“I don't buy the whole altruism thing. I think at the heart of altruism is a selfish deed. You know, and that's fine. . . I want to reach people. Can't it come out of a place of personal curiosity? A desire to locate myself in the world and also have some utility?” —Tim Hetherington
YESTERDAY MORNING we received news that award-winning photojournalist and Outside contributor Tim Hetherington was killed by a rocket propelled grenade on Wednesday in the city of Misrata, Libya. He was 40 years old. Three other photographers working at his side were also wounded, one fatally. At our offices in Santa Fe, the shock of this news was compounded by the fact that we had just finished editing what was likely the last interview Hetherington gave before he died. On March 13, former Outside photography editor Rob Haggart reached Hetherington at his home in New York City. The photographer had just returned home from the Acadamy Awards, where Restrepo, the film he co-directed along with writer Sebastian Junger, had been nominated for best documentary. Hetherington was preparing to head to Libya. Below, in an exchange that kicked off the interview, he expresses his uncertainty about the situation he was getting into.
ROB HAGGART: Hey, Tim, how are you?
TIM HETHERINGTON: Rob, I'm very well, man.
Good. Did you find a way into Libya?
Ah, I'm still trying to work out what to do. I mean, I've got a potential way in, but—I mean the thing is, the situation is moving so fast it's very hard to know whether it's a good call or not.
That's the main thing at the moment.
And do you have an assignment or are you just going to go?
Yeah, it's like a top-shelf documentary film. A director who I know who—and I said I wanted to go in. The problem is, unlike making still photographs, you don’t know what you’ll get in this kind of situation.
When it's so fast moving, it's very hard to structure a kind of narrative. It's difficult to find characters—you know what I mean? I have no idea what's going to happen. It's like a complete fishing trip, so it's also, like, not wanting to—for them back in New York, the director—for them to understand clearly that that’s what it is.
Right, they probably don't understand that or maybe just basing it on your previous documentaries, right?
I just don't want to set myself up for them thinking that they're going to get something and then they don't, because it's impossible—it may be impossible to do what they want out of that. No second chances— like it's so fast moving, it's pretty crazy what's going on. In terms of the government moving very close to Benghazi and who knows whether Benghazi is going to fall or whether the rebels will counter-attack or whether Gaddafi will buy people out in the town, you know what I mean?