Some time ago, I was blown away by a documentary called 'Which way is the front line from here?' It was about photographer Tim Hetherington.


I recognized many things, especially his lifelong search of the 'why' behind the cruel wars happening in this world. But what surprised me was that he didn't do this from a cynical, angry or indignant vision, but rather by fathoming the layers of power that humans have in them as long as humanity exists. It seemed like accepting this was an accelerator for letting go his judgments. In combination with his excellent photographs he found a way to share a nuanced and in-depth vision with the world.

The documentary gave me an important insight in my personal role as a storyteller. It encouraged me to be more than only a photographer. It learned me to listen carefully instead of trying to find answers or conclusions all the time. Besides that, it also gave me an insight into my personal questions I’ve always had about war since I was a child. 

What a loss that was when Tim died in 2011 on the front lines of the besieged city of Misrata, Libya while doing a reportage. As a source of inspiration, I want to share some of the quotes I’ve heard in the documentary:


Tim: "Photography allowed me to express myself, it made me free from a kind of destruction that I guessed I had inside myself, I could channel my energy somewhere and it made me free to move."

Mother Tim: "Tim had a very wide and inquiring mind and was intensely interested in everything that took his attention. He seldom became a 'tourist'. He was always confident with people and I think that was one of his great gifts that he could communicate with all levels, whether it was children or adults and in whatever condition."

Journalist and friend 1: "He didn't gave the Western audience the images that they expected to see, or the worst stereotypes of what violence in West Africa means. What he came back with was a really indept personal profile, not just of  the horror that people had been through but of the hope they had of where they were going."

Tim: "A lot of photographers are presenting their work as a scream: 'you have to see this!' It's more for them like an outrage. An outrage motivates me too, but I don't see it as a useful tool to engage people to the world. I think we need to built bridges to the people."

Journalist and friend 1: "War is the only opportunity that men have in society to love each other unconditionally. And the understanding of that depth of emotions at was was what Tim was fascinated with.

Journalist and friend 2: "I think one of the things Tim was looking for wasn't the truth about combat as a form of conflict, but the truth about combat as a form of bonding. And what he saw with his camera was connection."

Tim: "I wasn't saying anything about Afghanistan or about the political truth. What comes true is that war is difficult for everybody, as well as the civilians as the soldiers. For me the really important stories are close to these men, not the war."

Tim: "War-machine isn't just technology and bombs and missiles and systems and this kind of CNN-TV. War-machine is put a group of men together in extreme circumstances and get them bond together and they will start to kill for each other. All they are trying to do is survive and look after each other so you all go back alive. And that was it, really. It had nothing to do with war, it had nothing to do with politics."

Father Tim: "Tim was almost immeasurable infected by what he had seen, the horrors that had been perpetrated. It was something that sat on his shoulder and it reinforced his attitude to the world. I remember him saying to me: 'you are very rich.' And I said: 'in what definition?' He said: 'you are very rich because you are able to control and determine your own life and avoid the absolute devastation I have seen overwhelming people.' He was very forceful about it. He said: ' no no no, you must understand! We are all very privileged."


Click on the image to buy the DVD