Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tim Hetherington

This posting is a departure from my normal subject range, which consists of musings on libraries, Otis Library in particular, or the general field of librarianship. However, the recent death of British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington while covering the Libyan conflict, and his close association with Evening with an Author speaker Sebastian Junger led me to this unscheduled detour. His work with Mr. Junger would be reason enough to warrant a post, but other intersections and commonalities made this essay necessary and in some ways unavoidable. On the day Mr. Hetherington died I was reading James Brabazon's memoir My Friend the Mercenary a recent addition to our collection which recounts Brabazon's experiences as a photojournalist during the ineffable horrors of the Liberian Civil War, and his evolving friendship with his South African body guard and sometimes mercenary Nick du Toit. One of the other protagonists featuring prominently in Brabazon's memoir is Tim Hetherington.

The second connection was Hetherington's Directorship of the Academy Award nominated documentary Restrepo based on the time he and Sebastian spent in Afghanistan's Korenghal Valley embedded with the 173ed Airborne Brigade at the eponymous base named for medic Juan Restrepo. That film, and the companion book WAR have personal resonance. My eldest son Jon served with the 173ed in the valley and was acquainted with both Sebastian and Tim. For Christmas, Jon's gift to me was Tim's book Infidel a photo essay composed of images taken during the 173ed's deployment.

Clearly, there are many connections and the sense of loss evoked while not based on a personal relationship is something more than the predictable emotions triggered by the death of a well know public figure or personality. It may be his relative youth-he was only 40-or the disbelief that someone who had escaped so many physically proximate encounters with death would perish as the result of a anonymously launched projectile meant for no one in particular. My emotions may also reflect a profound belief that wars ought not be and their coverage a moribund or extinct profession. Whatever their genesis, I firmly believe that the world is a lesser place without Tim Hetherington in it.

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