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April 21, 2011

Tim Hetherington was a ‘model war photographer’

By Andrew Pugh

Tim Hetherington, the award-winning British photojournalist killed in the war-torn Libyan city of Misrata, was today described as ‘about as perfect a model of a war photographer as you’re going to find these days’by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

Hetherington is believed to have been killed by a rocket-propelled grenade while covering the Libyan conflict for Vanity Fair. Carter today paid tribute to the man he described as a ‘rangy, charming workhorse of a photographer”.

Writing on the Vanity Fair website he described Hetherington as: ‘Devilishly good-looking and impossibly brave, he was both a ladies’ man and a man’s man… There were few like Tim, and there will be fewer like him. He had a deft eye and unwavering dedication, and as we used to say in Canada, he had balls for bookends.”

Hetherington’s family released a statement saying: ‘It is with great sadness we learned that our son and brother, photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, was killed today in Misrata, Libya by a rocket-propelled grenade.

‘Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed.”

Hetherington worked on several assignments for Vanity Fair including his coverage of US troops in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. It was on that assignment that he took the image of a soldier resting at Restrepo bunker that won him the World Press Photo of the Year prize in 2007.

Explaining his decision to go to Libya, Hetherington’s close friend James Brabazon told the BBC: ‘He went there for humanitarian reasons. He went there to shed light on a very confusing situation.

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‘Although it’s an oxymoron to say it, Tim was a very cautious war reporter. He knew the risks but he decided to take them in order to cover the story.”

Hetherington, who had dual UK and US nationality, studied literature at Oxford University and later took a course in photojournalism at Cardiff University, before starting his career as a trainee reporter at The Big Issue.

His documentary Restrepo, which followed US troops in a remote Aghan outpost, won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar. He also covered the Liberian Civil War and the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Times photographer Jack Hill also paid tribute to his ‘colleague and pal”. Writing the paper today he said: ‘I remember Tim being one of the early innovators in matching pictures with sound, making audio slideshows – which are obligatory on most newspaper websites these days. This was typical of Tim, being experimental and at the forefront of technology, as well as battle lines.”

He added: ‘We crossed paths recently in Libya and he had not changed. He was typically self-effacing and modest yet enthusiastic in describing his plans and the changes in his life. He was thrilled to have moved to the States, had received a green card, and was excited by the success of his film and the new projects he was planning.

‘All of us who work in war zones are aware of the risks and regard them as acceptable in order to show people what is going on. And as all photographers know, you sometimes have to be out there at the front, sometimes in the action, in order to take those pictures that we can only hope make a difference.”

Hetherington is the first UK journalist to be killed covering the war in Libya, and his death comes after that of an Al Jazeera journalist last month. Hassaon Al Jaber was returning to the rebel-held town of Benghazi after filing a report from an opposition protest when the car he was travelling in came under fire.

On average a British journalist has been killed in the line of work every year since 2001, including 39-year-old Sunday Mirror journalist Rupert Hamer who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan last year

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