Saying Goodbye to Tim
By Jacques Menasche
On Tuesday, May 24th, hundreds of mourners gathered inside the First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City to begin — in the words of Sebastian Junger — “the process of living in a world without Tim.”
Tim, of course, is Tim Hetherington, the 41-year-old British-born photojournalist and filmmaker who, along with American Chris Hondros, was killed by pro-Qaddafi forces in Misrata, Libya on April 20th.
If five weeks later the shock among those in attendance at the memorial had perhaps lessened, the full measure of the loss, by contrast, was just coming into view. As Michael Kamber, Hetherington’s friend and colleague in the conflict zone, said: “For our generation of photographers … Tim was our prince.”
Beneath the Gothic spires of the church in Hetherington’s adopted city, many of that generation —Ron Haviv, Moises Saman, Chris Anderson, Laurent Van der Stockt and others — were on hand to affirm it. Between alternating selections of music from Schubert and Bob Marley, speakers meanwhile traced his extraordinary life, from his acceptance into Oxford University at the age of 17, to his photographs, films, and multimedia work from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan.
“He fit into forty years more life than we will ever live,” his sister Victoria said.
Among the mourners were several soldiers who had met Hetherington in the lonely Afghan outpost called Restrepo where he and Junger shot their Oscar-nominated documentary. One, Brendan O’Byrne, who was suffering from PTSD when Tim invited him to stay in his Brooklyn apartment for a month, recalled him with gratitude as “putting his life second to our story.”
This generosity of spirit, along with Hetherington’s charm, sense of humor, intensity, truth-seeking, romanticism, and intelligence provided both reason to celebrate and to grieve.
“I mourn the loss of our future together, the children we will never have,” his fiancée Idil Ibrahim said, though she took solace in the fact that he was killed “doing what he loved most.”
After the service, the crowd spilled out onto Fifth Avenue and slowly began to make their way to a reception at the Aperture Gallery. There, wine glasses in hand, Hetherington’s friends celebrated his life, though now and again some would duck into a small side room to quietly watch his haunting five-minute video installation, Sleeping Soldiers, which was playing on a loop. Juxtaposing still images of young soldiers in child-like slumber with frenetic video of combat, it was a kind of memorial, too.