Al Zubair Museum
- Oman, Muscat, Bait al-Baranda
- UK, London, Horniman Museum