Before he died in 2011 Tim Hetherington showed us intimate moments between soldiers and the front line.
On April 20, 2011, two months into the Libyan civil war, British photojournalist Tim Hetherington was on the front lines with rebel forces at Misrata when tragedy struck. Gaddafi forces blasted his group, killing photographer Chris Hondros and gravely wounding photographer Gut Martin. Hetherington was wounded by shrapnel and survived the attack, only to die later from excessive blood loss.
Hetherington abhorred violence, but he took it upon himself to explore the subject of war on the front lines, alongside soldiers in Liberia, Afghanistan, and Libya. While embedded in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair (for which he won the 2007 World Press Phot Of The Year), Hetherington came to understand war as a function of male sexuality.
Hetherington had an epiphany, thanks to a photograph he called “The Garden of Eden,” which showed American soldiers picnicking in the country. He believed a primal yearning for conflict and the threat of imminent death allowed men the opportunity to openly express love for one another without doubt, fear, or judgment. He thought true depictions of masculinity couldn’t be found in heroic, dramatic, or otherwise artistic representations of war. It lay in casual snapshots of soldiers in their most intimate and vulnerable moments.
Stephen Mayes was Hetherington’s longtime friend and colleague; he’s now the the Executive Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust. To commemorate the seventh anniversary of his death, VICE spoke with Mayes about how Hetherington changed the way we think about war. He also talked about his final conversation with Hetherington, in which the photographer shared how his time on the front lines changed his life.