One mortar, two lives

20 April 2011 - Misrata, Libya

On 20th April 2011, remnants of pro Ghadafi forces in Misrata, Libya, targeted a group of journalists picking their way along Tripoli Street and with great accuracy landed a single mortar in their midst.  Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington died, Michael Christopher Brown and Guy Martin were seriously injured and like a whiplash the world felt the stinging pain that has left a scar, still visible and still smarting nine years later.

We have come to terms with the loss to the media industry.  It's a rough reckoning distinguished by the absence of what we know would have been a decade of tremendous growth by Tim and Chris, and a tremendous challenge to the rest of us to keep up.  But the personal loss has no resolution.  ANN DOHERTY was a fellow student with Tim in Cardiff 1996~1997, both learning the craft of photojournalism and imagining how their mark might be recognised by the world in the years ahead, years that stretched to infinity beyond graduation and the finite cloisters of Cardiff University.  Three years after the attack on Tripoli Street Ann wrote this poem which speaks for many as we pause to reflect on one small event on 20th April 2011 that created such deep and permanent damage.


From Cardiff Bay to Johnny Cash

by Ann Doherty, 2014

   Plucked from love, loss and a sense of adventure Cardiff drew us in . It took us   down to the docks where we photographed remnants of Wales’s post industrial past.  He had an urgency to learn, to absorb it all .

   Up at the crack of dawn , pressed to a computer , processing information ,garnering layers in his multifaceted  mind . I could not begin to imagine the speed , motion ,alertness of his thoughts.

    Drawn to the dark, he photographed the abattoir ,  a blood ridden casualty  and  the deaf . This was the beginning of the road ahead. Tolerant , intolerant , filled with humility , ambition and an urgency to succeed.

     This was the boy who signed himself off as Sheik Omar Hetherington in  1996 a member of Magnum / 21st century , on that cold November evening  how prophetic it seems now . Grateful to share food around a cassette machine listening to Jeff Buckley.       

     We shared many evenings, the small group of us aligned by a love of images , a sense of adventure  and a will to do good . Alas this was questionable , when he asked

“Who do you think you are ? Bloody Mother Teresa!” But it was there in us all . Catholicism had left its mark.

       The year reached its end and we  all went to the rocks to say a farewell to the sea . He stood on those arduous stones hanging on the cliff edge outstretched like Christ I told him and I knelt like Mary Magdalene I said.

   In London we went for a picnic and ended up under a flyover in Richmond  arguing about filters.

   Love had found him in the shape of a rectangular image and his love affair with photography had begun. In equal measure its love affair with him too.


   This beautiful fellow with the billowing mind strode ahead of the little man on the ground . Formulated views we could barely read let alone comprehend , he was leading the way for us all to follow.

   Everything he touched turned to gold but his sense of self was too great . He had no need to prove his background , education or worth  . Nothing needed to be said.

   Driven by a will and need to succeed to achieve the achievable .

   “There are two Tim Hetheringtons who are photographers but I will be the one who is remembered.”

At an awards ceremony he told me

 “I photographed war and didn’t win  .”

“You didn’t do it for a prize.” I said.

Maybe he didn’t ,but he wanted his worth , that mind  validated .

I told him to watch Johnny Cash singing Hurt .

As images of  his life pass before him. The beauty  and poignancy of this  would touch him I said.

It came to pass when I saw him last he no longer took photographs. He wanted me to see his apartment.

“People write to me to ask for advice, “

he quietly told me. In the ten years that had passed he had become a master in his field. His love with the art had been  reciprocated at every level.    

He went to his CD player and pressed play.

Johnny Cash sang as we  spoke our last ……..

Never to be seen again.

On the train one day I heard a man say  West Brompton.

I thought of him lying there . How could it be?



Photographs © Ann Doherty - Tim Hetherington and Ann Doherty at Cardiff Bay 1996


One mortar, two lives