Sleeping Soldiers

Last spring, British photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed at age 40 while covering the conflict in Libya.  A posthumous exhibit of his work in Afghanistan, “Sleeping Soldiers” is now up at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC.

I find Tim’s work very interesting for a couple of reasons. While he was no stranger to photographing in combat zones, he was also interested in showing us another side to the lives of the men. He stayed with a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan for months, gaining their trust to the point where he could make images of them as they slept, appearing quiet and vulnerable, (yet still a bit on edge).

There are also images from his 2010 book Infidel, showing the soldiers during leisure time.

Sterling Jones practices his golf swing in Kunar Province, Afghanistan

I also find Tim interesting and inspiring because of his embrace of modes of documenting beyond the camera. He directed and produced films (Restrepo was nominated for an Academy Award), did writing and reporting, and designed everything from multi-screen installations to portable device downloads. The “Sleeping Soldiers” portion of the exhibit up at the Corcoran is actually a video installation of the sleeping men layered with sounds and scenes of war, which add psychological components for the viewer to consider.

It’s easy for us to forget as we scan the the oft-daily scene of carnage on the front page of the paper, that someone was in the middle of the chaos with the dedication and presence of mind to frame and capture a photograph, allowing the rest of the world to see instantly what is happening.  A salute to Tim Hetherington and the other journalists who’ve lost their lives and to those still out there on the front lines.

World Press Photo of the Year 2007 by Tim Hetherington shows an exhausted soldier in Afghanistan.