There’s an exhibition of war photography at the IWM that isn’t the sort of photography you might be expecting.

The exhibition, Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington, is a collection of 65 photos taken by the late photographer, who was killed in 2011, while covering the Lybian civil war.

While most war photography, particularly for news reports, focuses on the war, Hetherington more often looked for the warriors, photographing the people at war, and often in the tedium of waiting. In rooms filled with his records of war, you’ll meet the people who suffered its effects as much as the people who caused them while larking, sleeping, and rejoicing at their victories.

Key works on display include his projects in Liberia (2003 – 2007), Afghanistan (2007 – 2008), and his final, unfinished project in Libya (2011).  They’re all displayed alongside some of his personal effects and the cameras he used in the field.

There are examples here of Hetherington’s first experience of an active frontline, with his project documenting the Second Liberian Civil War and the subsequent steps towards peace and democracy. Alongside this, the exhibition features his time in Afghanistan, where he lived for long periods with a platoon of US soldiers. Here he chose to depict an alternative angle to contemporary news reporting, by focusing on the young soldiers he lived and spent significant time with, covering every nuance of their behaviour during periods of extreme tension, fear, vulnerability, exhaustion and boredom.

There are a couple of more arty videos as well, but really, war coverage is often so much more powerful when seen silently, with the pleading eyes of the people involved looking back at you.

The exhibition, Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington is at the Imperial War Museum until the end of September 2024 and is free to visit.


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