20 April to 29 September 2024

IWM London

Free Exhibition

"The most important exhibition you’ll see all year" Evening Standard

Take a deeper look into the human experience of conflict with Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington at IWM London.

Explore a more thoughtful and visually captivating insight into conflict than in the news we watch or read, and challenge your assumptions about war and those caught up in it.
A celebrated photojournalist, filmmaker and humanitarian, Hetherington often returned to the same places over several months or years to develop better connections with those whose stories he told. 

Storyteller marks the 13th anniversary of Hetherington’s death while filming and photographing the Libyan Civil War (2011). With photography from across his career and a selection of his cameras and diaries on display, you can also immerse yourself in his film Sleeping Soldiers, shown across three screens as it was intended to be viewed.

Please note this exhibition includes strong language and images depicting violence. The film Liberian War Graffiti (shown in a separate screening room) contains illustrations of sexual violence which some visitors may find distressing. The film Diary (shown in a separate screening room) contains flashing lights and graphic imagery. 

A woman stands in front of a photomontage of Tim Hetherington prints framed against a black wall.

An Unconventional Approach

Photojournalists often spend just weeks in warzones before moving on to new assignments, but Hetherington wanted to engage more deeply with people.

"I do not set out to make a work of journalism, but rather a visual novel that draws upon real people and places."

He also broke with convention by dusting-off vintage film cameras to use on the frontlines, at a time when most photojournalists were using digital cameras. The effect of this was to slow him down, giving him more freedom to interact with people whilst challenging him to take more carefully considered photographs. 

A man looks at a wall on which eight photographs of people sleeping are framed.

Part of the Platoon

In 2007, Hetherington travelled to the frontlines of the war in Afghanistan and joined up with a platoon based in the Korengal Valley. Hetherington and journalist Sebastian Junger took turns to embed with the platoon, eating, sleeping, and going on operations with the soldiers. 

"I became much more interested in the interrelationships between the soldiers… than I was in the fighting."

By living for long periods as the soldiers did, Hetherington built a strong bond of trust with the men of the platoon. This allowed him to capture every nuance of how they behaved in this austere environment and during times of extreme tension, fear, vulnerability, exhaustion, and boredom.

A page of Hetherington's diary, written during his time photographing the conflict in Libya, April 2011.
Tim Hetherington © IWM Documents.27179/a/0328 
A page of Hetherington's diary, written during his time photographing the conflict in Libya, April 2011.

Closing the Distance

In 1999, Hetherington began work on his first fully recognised project, Healing Sport. Over a decade later, in April 2011, he was mortally wounded whilst working on a new project in Libya. Both projects, at either end of his career, sought to close the distance between his audience and the human stories of conflict he explored in his work. 

We can only look at clues provided by written ideas he left behind, his photographs from Libya and his previous work, like Healing Sport, to help us understand how he might have developed this project further.  

Download the large print guide for Storyteller in advance of your visit.

The Tim Hetherington Collection

  • Black and white portrait of a member of the Liberian football team the Millennium Stars at a training pitch in Monrovia, Liberia, May 1999.
    © IWM (DC_066175)

    Book: Tim Hetherington - IWM Photo Collection

    Written by IWM senior curator Greg Brockett, this book showcases Tim Hetherington's important work as both a conflict photographer and humanitarian innovator. These poignant images offer a unique insight into his working practices, revealing the man behind the lens. 

  • Conducting surveillance with a thermal imaging camera from an observation point at the 'KOP' (Korengal Outpost) command post, September 2007.
    © IWM (DC 58630)


    Prints of a selection of the works displayed in Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington at IWM London are now available for purchase exclusively on IWM Prints. 

    This is the first time these have been made widely available outside of a limited print run. Printed on high quality semi gloss 250gsm conservation digital paper, this is a unique opportunity to own works by this award-winning photographer.

  • Tim Hetherington holds a camera whilst taking a self portrait.
    © HU 137369

    About Tim Hetherington

    Discover more about Tim Hetherington and his work on the IWM Website: Tim Hetherington: Photojournalist and filmmaker. 

Also at IWM London

Four visitors take in artwork in the BAFP galleries
Permanent Gallery

Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries

IWM London

Workshops, Expert talks

Art Workshop: Illustration With Keith Burns

IWM London
Saturday 27 July 2024