Hetherington went to Libya without an assignment from a news agency, and, notably, without digital photographic equipment that would even allow him to sell his Libya photos for use in real-time coverage of the conflict. He went in pursuit of ideas he was still only beginning to develop, and as part of an ongoing attempt to better understand the nature of conflict and the methods with which it could be documented in the 21st century. He was once again attempting, as he said of his film Diary, “to link our Western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.”
Near the end of that film, there’s a scene of Hetherington in a bed. His back is to the camera and he’s on the phone, trying to explain his work to someone. He says, “There’s a political situation or a war or a catastrophe and I make pictures to try to understand what is happening there for myself. If you think by looking at the pictures that there’s no hope, then I’m, I’m, you know. . .” He trails off and the scene ends.
When I asked Junger about this soon after Hetherington’s death, he noted that the sentence didn’t end there. Instead, Hetherington chose to cut away. “I don’t know what he said,” Junger told me. “But it’s an interesting game to imagine what he could have said in that empty space that he left.” And now that’s the task left to all of us.