NYPH09: The Buzz about Tim Hetherington

by Heather on May 16, 2009

From Ronit:

So the buzz about town is Tim Hetherington. Who is he? What is he doing? What kind of photojournalist is he anyway? “People want to classify me,” he says, “put me in a box. I’m not that kind of photographer, I’m not really interested in photography at all.”

Hetherington’s World Press Photo of the Year win in 2007 garnered tons of controversy among photojournalists. Where’s the gunshots? Where’s the blood splatter? Where’s the story? Today, over two lectures at the NYPH, one about his Afghanistan work, and another about his work in Liberia, Hetherington insists that  the real story in these countries in crisis is much more nuanced than scenes of extreme violence and extreme sadness. There is a tendency towards photographers portraying “manufactured emotions” that satisfy the western media’s desire for either very good news, or very bad news, and nothing in between. War photojournalists, often in association with international NGOs swoop into a warzone often without enough knowledge of the history of the crisis, and the grey areas between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

In between sparse New Yorker assignments while living in Liberia between 2004-07, Hetherington pulled out his Rolleiflex and began photographing wall graffiti drawn by obviously emotionally troubled soldiers rocked by what they have seen and done.  To me, Hetherington’s subject matter transcends the medium of the photo, and I’m less aware of the photograph than I am of what’s actually being depicted. Crude images drawn by soldiers in private, quiet moments, these drawings are like prehistoric cave paintings. They’re at once immature and wise, informative and mysterious. It proves to me that there human instinct to express what is inside of us, to draw it an a wall for others to see.

How can we as image makers and editors tap into our basic human instincts, and communicate to the collective human consciousness?

Stay tuned for more on Hetherington and his amazing exhibition here in DUMBO. I’ll be doing an audio interview with him tomorrow (hopefully he’ll show!) You have until 11am tomorrow morning to post questions for Hetherington on the comment forum here at www.heathermorton.ca/blog and I will try to get him to answer them for you.

Copyright Tim Hetherington

Copyright Tim Hetherington

Copyright Tim Hetherington

Copyright Tim Hetherington

Alright everybody, the clock is ticking- 11AM EST to get your Tim Hetherington questions in- post them as comments below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daniel Power May 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I’ve never seen people as visibly moved by an installation before. It was affecting to see.

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