20 April to 29 September 2024
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.
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.
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.
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.