YOU can be quite sure that once a mother has brought up a boy, no grown man looks quite the same again.
The eye of Tim Hetherington must have glimpsed some of that altered perception and he went on to capture it in his lens.
"You never see them like this," it's a quote by the late, Liverpool-born photographer describing the revelation he had looking at sleeping soldiers: “They always look so tough… but when they’re asleep they look like little boys. They look the way their mothers probably remember them.”
Tim HetheringtonHe was talking to his creative collaborator Sebastian Junger (his co-director on the Oscar-nominated documentary film, Restrepo). Hetherington's workplaces were war zones and he was killed in a mortar attack while covering the 2011 Libyan civil war.
Now, two years after his death at the age of 41, Open Eye Gallery pays tribute to his dynamic work in an exhibition of his photography and film which opens this weekend.
At the private view last night, his own mother was there.
You Never See Them Like This is presented in collaboration with the Tim Hetherington Trust and Magnum Photos and is the Open Eye’s first show from new artistic director Lorenzo Fusi.
It draws from the series of images published in his acclaimed book Infidel (Chris Boot Ltd, London 2010), which offers an intimate insight into the lives of American soldiers in conflict but beyond the action of war, almost 30 of Hetherington’s genre-defying photographs will be reproduced in varying scale, including a number of billboard formats.
Sleeping soldiers in Afghanistan
The centrepiece of the show will be the three-channel video installation entitled Sleeping Soldiers. The video, alongside the photographs, lingers on the apparent stillness and quietness that anticipates and follows combat. As a sense of waiting marks the passing of time, Hetherington asks what story is to be told, in journalistic terms, when there is no significant event to report on.
Set against the unexpectedly beautiful landscape of the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, Hetherington’s still images follow the arrival, efforts and advancement of a US contingent in establishing an outpost in this North Eastern part of Afghanistan. The work highlights the long-term nature of Hetherington’s photographic projects, his interest in narrative, human connection and the close relationships he developed with his subjects.
As days of intense conflict are broken up by long periods of waiting, the photo-reporter explores how these soldiers cope with this emotionally draining existence. Looking at how they build up resilience, renegotiate their relations and manage their feelings, Hetherington ultimately documents the formation of a strong brotherhood consolidated over a period of one year, underpinned by themes including sexuality, alienation/isolation and the sense of loss and fear.
*You Never See Them Like This - The work of Tim Hetherington, Open Eye Gallery, 19 Mann Island, Waterfront, L3 1BP, Tues-Sun 10.30am - 5.30pm, until November 25. 0151 236 6768. www.openeye.org.uk
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