Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros RIP

Early yesterday morning, Twitter and FaceBook started echoing across the world that two tireless champions of the oppressed had been killed by mortar fire on one of the most dangerous roads in Libya.


Tim Hetherington in Liberia 2003 Panos Pictures

Tim Hetherington, British born, Oxford educated, was an award winning photojournalist. The first msm to pick up the story yesterday morning was Business Insider, but as the morning wore on, more msm got wind of the unbelievable news.

From the BBC to Vanity Fair, and every corner of the globe in between, shock and disbelief as long-time colleagues, casual acquaintances, and strangers who felt they knew Tim through his amazing work, both as an intrepid story teller, to an ardent, committed film-maker, all desperately looked for confirmation that the news trickling out of Libya was incorrect. As the day wore on, it became clear that the fog of civil war that is Tripoli Road, the voiceless of the world, had silenced two important voices.

In 2007, Hetherington won a World Press Award for a photograph of a soldier in the deadly Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. He and Sebastion Junger were there, filming a US military unit - Battle Company of the 503rd Airborne Battalion - showing aspects of the Global War on Terror with a stark realism that hasn't been seen anywhere else.


British photographer Tim Hetherington has won this year’s prestigious World Press Photo Contest. His photograph of a US soldier in the Korengal Valley in the Eastern province of Afghanistan beat more than 80,000 other images submitted this year.

Hetherington and Junger were on a year long assignment for Vanity Fair, and what they saw, and the movie they shot as they lived with these Soldiers, would becaome the basis of the film Restrepo, named for a medic who was killed, Juan Restrepo.

In interviews later, Hetherington would say of their time living with the troops in the Korengal Valley:

The outpost consists of a sandbagged area approximately 30m (98ft) long and 10m (32ft) wide, with a bunker at one end. The aim of the position is to protect the main US base further up the valley.

The day this picture was taken was a pretty intense day. We'd already had two engagements with Taleban or foreign fighter insurgents in the area, and they had established a line of fire inside the base.

As the picture shows, everyone was exhausted. One guy had to jump into the base and broke his leg, requiring a medical evacuation by helicopter later in the night.

At the time I took the picture, I remember seeing the image on the back of the digital camera back showing it to Sebastian. I knew it was good. I couldn't scroll through the pictures because of the light emitted from the camera could be seen at night and therefore could put us in danger.

Restrepo, the movie, went on to be nominated for an Oscar Award this last year. The making of the movie was funded out of their own pockets, because Hetherington and Junger believed in their mission so strongly to share the troops' reality with the world.

Winner of the US Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

"Restrepo" is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the US military. This is an entirely experiential film: our cameras never leave the valley, we dont interview generals or diplomats. Our only goal is to make you feel as though you have just done a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.

[Bratnote: I saw this movie, and in my opinion, it should have won the Oscar]

As yesterday wore on, people within the military community who had come to know Hetherington took to social media to share their grief, as they tried to make sense of what had happened.

From Cow Pastures to Kosovo had this:

[...]I don't want to "remember" him. I want to hug him. I want to listen to that British accent for hours. I want to see that smile that goes on forever and those eyes that can go from dancing with excitement and joy while telling a story to dark and foreboding while telling a different story.


I want to watch over and over again as he greets a Soldier that he spent months with in Afghanistan - to see him gaze across the heads in a crowded room until he spots one of those Soldiers then navigate the crowd like threading a needle until he gets to his objective. I want to watch him grab that Soldier in a big bear hug, lay a resounding pat on his back and hear him say with the most genuine of emotion and love, "Good to see you man. How are you?"


Honored. Privileged. Grateful. Fortunate. None of those words or any others can describe how I feel about having the opportunity to meet and get to know Tim.

There is more here.

Another is Kitchen Dispatch, who says(in part):

[...]It's not just losing Tim the combat reporter, it's losing an artist whose unflinching focus enabled him to search for the truth in any situation. He had a beautiful aesthetic, an intense drive, the ability to call bullshit when he heard it, and could put aside his ego. Tim's generosity enabled him to see and highlight the humanity in each person, even in very difficult, complex situations. And he understood the forces of politics, corruption and how they could overturn a country. We've all lost a friend.

Over the course of 2010, lots of people --most of whom he would never meet, sent him good wishes. When he died, he had been accepted by a new group: the military support community. He was very much loved. I hope he knew that.

Last summer, we spoke about the risks of covering wars. He'd been in and out of them for over a decade. His personal travel map had dots wherever hell was being unleashed on earth.

More personal memories of Tim here. Tim Hetherington was not working alone when he died. Chris Hondros of Getty Images was also killed, Guy Martin of Panos Pictures seriously injured, though he is now said to be in a stable condition, and another photographer Michael Brown has also been treated for shrapnel injuries.

Hondros_headshot Chris Hondros is an American Pulitzer Prize-nominated phtotojournalist.

Hondros has covered most of the world's major conflicts since the late 1990s, including wars in Kosovo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the West Bank, Iraq, and Liberia. His work has appeared on the covers of many US magazines.
Hondros has received dozens of awards, including multiple honors from World Press Photo in Amsterdam, the International Pictures of the Year Competition, the Visa Pour L'Image in France, and the John Faber award from the Overseas Press Club. In 2004 Hondros was a Nominated Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography for his work in Liberia, and in 2006 he won the Robert Capa Gold Medal, war photography's highest honor, for his work in Iraq. He's also been named a 2007 "Hero of Photography" by American Photo magazine, and was a 2008 National Magazine Award finalist.

He lives in New York, where he is a senior staff photographer for Getty Images, the international photo agency.

As is the case with Tim Hetherington, the msm is carrying many stories of Chris' work, and mourning the loss of this important voice.

Chris worked with a group called Mercy Corp in the late 1990's, and yesterday they said:

Mercy Corps is mourning the loss of photojournalist Chris Hondros, who was killed by a mortar blast along with his colleague Tim Hetherington on Wednesday in Misurata, Libya.

Chris worked as a freelance photographer for Mercy Corps in 1999, playing an integral role in telling the story of the war in Kosovo. He worked in some of the world's most dangerous places and he will be remembered for not only the great work he produced, but for the bravery he showed in documenting these conflicts, giving the people involved a voice and sharing with the world what is happening on the front lines.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris's loved ones as we recognize the sacrifice he made to share these important stories with people around the world.

The blogosphere is also noting Chris' death, and one such is Gazing At The Flag, who says in part:

I knew of Chris Hondros not by name, but by his images. As I went through his work on his site today, I saw so many photos that I remember. His vision had meaning. There are photos from Kosovo, Nigeria, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq --- photos that were beamed into my life on television and in hard copy in newspapers and magazines. And, of course, there are the photos of Liberia and the child warriors fighting there. And, there are the very special pictures from the Marine 4th LAR in Afghanistan.


This was a man with an eye that gave us images that told more about the event than words ever could.

I encourage you to visit his web page. How little we would know of the world if it were not for men like Chris Hondros. Thank you for all you gave to the world, Chris. You touched lives of people like me that you never knew.

Passion. Commitment. Courage. Dedication. Eye for the truth.

The madness and murderous mayhem in Libya may have silenced these two voices, but through their work, the world will long be reminded of the tremendous contributions they both made in telling the stories of those not usually heard.

Rest In Peace Tim and Chris.

[*cross-posted from War on Terror News]

Addendum: Sebastian Junger has written the most beautiful tribute to his friend Tim, and it IS a must read. Go here, and prepare to weep.

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