Tim Hetherington: Sleeping Soldiers
Between 2007 and 2008, photographer Tim Hetherington (1970–2011) was embedded with U.S. Army soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Outpost Restrepo, a remote and dangerous post in the Korengal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan. Living with the soldiers during their 15-month deployment, Hetherington recorded all aspects of their experience, from construction of the camp to scenes of intense combat, and through frequent passages of boredom and waiting. Many of his images show the soldiers during moments of respite, bonding through common interests in music, video games, sports, and other cultural experiences from back home.
Hetherington made numerous still photographs at Outpost Restrepo for print publications, but he also used video, audio, interviews, and personal writings, even incorporating images of soldiers’ tattoos in his documentation. His complex multimedia journalism was intended not only to represent the platoon’s experience of war with immersive depth but also to reach the widest possible audience. His video footage was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, a collaboration with famed journalist Sebastian Junger. Hetherington’s photographs and other documentation animate his award-winning book Infidel (2010). Hetherington also combined media to create his three-screen video installation Sleeping Soldiers (2010). In this revelatory presentation, the artist juxtaposes chaotic scenes of combat with still images of soldiers at rest, allowing viewers to consider the uncertainty, stress, and physical toll of combat in Afghanistan.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art presents Sleeping Soldiers, alongside a selection of Hetherington’s photographs from Afghanistan. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Shadows of History: Photographs of the Civil War from the Collection of Julia J. Norrell, in the Corcoran’s Photography and Media Arts galleries.
“The book and film are about the intimacy of war, and that's what I see when I see the photographs of these guys sleeping,” said Hetherington. “We are used to seeing soldiers as cardboard cutouts. We dehumanize them, but war is a very intimate act. All of those soldiers would die for each other. We're not talking about friendship. We're talking about brotherhood.”
Biography of the Artist
Born in Liverpool, England, in 1970, Tim Hetherington was an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and writer. After studying literature at Oxford, Hetherington completed post-graduate work in photojournalism. He took up photography full-time in the 1990s, spending eight years in West Africa, documenting events and conflicts in Sudan and Liberia, among other countries. Hetherington produced the book Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold (2003), incorporating photography and oral testimony, and contributed video footage to the documentary Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004). Both chronicle the violent power struggle between notorious Liberian leader Charles Taylor and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels. He also contributed footage to The Devil Came on Horseback (2007), a U.S. Marine captain’s first-person account of the Sudanese genocide.
In 2007, Hetherington traveled to Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair. His coverage was honored with World Press Photo’s prestigious Photo of the Year award in 2007. Hetherington’s video Sleeping Soldiers was exhibited at the 2009 New York Photo Festival, and more recently at New York’s Aperture Foundation and at the Bronx Documentary Center in 2011. Hetherington’s documentary film Restrepo, co-directed with Sebastian Junger, won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011.
Tim Hetherington was killed while covering conflict in Misurata, Libya, on April 20, 2011. He is posthumously represented by Magnum Photographs.
Corcoran College of Art + Design MA in New Media Photojournalism
In addition to the exhibition’s public dimension, Tim Hetherington: Sleeping Soldiers also presents a considerable study opportunity for students in the Master of Arts in New Media Photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. This program, the first of its kind, helps visual journalists with varying backgrounds study and address the challenges facing photojournalism today. Located in the nation’s capital, the program draws on a vibrant community of media outlets and renowned photojournalists who make Washington, D.C., their home. The program emphasizes the individual as a visual reporter and encourages experimentation with new ways of storytelling, documentation, and editing, and explores the latest digital practices taught in conjunction with the enduring fundamentals of visual reporting, editing, and ethics.