Tim Hetherington was born in Liverpool in 1970 and studied literature at Oxford University before going on to study photojournalism. Early on in his career he worked as a photographer for The Big Issue and took on commissions for Human Rights Watch. His photographs have featured in major publications such as the Observer, although he is best known for his innovative and multimedia approach to exploring conflict as a freelance photojournalist and filmmaker.
Tim preferred to work independently on long-term projects. He wanted to be in control of the narratives he felt drawn to exploring and he wanted his work to be about “real people in real situations”. It was his fascination with conflict that drove him to take an in-depth look at its many layers and he was constantly looking for new and engaging ways to share his work with others.
Tim died in April 2011 from injuries sustained when photographing unrest in Libya during a wave of uprisings in the region known as ‘the Arab Spring’.
The complete archive of Tim’s work is now held at Imperial War Museums. Key works document the many places, people and warzones that Tim encountered throughout his career. The archive includes complete records of all Tim’s major projects from conception to completion, illustrating Tim’s approach to recording conflict and shedding new light on his inquisitive and visionary perspective.
The Millennium Stars (1999)
Photographs shot by Tim Hetherington of the Millennium Stars: a football team made up of former child-combatants established to rehabilitate them following their involvement in the Liberian civil wars of the 1990s. The collection documents the team’s 1999 tour of the United Kingdom and follows them back home to Liberia.
The experience of working on the project had a lasting impact on Tim’s work, in which the relationship between young men and violence became a recurring theme. This collection of work also marks the beginning of Tim’s long and prolific relationship with West Africa, and Liberia in particular.
Healing Sport (1999-2002)
‘Healing Sport’ is a project documenting the healing qualities of sport and the spirit of competition in parts of Africa impacted by war and violence. The project includes Hetherington’s work in Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia. It overlaps with other bodies of work by Hetherington such as his ‘Millennium Stars’ project.
Tim’s work in Angola and Sierra Leone covers a wide spectrum of sports and athletes and also includes sports venues such as gymnasiums and stadiums.
This work is key to the development of Hetherington's interest in the consequences of conflict and to his professional development as a photographer, humanitarian and storyteller.
Kenyan Taekwondo Team (2002)
Used at times as part of his ‘Healing Sport’ project, Hetherington’s photos of a young Kenyan Taekwondo team fits into his exploration around the theme of young men and violence.
The collection follows a Kenyan Taekwondo team as they train in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and compete in an international Taekwondo championship in South Korea.
Taekwondo represents an opportunity for young men living in Nairobi to escape cycles of violence they might otherwise be drawn into on the city streets.
The Liberian Civil War (2003)
Photographs taken by Tim Hetherington while working with conflict journalist James Brabazon as they followed the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels advance toward the Liberian capital city, Monrovia.
The conflict was Hetherington’s first direct experience of documenting a warzone and he used the images in his book Long Story Bit by Bit,(2009)
Tim used a vintage Rolleiflex film camera instead of a modern digital model to capture rich textures and colours in square format images that would contrast with other photojournalism at that time.
With a limited number of shots per reel of film he had to be sparing, taking carefully considered shots that captured an intimate human perspective of the conflict.
Post-war Liberia (2003-2006)
Photographs taken by Tim Hetherington documenting Liberia following years of civil war that came to an end in 2003.
The collection follows Liberia’s journey towards a more stable democracy and covers a range of issues, including political and economic reconstruction, health, poverty, everyday life and the presence of the United Nations.
Hetherington lived in Liberia while he documented these years of change, producing the book Long Story Bit by Bit, which mixes photography with research and oral testimony.
He later gave testimony as an expert witness during the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2006.
The consequences of conflict in Sierra Leone (1999-2006)
Tim Hetherington's photography covering the consequences of conflict in Sierra Leone.
The collection covers a diverse range of subjects including Hetherington’s 'War Blind’ work which provides an insight into one particularly disturbing aspect of what was an extremely violent conflict.
Many of the subjects were blinded as a consequence of torture, from malnutrition or from the fighting.
Blind Link (2001-2005)
The photographs featured in Tim Hetherington's Blind Link project are amongst his most acclaimed and recognisable work.
They document two different schools for the blind: the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone and the Dorton House School in the United Kingdom.
The aim of the Blind Link project was to re-establish a connection that had been lost between the two schools, due in part to the interruption of the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Niger Delta (2006)
Tim Hetherington's work covering the oil rich Niger Delta region of West Africa where the extraction of resources in the area led to disputes and conflict between local populations, government and energy companies.
A series of terrorist attacks by groups such as MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) were targeted at oil extraction facilities and pipelines belonging to the energy companies operating in the region.
The Korengal Valley, Afghanistan (2007-2008)
A collection of photos shot by Tim Hetherington while embedded with the United States Army's 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The collection documents the bond which develops between a group of soldiers in conflict. Hetherington lived alongside the men at a remote outpost called 'Restrepo' – named after a platoon medic (Corpsman) who died early on in the 15-month deployment.
The images reveal the intense and complex nature of conflict as experienced by the soldiers in what was an extremely hostile part of Afghanistan's Kunar Province. They show the men’s living conditions, their combat operations and their interactions with both the Afghan National Army and the civilian population.
The anti-Gaddafi uprising and Civil War in Libya (2011)
Photographs shot by Tim Hetherington of the anti-Gaddafi uprising and Civil War in Libya, 2011.
The uprising begun with demonstrations sparked by regional unrest and revolt in several countries, events which were collectively known as the Arab Spring.
The photographs cover civilian protests in Benghazi and then combatant anti-Gaddafi forces moving south towards pro-Gaddafi forces near Ajdabiya and Brega.
The collection also includes Hetherington's final work in the besieged city of Misurata, where he was killed by mortar fire on 20th April 2011.
African nations (2000-2007)
Photographs taken by Tim Hetherington in Africa for funded projects, non-governmental organisations and the news media.
The images were captured in several African nations and cover subjects including genocide in the Darfur region, children living on the streets of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the legacy of conflict in post-war Angola and a devastating outbreak of 'Foot and Mouth' disease in Sudan.
Other featured countries include Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
On the Front Lines of the Libyan Revolution
This footage was taken by photojournalist Tim Hetherington in Libya. It captures the civil unrest that took hold across the country in 2011. Tim travelled with anti-Gaddafi fighters across Libya to capture events as they unfolded. He aimed to go beyond the news coverage and reveal the real people caught in this civil war. Just weeks later Tim was mortally wounded whilst documenting the fighting in Misrata.
In 2011 Muammar Gaddafi had been in charge in Libya for 42 years, since 1969. That year a revolutionary wave was sweeping through north Africa and the Middle East known as the Arab Spring. The outbreak of civil war opened up Libya's borders and allowed many journalists to access the country for the first time in over four decades.
Greg Brockett: "Organizations actually claimed that Libya was one of the most dangerous places for journalists to be working at that time. The situation there was very unpredictable and escalated very rapidly. The anti-Gaddafi fighters on the ground were often very untrained and inexperienced. There was a very strict control measure put on on media coverage of any sort and reaching the front lines in Libya was often extremely hazardous as well."
The eastern city of Benghazi was at the centre of the anti-Gaddafi uprising with street protests and open public descent quickly becoming widespread. Journalists flooded into the city to report on and document events as they unfolded. Among them was journalist and photographer Tim Hetherington.
Tim had spent the last decade working in conflict zones. His photojournalism had taken him to countries such as Liberia, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In war zones such as Afghanistan journalists were required to remain embedded with NATO and coalition forces. This restricted their movements and made access to the front lines very difficult but it did ensure a measure of protection. But the situation in Libya was different. Some journalists were able to move freely with anti-Gaddafi forces.
Greg Brockett: "A photojournalist who might have been working in Afghanistan around about that time they were essentially living with the armed forces day-to-day, and so they would have had appropriate shelter given to them and they wouldn't have been allowed to take unnecessary risks in quite the same way."
Tim first went to Libya in March 2011 as part of a commission for a human rights charity. Documentary work and awards had taken him away from the country but as Tim watched events unfold he felt compelled to return to Libya to document the situation on the ground as it dominated headlines around the world.
Greg Brockett: "We can't be totally sure how he wanted to use the work that he made there, but from his diaries and from the conversations he had with some of his colleagues it seems that what he wanted to do was to further explore how his presence as a photojournalist may affect the subjects and the people he photographed. So he was really interested in how his presence might affect their behaviour and appearance and how the soldiers he photographed might have taken inspiration from images they'd seen previously of the conflicts."
Many of the anti-Gaddafi fighters Tim travelled with had no formal training and were poorly equipped, being largely made up of volunteers. Tim's portraits captured them as ordinary people that had felt compelled to take up arms and fight. Unlike a lot of journalists who were in Libya at that time, Tim Hetherington had a different approach because he wasn't as interested in breaking news stories, he wanted to get under the surface of conflict and to explore its many different layers.
Greg Brockett: "He was interested in, as he would say, real people in real situations and I think this often meant that his projects were more long-term and in many ways more thoughtful. I think it's also important to look at the photographs themselves and you can see from his photographs that he's taken very brightly lit portraits, which are quite different from what you expect to see in a conflict zone, and I think maybe the reason he did this was because he wanted to show his audiences that he had a connection with his subjects. And he actually described the sort of setup he used there in his diary as being a bit more like a wedding photographer, just because of how well lit they were, and because of the engagement he had with his subjects."
In 2011 the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing western powers to undertake necessary measures to protect civilians in the country. A coalition of forces targeted Libyan air defences and military targets. These operations were known by NATO forces as Operation Unify Protector and in the British military as Operation Ellamy. The British government contributed air strikes and surveillance from Typhoon and Tornado GR4 aircraft. Tim photographed the apparent remnants of these strikes showing blackened remains of Libyan army vehicles abandoned at the side of the desert road as he travelled alongside the anti-Gaddafi fighters.
The front line in Libya was a dangerous one because it was so fluid and journalists had to make their way around the country by traveling with the anti-Gadhafi forces but also finding fixes and contact on the ground. Along with a small group of photographers and journalists Tim documented the street-to-street fighting in the city of Misurata. This was a strategically important city as it had been besieged by loyalist Gaddafi forces. Despite airstrikes from above fighting on the ground in Misrata continued centering on Tripoli Street. Tim and other journalists worked in close proximity to the anti-Gaddafi forces as they fought to remove loyalist troops from positions in shops, office blocks and rooftops. Tim took still photos and video footage capturing the human perspective of this fighting.
Greg Brockett: "Tim went with a group of other journalists to what was considered the front line in Misrata which was a besieged city at that time, and a lot of the fighting going on there on the ground was street to street, building to building, and so the journalists themselves were quite vulnerable in that situation. On the 20th April 2011 a mortar round struck a street just off Tripoli Street in Misrata and he was mortally wounded along with fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros. Obviously the nature of photojournalism in conflict zones is especially dangerous and carries extremely high risks and I think it's a really pertinent reminder of that."
The equipment Tim used and the photographs he shot in Libya are being preserved at IWM along with the rest of his archive, forming a complete record of his output as a conflict photographer and trans-media journalist. The distinctly self-aware and visionary approach of his work offers a unique insight into the events of 2011 and a conflict which would lead to years of turmoil.
Greg Brockett: "Tim and his work was really much more interested in themes within conflict which are less focused on in the news media, so he was interested in for example the relationship between young men and violence and he was interested in his presence and the effect that had on the ground, but also the long and very varied consequences of conflict as well. So there was very many different levels to what he was wanting to explore so I think that's going to be the main legacy of his work as we go forward and keep looking at it in its different forms."
Tim Hetherington: "I think the important thing for me is to connect with real people you know, to document them in these extreme circumstances, you know, where there aren't any kind of neat solutions or where you can't put any kind of neat guidelines and say this is what it's about or this is what it's about, it's not. I hope that my work kind of shows that."
In 2011, Muammar Gaddafi had been in charge in Libya for 42 years. That year, a revolutionary wave swept across North Africa and the Middle East known as the Arab Spring. The outbreak of civil war opened up Libya’s borders, and allowed many journalists to access the country for the first time in over four decades.
Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros travelled with anti-Gaddafi fighters across the country to document the Libyan revolution. Tim’s work captures the events that were unfolding, but there is also a deeper perspective in his work that went beyond reporting on world events: he wanted to reveal the real people who were caught in this conflict.
The Tim Hetherington Collection - Licensing and Prints
IWM is the copyright holder of the Tim Hetherington collection which is available to purchase and license for use in commercial projects.
Prints of Tim Hetherington’s works are now available for purchase exclusively on IWM Prints, 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.