Top photographers killed in Libya

April 21, 2011 12:00 am

, LOS ANGELES, Apr 21 – British photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington and award-winning photographer Chris Hondros spent long careers on the front lines before they were killed in Libya\’s unrest.

Liverpool-born Hetherington, 41, most recently directed the Oscar-nominated "Restrepo" in which he and writer Sebastian Junger spent a year living with US troops in an outpost in one of Afghanistan\’s deadliest valleys.

He had previously covered several conflicts as a contributing photographer to Vanity Fair and worked on two documentaries about civil wars in Africa.

In an interview with AFP at last year\’s Sundance Film Festival — where "Restrepo" won the Grand Jury Prize — Hetherington said that when "you\’ve been through so much combat… you seek an emotional honesty."

That honesty, he said, "is not about politics of the left or the right. It\’s about showing these guys how they are."

Junger, who co-directed the film with Hetherington, told ABC News his colleague "worked in a world where people risked their lives and died regularly, so I don\’t even think it crossed his mind that he was brave."

"It was just something he felt had to be done by somebody, and he knew he was good at it, he was really good at it," he said.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Hondros, also 41, had covered many of the world\’s conflict zones over the past decade, working in Kosovo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the West Bank, Iraq and Liberia.

After starting out as an intern at his local Fayetteville, North Carolina newspaper, he moved to New York to pursue his dream of working as a war photojournalist.

"When it came to photography, he gave it everything," reporter Paul Woolverton for the Fayetteville Observer newspaper said on Wednesday.

"You can tell with some people, who are really go-getters, that they are going to go far."

In 2006 Hondros won the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal photography award for his "exceptional courage and enterprise" in Iraq.

Brooklyn-based Hetherington branched into filmmaking when he was one of only two reporters behind rebel lines in Liberia during the 2003 conflict, which formed the backdrop of the film "Liberia: An Uncivil War".

He later worked on the acclaimed 2007 documentary "The Devil Came on Horseback" about the genocide in Sudan\’s Darfur region, after documenting killings on the Darfur-Chad border in 2006 for Human Rights Watch.

But it was his work in Afghanistan that earned him greatest recognition, including a 2007 World Press Photo Award for his photographs of US soldiers.

With Junger, he spent a year documenting the daily life of a platoon of US soldiers in the Afghan region of Korengal, a Taliban stronghold along the restive border with Pakistan.

"You need to be focused in this kind of situation, and I’m focused at the job at hand, which is filming," he told a student filmmakers website in 2010.

"You don’t really have time to start examining your emotions when you’re in the middle of this kind of situation. You kind of push them to a deeper place in your mind and examine them later," he said.

"I’ve seen a lot of traumatic things happen out here in the Korengal Valley when we were there. Both of us got injured, and I was with people who got killed and that was a very sad and upsetting thing to go through."

"Restrepo" went on to be nominated for an Academy Award, and inspired the publication of a book of Hetherington\’s portraits of US soldiers called "Infidel".

In a final post to his Twitter account on Tuesday, he described his latest mission, covering the revolt against Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

"In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by (Kadhafi) forces. No sign of NATO," he wrote.

He was killed the next day by mortar fire in Misrata in an attack that also killed Hondros and wounded two other colleagues.

Hetherington\’s friend and colleague Jon Lee Anderson wrote in an homage for the New Yorker that the photographer had "an enthusiasm and a generosity that made him special."

Hetherington, Anderson wrote, was trying "to look into the souls of men, whose truths are perhaps more exposed in that environment than in any other — and to show the rest of us what he saw."


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