In 'Which Way,' A War Photographer In His Element

  • Spc. Tad Donoho exhibits a "pink belly," in which soldiers hit a colleague's stomach until it bruises for his birthday. "[Photographer Tim Hetherington] had this tremendous interest in human beings," Sebastian Junger tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "In some ways, the photography wasn't even the point. What he really wanted to do was engage with people ... and as a result his work was phenomenal."
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    Spc. Tad Donoho exhibits a "pink belly," in which soldiers hit a colleague's stomach until it bruises for his birthday. "[Photographer Tim Hetherington] had this tremendous interest in human beings," Sebastian Junger tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "In some ways, the photography wasn't even the point. What he really wanted to do was engage with people ... and as a result his work was phenomenal."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • A soldier rests at the end of a day of heavy fighting at the Restrepo outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. This image won the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year award. "The funny thing about war, it actually almost never hardens people," Junger says. "It almost always humanizes them, and I think war humanized Tim tremendously because it inflicted so much pain on him."
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    A soldier rests at the end of a day of heavy fighting at the Restrepo outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. This image won the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year award. "The funny thing about war, it actually almost never hardens people," Junger says. "It almost always humanizes them, and I think war humanized Tim tremendously because it inflicted so much pain on him."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Soldier Ryan Lizama sleeping at an outpost in the Korengal, June 2008. From the book Infidel. "Tim said, 'This is what the American public never gets to see, because any nation is self-selecting in the images it presents,' " Junger remembers. " 'And we want to see our soldiers as strong.' "
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    Soldier Ryan Lizama sleeping at an outpost in the Korengal, June 2008. From the book Infidel. "Tim said, 'This is what the American public never gets to see, because any nation is self-selecting in the images it presents,' " Junger remembers. " 'And we want to see our soldiers as strong.' "
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Spc. Steve Kim sleeping, the Korengal, July 2008. " 'We don't wanna know that they're also these vulnerable boys,' " Hetherington told Junger.
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    Spc. Steve Kim sleeping, the Korengal, July 2008. " 'We don't wanna know that they're also these vulnerable boys,' " Hetherington told Junger.
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • "Doc" Kelso sleeping, Korengal, July 2008. "Soldiers in their combat fatigues, their gear, their weapons — they look very formidable," Junger reflects. "But then you take their gear off them and they go to sleep, and they really do look very vulnerable and very young."
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    "Doc" Kelso sleeping, Korengal, July 2008. "Soldiers in their combat fatigues, their gear, their weapons — they look very formidable," Junger reflects. "But then you take their gear off them and they go to sleep, and they really do look very vulnerable and very young."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Forward observer Murphy sleeping, Korengal, July 2008. "I thought nothing was going on because there was no combat," Junger recalls. "And Tim saw potential in everything, including a situation where nothing's happening."
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    Forward observer Murphy sleeping, Korengal, July 2008. "I thought nothing was going on because there was no combat," Junger recalls. "And Tim saw potential in everything, including a situation where nothing's happening."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Liberian rebels bomb the nation's capital, Monrovia, using American-manufactured mortars, in 2003. More than 1,000 people died during the siege. "One of the scary things about working in civil wars like that is, you're not even sure you can trust the people you're with," Junger says. "They're very young, they're very hopped up, and it's very easy to feel like they can turn on you in an instant."
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    Liberian rebels bomb the nation's capital, Monrovia, using American-manufactured mortars, in 2003. More than 1,000 people died during the siege. "One of the scary things about working in civil wars like that is, you're not even sure you can trust the people you're with," Junger says. "They're very young, they're very hopped up, and it's very easy to feel like they can turn on you in an instant."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • An anti-aircraft brigade member exchanges a brief tender word with his girlfriend during heavy fighting in Monrovia in 2003. "It's kind of an ugly environment ... and they're holding each other and they're looking at each other with just incredible love," Junger says. "And it's just — the look on both of their faces is so beautiful, and that's what Tim was looking for in war reporting."
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    An anti-aircraft brigade member exchanges a brief tender word with his girlfriend during heavy fighting in Monrovia in 2003. "It's kind of an ugly environment ... and they're holding each other and they're looking at each other with just incredible love," Junger says. "And it's just — the look on both of their faces is so beautiful, and that's what Tim was looking for in war reporting."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • A young rebel fighter with a hand grenade, Tubmanberg, Bomi County, Liberia, 2003. "It wasn't the ugliness; it was the beauty and the love that happens in those very intense situations," Junger says. "And [Tim] would capture it."
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    A young rebel fighter with a hand grenade, Tubmanberg, Bomi County, Liberia, 2003. "It wasn't the ugliness; it was the beauty and the love that happens in those very intense situations," Junger says. "And [Tim] would capture it."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Members of a Libyan family with undetonated ordnance, reportedly fired into their homes by Gadhafi forces, in Misrata, Libya. "Where I got nervous was when he emailed me and said he was going to Misrata by boat," Junger remembers. "Something about that just seemed rife with potential problems: a besieged city, you can only get in and out by boat. ... It just seemed like it could go really badly."
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    Members of a Libyan family with undetonated ordnance, reportedly fired into their homes by Gadhafi forces, in Misrata, Libya. "Where I got nervous was when he emailed me and said he was going to Misrata by boat," Junger remembers. "Something about that just seemed rife with potential problems: a besieged city, you can only get in and out by boat. ... It just seemed like it could go really badly."
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • During fierce fighting on April 20, 2011, rebel fighters cleared Tripoli Street. They encountered another family stranded in a small, parallel dead-end street. With assistance from an ambulance, the rebels evacuated the family before coming under extremely close small-arms and RPG fire from Gadhafi loyalists at the end of the street. The family was unhurt.
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    During fierce fighting on April 20, 2011, rebel fighters cleared Tripoli Street. They encountered another family stranded in a small, parallel dead-end street. With assistance from an ambulance, the rebels evacuated the family before coming under extremely close small-arms and RPG fire from Gadhafi loyalists at the end of the street. The family was unhurt.
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos
  • Hetherington's last photograph, taken April 20, 2011, the day he was fatally injured in a rebel mortar attack. After hours of fierce fighting at Tripoli Street, rebels secured the area and found a truck full of loyalist army supplies. Photographers at the scene concluded that the hole in this helmet had been shot by rebel forces at close range as they vented their anger at regime forces.
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    Hetherington's last photograph, taken April 20, 2011, the day he was fatally injured in a rebel mortar attack. After hours of fierce fighting at Tripoli Street, rebels secured the area and found a truck full of loyalist army supplies. Photographers at the scene concluded that the hole in this helmet had been shot by rebel forces at close range as they vented their anger at regime forces.
    Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos

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Sebastian Junger (left) and Tim Hetherington are seen at an Academy Awards luncheon in February 2011. Junger's new documentary explores the life of Hetherington, who was killed in Misrata, Libya, in April 2011.

hide captionSebastian Junger (left) and Tim Hetherington are seen at an Academy Awards luncheon in February 2011. Junger's new documentary explores the life of Hetherington, who was killed in Misrata, Libya, in April 2011.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

At the 2011 Academy Awards, the film Restrepo was among the documentaries nominated for an Oscar. It follows an American platoon on a remote mountaintop in what was, at the time, the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.

To make the film, writer Sebastian Junger teamed up with British photojournalist Tim Hetherington — who, walking the red carpet that night at the Oscars, might as well have been a young actor straight out of central casting: tall, handsome, charismatic.

Six weeks later, Hetherington would be dead, killed in the siege of Misrata during Libya's civil war.

He was just 40 years old, but well into a career capturing indelible images of conflict.

Now, a documentary directed by Junger follows Hetherington's life as a war photographer, from his earliest days covering the civil war in Liberia to his final days in Misrata.

It's called Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.

Junger spoke with NPR's Renee Montagne about the life, work and goals of his friend and colleague. Excerpts from that conversation are transcribed in the image captions above; and listen to the Morning Edition audio by clicking on the player above.

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