Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Here I Am

The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer

by Alan Huffman

“Huffman looks at what it means to be a war reporter in the twenty-first century through the lens of the iconic Hetherington’s life.” —New York Post

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date March 11, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2091-5
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date March 05, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2090-8
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date March 12, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9366-7
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists. In Here I Am, journalist Alan Huffman recounts Hetherington’s life: his first interests in photography; his critical role in reporting the Liberian Civil War; and his tragic death in Libya. Huffman also traces Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his prize-winning photographs of Liberian children to the celebrated portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who risk their lives to give a voice to people ravaged by war.

Praise

“I don’t think I fully understood how brave my good friend Tim Hetherington was until reading these pages. Not only does Huffman bring Tim back to life—his brilliant work, his extraordinary vision—but he also leads us through some of the most harrowing combat of our generation. His description of the siege of Misrata should be read by anyone who imagines they understand war—or courage, or fear.” —Sebastian Junger

“[Huffman] investigates not only the significant life of his subject, whom he admires greatly, but also the craft of the war photographer . . . Huffman excels at heightening the drama, depicting the rapid-fire action and constant danger of working among soldiers and guerrillas engaged in battle.” —The Boston Globe

“Huffman vividly chronicles the short life of a man drawn to danger zones to capture the horrors of modern warfare.” —Los Angeles Times

“Huffman recounts the career arc of British-born and -educated Hetherington while simultaneously providing insights into the mentality of war photographers during the past century. . . . A first-rate biographical portrait that also deserves accolades for its insights into the minds of adventure-seeking photographers.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Compelling . . . Huffman details Hetherington’s early career, friendships, and experiences with rebels in Africa, and influences and aesthetic struggles. . . and offers perspectives from firsthand sources to unveil the heroism and errors of his final days.” —Publishers Weekly

“In stark, unsentimental words, Huffman shows how the bold and ambitious Hetherington was drawn past even his own inner psychological boundary. . . .Gut-wrenching as his story is, it’s an inspirational one that is especially significant in this era of media downsizing and of sanitized, corporate-driven journalism.” —Alan Huffman, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A delicate and thoughtful telling of the photographer’s life. Literary in style, Here I Am explores the questions asked about those who works their lives to document wars: why do they do it, do they manage to stay uninvolved in the events they see, how do they cope with civilian life, and so on. . . . Readers interested in those who pursue this dangerous profession will find much insight in this book.” —South China Morning Post

“Hetherington emerges as a strikingly versatile storyteller, equally at home in film, old-fashioned still photography, and writing.” —Biographile

“By describing so vividly the world Hetherington lived and died in, by the end it feels like Tim is your friend. It is hard to stifle tears. His death feels like your loss. And it is. . . . In [Huffman’s] account of those last days, you will find yourself breathless, almost believing you can change the outcome, turning the pages frantically. . . And it hurts. It hurts all the more because thanks to Huffman, you are there.” —Travellinbaen, Missing the Ground

“[Here I Am] captures the unflinching life of war photographer Tim Hetherington. . . . Huffman re-creates the suspense of battle, the tension between competing photographers who, by nature, are judgmental of one another’s approach to depicting war; he builds detailed characters of Libyan ambulance drivers, fighters, and commanders as successfully as he depicts the contentious clique of photographers.” —Lynsey Addario, The Daily Beast

“Huffman details the life of a man who wasn’t satisfied to record images but wanted to understand the causes behind the war, the histories of conflict, and the individuals—many, adolescents—caught in the horror and drama of war. Through Hetherington’s extraordinary life, Huffman explores a dangerous profession and how one man pursued it with his own personal twist.” —Vanessa Bush, Booklist< "The biographer wanted closure not only for himself and his book, but also for Hetherington's loved ones—and especially for future war photojournalists who would look back and look up to Hetherington. . . . A tribute. Fortunately for readers, though, it is not undiluted hagiography." —Steve Weinberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Huffman recounts Hetherington’s career in chapters that expand on the many conflicts the photographer covered: The Liberian civil war; the genocide in Sudan. . . the American occupation of Afghanistan. . . and succeeds in immersing us in Hetherington’s daily reality while in conflict zones. . . . Many excellent interviews with friends and colleagues add a personal dimension to the photographer’s extraordinary life.” —The Columbia Journalism Review

“From American journalist Alan Huffman comes Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer. . . a biography about the photojournalist famous for his iconic photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, who was killed in 2011 by a mortar blast during the Libyan civil war.” —Quill & Quire (most anticipated books of Spring 2013)

“[Huffman] investigates not only the significant life of his subject, whom he admires greatly, but also the craft of the war photographer and the tensions and contradictions involved . . . Huffman excels at heightening the drama, depicting the rapid-fire action and constant danger of working among soldiers and guerrillas engaged in battle.” —Eric Liebetrau, The Boston Globe

“Huffman vividly chronicles the short life of a man drawn to danger zones to capture the horrors of modern warfare.” —Los Angeles Times

“Celebrate[s] Tim Hetherington’s life . . . [focuses] on Tim’s relationship with his work . . . recount[s] his last days in Libya in excruciating detail.” —TIME

“Huffman takes readers into the midst of some dangerous and gruesome battle zones that Hetherington recorded. The book is part biography and part war chronicle, but it is also a skillfully constructed eulogy, in which Huffman allows many of Hetherington’s friends and colleagues to reminisce about a fallen comrade. . . . By deftly combining such personal memories with vivid descriptions of battle zones, Huffman makes Here I Am a must-read as a uniquely constructed memoriam.” —Joseph Hnatiuk, Winnipeg Free Press

“Huffman’s biography crackles with the authenticity of his own experiences in Liberia and interviews with Hetherington and his colleagues . . . An in-depth, intense chronicle.” —Shelf Awareness

“Huffman looks at what it means to be a war reporter in the 21st century through the lens of the iconic Hetherington’s life, looking at his early work—prize-winning photographs of Liberian children—to his Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo . . . to the mortar blast in Libya that cut his life short.” —New York Post (Required Reading)

“A powerfully written biography . . . titled Here I Am in reference to a moment that Hetherington finds himself in his own viewfinder, reflected back in a mirror. This is poignant imagery and metaphor for the entire body of this extraordinary artist and humanist’s life.” —Huffington Post

“A tale worth telling, a look into a world of violence and chaos few could understand.” —Joe Rogers, The Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“[Huffman is] at his riveting best in his description of the battle for Misrata, which puts the reader as close as most of us ever want to get to the absolute hell of chaotic urban war.” —Pasatiempo

“I was happy to see news of a book about Hetherington; I was even happier that Huffman was writing it. The man can write. . . . Huffman could have written a fine book about war, but in Here I Am he’s done something a little more complicated—he’s captured and communicated how Tim Hetherington saw war.” —Lemuria Bookstore Blog

Excerpt

Hollywood

The red carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony was about as far as Hetherington could imagine being from that day in Monrovia when he’d sat with James Brabazon, surrounded by corpses, drinking warm beer, or the night he’d hobbled on his broken ankle after Rock Avalanche. Yet there he was, looking debonair in his black tuxedo, with his lovely girlfriend Idil Ibrahim beside him. Junger was also there, with his wife, Daniela Petrova, and all of them looked stunning as they strolled past the flashing cameras.

Hetherington told a correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter that the Oscars, with its crush of stars and voracious media coverage, scared him more than Charles Taylor had. He was joking but the point was clear: this was not his natural habitat.

The success of Hetherington and Junger’s documentary film Restrepo, which had won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival a year before, was a huge affirmation for Hetherington. Restrepo was an unvarnished look at a harsh reality, not normally a recipe for popular success.

Yet the reviews had been uniformly positive, audiences had approved, and Restrepo was now up for an Academy Award for the best documentary film of 2010. “It’s incredibly strange,” Hetherington told a National Public Radio reporter in an interview he gave while in Hollywood for the event. “Our foremost thought when we started this project wasn’t winning an Academy Award, it was not getting killed making this movie. And we succeeded in doing that, barely, I think. But it’s absolutely thrilling to be with other such great filmmakers. And it’s a really once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Among the many photos of their time in Hollywood is one that shows Hetherington posing, with a slightly bemused look, beside the statue of an oversized, gilded Oscar—a requisite photo op that was as predictable and contrived as Restrepo was original and unwaveringly authentic. Here I am in Hollywood, the photo proclaims. Junger observed that their being there, in the pantheon of superficiality, made Hetherington a little uncomfortable, that he had seemed more at ease in the Korengal Valley, where he had been, for the most part, very relaxed: “I had the sense that he felt like he was the most him out there . . . Here he was faking it.”

War zones made a kind of emotional sense to Hetherington, despite the recurring trauma, which had, in a bit of irony, landed them at the Oscars. Being there, Junger said, “was very intoxicating to Tim and kind of alarming. You can’t go to the Oscars and not be alarmed.” The Oscar nomination, Junger said, “was a huge affirmation but it was from a world we didn’t feel much in common with. I think it would be a little like having a cheerleader like you in high school—it’s tremendously flattering but you didn’t have much in common with this person. Hollywood is this very plush, gorgeous, and flaky world. We both decided it would mostly be just fun, and it was fun. It was pretty clear that in the food chain we were basically plankton . . . documentaries are down there with animation and sound design. All the cameras and attention are focused on the stars. It’s really about the stars. But even at that level of attention . . . it was thrilling, and our movie was about something of urgent importance to America, even in Hollywood.”

Despite Junger’s disclaimer about the Hollywood hierarchy, Hetherington attracted his share of attention. He was that tall, handsome Brit, an attractive subject for the photographers and TV crews. It didn’t hurt that he and Junger were also accompanied by Aron Hijar and Misha Pemble-Belkin. “I don’t know if soldiers had ever walked the red carpet, and people loved it,” Junger said. In his interviews, Hetherington appeared charming and relaxed, but the conversation he was having with Junger behind the scenes was typically about the ongoing Arab Spring, the series of uprisings that was turning the Arab world upside down. Both of them felt the Academy Awards represented a hiatus from their work, not the culmination of it. “Did you ever think about being here when making Restrepo?” one interviewer asked. “No,” was the answer.

Hetherington and Junger looked more at home posing with the two Second Platoon soldiers who accompanied them, both fresh from Afghanistan. Hijar wore a tuxedo, but Pemble-Belkin wore his dress uniform. The soldiers’ presence, Hetherington said, made the event feel more authentic. He and Junger had authenticated the soldiers’ experiences and now the soldiers were authenticating theirs.

Hijar had been discharged from the army the day before the main Oscar event, Pemble-Belkin was about to deploy to Afghanistan for another year, “and we’re walking the red carpet, and they’re in their dress blues, very handsome and, you know, how many soldiers in uniform have walked the red carpet? Maybe none,” Junger said. “And some famous person comes up to Pemble, recognizes him from Restrepo, and says, ‘Hey man, I saw Restrepo, just incredible. I love your work.’ And Pemble came up to me after that, and he was like, “Love my work? What’s he mean? Does he realize Restrepo is a documentary?”