© Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Many tributes have been written about photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros since their deaths in Misrata, Libya, on April 20. Searching for a way to express our own sense of loss, we ended up revisiting interviews given by both photographers in recent years. It was a reminder of how much we will miss their voices, for both spoke eloquently about their work and motivations. Here are Hetherington and Hondros in their own words.
“Sleeping Soldiers’ [Hetherington’s 2009 multi-screen projection, with images and video recorded in Afghanistan] is probably the closest I’ve come to expressing what it’s like to be in a chaotic war situation. . . . I like this idea that the project challenges what we think we know war is about. I’m interested to reveal parts of conflict outside of the mass media dialogue.
“I’m no longer interested in journalism. The work is also about my explanation of the world.”
—“This Man is Not a Photojournalist,” by Daryl Lang, PDN September 2009
“Often, when we’re presenting war in photography, there are two different realms—soldiers as symbols, patriots or shadow cutouts making interesting shapes with their guns. What I’m saying with this book [Infidel, 2010] is that. . .the war machine is a group of young men—train them together, stick them on the side of a mountain and they will kill and be killed for each other. And that’s at the heart of the war machine and that’s something that we as people want to sanitize and we do so at our peril. We forget that it’s made up of young boys that could be your next-door neighbor. Although that’s shocking, that’s the fucking truth. . . .
“My technique is journalistic in some ways although the output is not. In many ways my work isn’t journalism because I’m not interested in objectivity. I totally embrace the subjective. You can be honest and truthful to the experience and still be subjective. Also, I have no interest in the traditional journalistic outlets. They are valid outlets and I use them as and when they are present. . . . But the bigger vision stuff I’m working towards, like my books or exhibitions, is a mix between journalism and art, straddling the border between the two worlds.”
—Interview with Jon Levy of foto8, published in Professional Photographer, October 2010 http://www.professionalphotographer.co.uk/Magazine/Photographer-Profiles/Tim-Hetherington-speaks-to-Jon-Levy
“Covering wars means entering war zones. Entering war zones brings a chance of injury or death, no matter what precautions are taken. It’s a profession where the very fabric of the job is risk, like firefighters or coal miners. And just as we don’t disband the fire department every time a firefighter dies doing his job, we shouldn’t allow our grief for our fallen friends overwhelm the core mission of our profession…. A key role of journalism in a free society is to oversee the actions of government. The invasion and military occupation of Iraq is an action of government sui generis. If American journalists have any sort of mandate and responsibility to our fellow citizens at all, this place has to be covered, and covered well.
“If it’s hard and dangerous, well, our job is to figure out a way to do it anyway. That resourcefulness is a basic tool in the skill set of war journalists.”
—Interview with Jay DeFoore, Editor and Publisher, January 2006
“When I give talks or lectures people often ask me my personal feelings about war; usually I dodge the question. Sometimes I say that I don’t expect my pictures to stop wars, but rather I hope they help citizens to understand what going to war means. On that level at least I think the Tal Afar pictures [Iraq, 2005] fulfill my goals as a photographer; for they shine a rare and unsparing light onto war’s brutal-yet-routine realities. And people should know about them.”
—“Visions of the Decade: One Night in Tal Afar,” PDN Photo of the Day, posted January 15, 2010
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