Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer is a gripping portrait of British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who died while covering the 2011 Libyan uprising.
Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists. He was also an educator in the most profound sense of the word. His life was cut short when he died in a mortar blast while covering the Libyan Civil War. Tim Hetherington was more than dedicated in his pursuit of truth. As painful as it was to hear of his tragic death in revolutionary Libya, looking back, it should have come as no surprise. He was drawn to the important stories as they broke. If something worth knowing was happening in the world, Tim was there, recording the details for history.
Tim was also co-director (along with Sebastian Junger) of the Academy Award nominated documentary, Restrepo. The “stars” of Restrepo were The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Combat Team. They were fathers, sons, brothers, friends… they were the brave warriors who signed up to do what needed to be done at the time. They shared more insights into the war experience than any Hollywood movie could ever hope to. The film was not a reenactment, nor was it a fiction “based on a true story.” Like so much of Tim’s photojournalism, the product was the essence of the event itself. It is impossible to view Restrepo without feeling a connection to the guys in the company or without having a deeper understanding of the multiple experiences of war itself.
In Here I Am, journalist Alan Huffman shares Hetherington’s life story. He uses Hetherington’s experiences to bring the world an update on what it means to be a war reporter post 9/11. Huffman presents the duality of war journalism when working, as Tim did. For every risk, there is a reward, for every challenge there is a satisfaction, and sometimes for every lucky break, there is an unlucky moment. Huffman immerses us in the details of Hetherington’s reality while in the conflict zones with interviews with friends and colleagues that add a personal element to his portrait of Hetherington. For those of us who may have only known Hetherington from Restrepo, the book brings greater appreciation of his work. Huffman curates Hetherington’s photographic achievements, from his prize-winning photographs of Liberian children, to his iconic portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
It is human nature to ask why we are here. Not for Tim Hetherington. As the title of the book states, he was there, plain and simple. Well, maybe not that simply — he was wherever he was with definite purpose. For him, it seemed it was not the questions asked that were important; it was compassion and sharing the story that were imperative. As long as we were walking around (or going to war), scratching our heads and wondering things (like why we were there), Tim was going to see to it that at least we would have the correct information to enable us to come up with the correct answers. Here I Am is a fitting tribute to the life’s work of a man who constantly risked his life to give voice to people devastated by war. The book brings you along on the journeys that Hetherington took. It stirs your imagination, even if you’d somehow convinced yourself that you already understood war. Reading Here I Am will remind you that war heroes come in many forms. They are not always necessarily created with ammunition in their hands; a provocative and lethal shot of another kind can sometimes be fired with a Canon as easily as a cannon.
Tim Hetherington did not appear on the scene, get his shot, then return to safer shores. He was committed to telling the stories of those affected by war. He dug in and he gained the trust of those he met wherever he traveled. Here I Am is an opportunity to meet Tim through his lifelong compassion and his creativity. It is a book over too soon. And like Tim, it stays with you.
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