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Tim Hetherington: A life on the front lines

Award-winning photojournalist was working on media project in Misurata

“Restrepo” co-director Tim Hetherington, who was killed Wednesday by a rocket-propelled grenade while working in Libya, had dedicated much of his career to showing humanity in the face of conflict. The 40-year old photojournalist was working on a freelance assignment in Misurata, one of the hotspots in the ongoing Libyan rebellion.

Hetherington had been in Libya since April 10 and was killed along with Getty photographer Chris Hondros. Two other photogs, Guy Martin and Michael Brown, were also injured. A rep for Hetherington said although it was unclear which side was responsible for the attack, it occurred while Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were being pushed back.

Hetherington last tweeted on April 19, “In besieged Libyan city of Misurata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

Hondros covered conflicts including in Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. An award-winning Getty photog, his work appeared in major U.S. newspapers and mags.

Getty Images released a statement mourning Hondros: “Chris never shied away from the front line, having covered the world’s major conflicts throughout his distinguished career, and his work in Libya was no exception.”

Hetherington co-directed the Oscar-nominated doc about the Afghanistan war with journo Sebastian Junger. The pic, distributed by National Geographic Films, also won the Grand Jury award at Sundance.

“National Geographic is devastated by the tragic news of Tim Hetherington’s death in Libya. This is a sad and terrible day. We join the community of dedicated photojournalists and documentarians around the world who are mourning his loss,” said the National Geographic Society’s president Tim Kelly.

Born in Liverpool, U.K., Hetherington was based in New York and was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. He began shooting conflict zones in 1999 when he was sent to cover the civil war in Liberia.

Though “Restrepo” was his first film as director, he served as cinematographer on 2007 Darfur docu “The Devil Came on Horseback” and on 2004’s “Liberia: An Uncivil War,” when he was the only photographer to live behind rebel lines during the 2003 civil war.

In 2006, he became a member of the Panel of Experts of the U.N. Security Council’s Liberia Sanctions Committee.

Hetherington talked to Variety last year about shooting “Restrepo,” which portrayed the deployment of a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a stronghold of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“The logistics were incredibly difficult,” Hetherington said. “Both Sebastian and I were injured during filming. I broke my ankle (during a battle), and Sebastian’s Humvee blew up but luckily no one was killed. And those were just the physical challenges. The emotional challenge was being with an operation in which men were killed that we had spent time and formed relationships with.”

“Tim and I have been war reporters for a long time, and (these challenges) are part of the deal you make when working on a project like this,” Junger told Variety in 2010.His photo reportage books included “Infidel,” based on the material from “Restrepo,” and “Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold.”

“Tim will be remembered for his amazing images and his Academy Award-nominated documentary ‘Restrepo,’ which he co-produced with his friend Sebastian Junger. Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed,” said the Hetherington family in a statement.

He is survived by his mother, father, a brother and a sister.

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