I was stunned yet not surprised yesterday when I heard the tragic news that Tim Hetherington had been killed in Libya. I’m grateful that I had seen Hetherington speak and present his work at Photo Plus in 2009. I remember being awed by the intimacy of his photographs and motion. The viewer felt that they were right there in the action because Hetherington had been – and relayed that story to us.
We know about Hetherington and his work mostly because his documentary Restrepo had been nominated for an Oscar last year. But how many other men and women who document the wars and the natural disasters, putting themselves in harms way on a daily basis, do we ever even hear about? That’s because it is not about them, it’s about what they are photographing or filming or writing about. It’s about making others aware.
I once thought that I wanted to be a hard news photojournalist because there is a big part of me that loves to be where the action is. But I also know that living that kind of life takes its toll especially on ones personal life. I didn’t know if I could achieve the kind of balance in my life that I felt was important, pursuing that type of photography. So I went the way of shooting more editorial feature pieces with a focus on people. I also thought that I might be the type of person who would become overly emotionally invested when on site and perhaps not able to fulfill my journalistic responsibilities.
I will always have the utmost respect and admiration for all the working journalists, photojournalists and video journalists out there who give us these incredibly intimate stories, risking their own safety over and over again. They do it for precious little financial reward. They do it because good journalism is necessary for a healthy society. I’m forever grateful.