Last weekend, the newly-built Bronx Documentary Center opened with an exhibition of fallen war photographer Tim Hetherington’s final photos. Hetherington was killed in Libya on Apr. 20, 2011, after Gadaffi forces shelled his position. Photographer Chris Hondros also died in the attack.
Two of my favorite of Hetherington’s final photos, from the city of Misurata, Apr. 19 and 20:
Before his death, Hetherington and his friend, Michael Kamber, a photojournalist with the New York Times, had shared a dream to build a gallery in the Bronx to further the teaching of photojournalism and documentary work in the city. Kamber continued with that vision after Hetherington’s death, and the Bronx Doc Center is the result of his and many others’ hard work and generosity.
Kamber wrote a piece for the NYT Lens blog
More than any journalist I know, Tim was conceptual in his work. He thought about the big ideas behind an event, the dynamics, history and driving forces. He then tailored his photography and multimedia work accordingly, trying to dig through and expose these forces. His methods stood in stark contrast to many of us who photograph what fate and others present to us, unwittingly allowing the narrative to be shaped through our acquiescence.
In an astonishingly wide-ranging oeuvre that ran from photo books to articles and film to personal videos, Tim smashed boundaries and enlarged our understanding of what a documentarian and journalist could be.
One of Hetherington’s documentaries, “Diary,” was projected against the side of a neighboring building:
Kamber’s tribute to Hetherington in the NYT also includes the kind of praise that every photojournalist hopes to receive in his or her lifetime:
Tim began planning his return to Libya. He combed through his images to find something — some concept that stood apart from the thousands of images the other photojournalists were putting out from Benghazi and Ajdabiya.
He was upset at how some photographers presented the rag-tag rebels as heroic fighters, when in fact they were sometimes “kind of a joke.” Those pictures, he said, might win prizes, but not his respect.
“We have to fight making propaganda,” he said to me one night at dinner. “The media has become such a part of the war machine now that we all have to be conscious of it more than ever before. ”
You can follow the Bronx Doc center’s Tumblr here. The BDC is located on 614 Courtlandt Avenue and 151st street in the South Bronx and is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11AM – 6PM.
Hetherington’s last photo, dated April 20, 2011, in the city of Misurata: