In 2010, we had the opportunity to interview Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger on This Green Earth about their film Restrepo, then being featured at the Sundance Film Festival. I had been an avid follower of Sebastian Junger’s columns in Vanity Fair and was particularly awed by his piece about being captured by Nigerian oil rebels. When I started researching for the interview, I was even more blown away by the photos taken in connection with the film Restrepo. Tim Hetherington had captured not only the personality, but the absolute essence of the men who had served in this remote outpost in Afghanistan. I started looking at more photos he had taken and was really moved by his work.
Even though we’ve interviewed some high profile people for This Green Earth, I was nervous about this interview. I wrote an introduction for the two men that can only be described as vapidly fawning. I worked and re-worked it and even read it a few times at home that morning. When Tim and Sebastian sat down for the interview, my hands were cold and clammy. It didn’t help that both men were very attractive which just added to the intimidation factor. And then as soon as they started speaking and joking with us, and with each other and it was as if they were good friends of ours who happened to stop by for coffee. We ended up having a great time and even feeling a bit of a bond with each of them.
Tim Hetherington was one of those people who just makes a lasting impression. He was vibrant, charming, intense, down to earth and witty. He and Sebastian had been on some harrowing missions in Afghanistan and even though it was clear Tim was in very serious danger at times, he downplayed the whole affair. He was so inspired by the men in Afghanistan and he explained he really needed to experience what they experienced, even if it meant risking his life. It was clear that’s how he treated all of his photojournalist assignments – he was both subject and photographer. He risked his life to show us how others risked theirs.
When I got an email from a work colleague and the subject line was ‘Tim Hetherington’ and nothing else, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew that Tim risked his life for Restrepo and other assignments and I suspected something bad had happened. I was sickened to open the email and find out that Tim had been killed by an RPG in Libya. Such a waste of a wonderful, talented, and dedicated man. His legacy will live on through his photos, but I can’t help but feel embittered by the loss of a man I only met briefly during an interview. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tim’s family.
*(left to right in the photo above, Katie Noble, Chris Cherniak, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington)