“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”
Back in the day when Kodak ruled, you’d go on vacation and eagerly await the week or two it took for your pics to develop. Waiting built anticipation and the hope that you had some good shots—or at least one. Digital cameras and smartphones now give us instant gratification but telling a story through photography is about more than being able to take one good shot. Visual storytelling is your chance to make an immediate emotional connection. Good travel photos evoke an “I wanna go!” feeling. Like writing, one needs to adopt a “just do it” mindset in order to build your eye and style. Much in the same way that it’s good to read from many different genres or sources, it’s good to pick your head up every once in a while and see what other photographers are doing. Whose photographs do you connect with and what could you learn from their work that might inspire you?
An article in Outside magazine about Tim Hetherington recently caught my interest. A war photographer and filmmaker, Hetherington was killed by a mortar attack in 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. The article focuses on the HBO documentary, Which Way Is Front Line From Here? The Life & Time of Tim Hetherington. The film is a tribute to Hetherington’s life and centers on why he was such a dedicated and extraordinary photojournalist I don’t know a lot about photography, but reading about him and seeing some of his images inspired me to want to understand what made him such an incredible photographer. If you’re more interested in telling a story through your photographs than through your words, then the life of Tim Hetherington might interest you.
Born and raised in England, Hetherington recognized at an early age the opportunity travel offered to connect with people during family trips. As a young man he traveled on his own and spent two years in Tibet, China and India because he wanted to experience the lives of others. His journeys inspired his desire to capture images and upon returning home he spent a few years studying photography and photojournalism. He was the kind of person who made friends easily which is plus for any photographer. He developed a keen eye and style that would later earn him awards and opportunities. While building his professional career as a war photographer, he also used his gifts for humanitarian purposes. He explored the use of mixed multi-media and used his abilities to shine a light in places and situations that most of us would most probably never visit. His life is confirmation that we don’t have to live in a box and be just one thing, that we can have a multi-faceted life or career. Travel ignited a passion for him to connect people through his lens to those less fortunate. His compassion, insight, and professionalism, combined with his ability to capture the essence of a place and its people or a situation are the reason why he’ll forever be known for his exceptional photojournalism.
Hetherington was 40 when he was killed. He wasn’t a travel photographer but his indelible images, and life, continue to inspire and teach professionals and layman. Sebastian Junger, who directed the HBO documentary, was a close friend of Hetherington’s and said, “Tim was trying to always think outside of the box…so he sort of made a great point of saying: ‘I don’t want to call myself a photographer. I’m an image-maker.’ But the truth is, most of his work was still photos, and they’re beautiful. They’re stunning.”
What are you connecting to in your travels these days, whether local or afar, that inspires you to capture images and tell your stories?