Tim Hetherington, the daring war photographer and Oscar-nominated co-director of the documentary “Restrepo” about a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, died Wednesday while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces. He was 40.
Hetherington was killed in Misrata, the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops. Hetherington tweeted Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”
“Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict,” Hetherington’s family said in a statement. “He will be forever missed.”
Hetherington was nominated with Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm,” for an Academy Award for their 2010 documentary film “Restrepo,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
“There is no way to express my devastation and sorrow at the death of my dear friend Tim Hetherington in Misrata, Libya,” said Junger. “Tim was one of the most courageous and principled journalists I have ever known. The good that he accomplished — both with his camera and simply as a concerned person in some of the most devastated countries in the world — cannot be measured.”
“Restrepo,” filmed by both Hetherington and Junger, told the emotional story of the 2nd Platoon in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. The title refers to an isolated platoon outpost in the deadly Korengal Valley named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.
“No one who saw ‘Restrepo’ had any doubts about the dangers that Tim Hetherington and his crew were subjecting themselves to in order to bring us that story,” said Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences executive director Bruce Davis. “We’ve lost a courageous, remarkably talented filmmaker.”
Hetherington was born in Liverpool, England, and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his other credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries “Liberia: An Uncivil War” and “The Devil Came on Horseback.” He also produced pieces for ABC News’ “Nightline.”
“Tim bore powerful witness to unimaginable battles and made them real through the lens of his camera,” said ABC News president Ben Sherwood. “He leaves a legacy of unforgettable stories told through moving and still pictures.”
Hetherington’s striking imagery appeared in Vanity Fair magazine, where he worked as a contributing photographer. He won the World Press Photo of the Year award for an image of an exhausted U.S. soldier resting after a fire-fight in Afghanistan and released “Infidel,” a book of photos capturing the lives of the 173rd Airborne Combat Team, in 2010.
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter remembered Hetherington as “a rangy, charming workhorse of a photographer. Devilishly good-looking and impossibly brave, he was both a ladies’ man and a man’s man.” Carter noted that Hetherington had “a deft eye and unwavering dedication” to his craft and compared him to legendary war photographers Robert Capa and Larry Burrows.
“There’s a vast appetite for people to find out what the reality is that the soldiers go through,” Hetherington told The Associated Press at Sundance in 2010. “Soldiers don’t come back and talk about their experiences to their families. Although we have lots and lots of news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan — information about this and that — we don’t really get to see the experience of what the soldiers go through.”
Hetherington is survived by his mother, father, sister, brother and three nieces and nephews.
Associated Press Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles and AP writer Ben Hubbard in Misrata contributed to this report.