‘He could create beauty out of horror’: the extraordinary life and photography of Tim Hetherington Culture | The Guardian

He joined rebel convoys in Africa and turned his time with GIs in Afghanistan into an Oscar-nominated film. But his subject wasn’t war – it was people. Ahead of a major show, our writer remembers his former colleague

Tim Hetherington used to get so hung up about time. This was his issue on every photography assignment, his main bone of contention: how much time did he have? He could never understand why a writer was allowed a full hour with a subject while the photographer had to shoot around the edges, grabbing 10 minutes here and there. “Hold on, hold on,” he would say, whenever I dared hurry him. He had important work to be doing. He absolutely refused to be rushed.

Tim and I were colleagues back in the late 1990s when we were both at the Big Issue magazine. The editorial office was like a dysfunctional family: everyone fighting their corner and mostly learning on the job. For some of us, it was home, but Tim was only passing through, bound for wilder places and greater glories. He joined rebel convoys in west Africa, bunked alongside GIs in Afghanistan and chronicled the first green shoots of the Arab Spring. He won a quartet of World Press Photo awards and earned an Oscar nomination for Restrepo, the war documentary he made with US author Sebastian Junger, drawing on their 15 months embedded in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. On assignment, his approach was methodical and deliberate. In life, he went at things full-speed. It was as if he was running to his own internal stopwatch, subconsciously aware that he had to make the most of each moment.

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