Tuesday, 17 May 2011

RIP Tim Hetherington. A brave man in every meaningful sense.

I feel a bit haunted today. They say all things are connected - certainly all things in the Internet are. The trivial and the profound mushed together into a sometimes nutritious, sometimes nauseating stew. I was reminded of this today by the apparently innocuous act of reviewing my blog stats.

You see, this blog received a big-for-me spike of visits on April 20th - with just over 4,000 people visiting on a day when I hadn't actually posted anything and wasn't really paying attention. It was only today that, out of interest, I dug in a litttle bit deeper and managed to find the source of most of my visits on that particular day. It was this.

The Twitter stream of photographer, journalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington. Renowned for his work in dangerous parts of Africa, Tim had been nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for a documentary he had made about his time in Afghanistan. Tim hadn't been using Twitter much recently, which is why just three tweets down on his page you can see him retweeting my infamous Sarah Palin blog back in January. Then on February 28, he talks about attending the Oscars and links to a snapshot from the night.

On April 19th, he wrote:  "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

On April  20th, he was killed by enemy fire in Libya while travelling with anti-Quaddafi forces.

Soldiers, and other men and women who serve on the front lines of conflicts are routinely described as "brave" when going into battle or, more poignantly, when they don't make it home from battle. Personally, I always think of "bravery" as two separate things. The first is physical courage - the willingness to put yourself in danger irrespective of cost. Soldiers, firefighters and police certainly demonstrate such bravery on many occassions but so can terrorists, murderers and criminals. A frequently useful but not inherently noble attribute.

The second type of bravery doesn't necessarily require physical courage - and that's the strength to do things the hard way because it's the right way. To consider not just your own point of view but what you might learn from those unlike you. To shut up and listen instead of claiming glory to yourself. To turn something painful, complicated and emotionally draining into art.

Tim Hetherington seems to have combined beautifully these two different types of bravery in the person of a man I would have liked to have know. Please take a moment to appreciate his work.

Tim's parent's have posted a message on his website saying that:
The following organisations meant a great deal to Tim. Donations in his memory should be directed to:
Milton Margai School for the Blind, Sierra Leonehttp://www.miltonmargaischool.org/
Human Rights Watchhttp://www.hrw.org/
Committee to Protect Journalistshttp://www.cpj.org/

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