Storyteller - at Imperial War Museum London

20 April 2024 to 29 September 2024 Imperial War Museum London

Two young men, both with short hair, are engaged in a playful wrestling match on the ground. One man, grinning, holds the other in a headlock while the other has his face scrunched up and his hand on the first man's face. Both appear to be in good spirits.
Tim Hetherington © IWM DC 92602

Take a deeper look into the human experience of conflict with Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington at IWM London.

With the declining prominence of photojournalism in the modern news media landscape, Storyteller reminds us how crucial good photography can be in shaping political opinion and connecting us to the world at large.

"I do not set out to make a work of journalism, but rather a visual novel that draws upon real people and places."

Often times, the detached formality and passive tenses employed in print journalism do more to separate us from the worlds events than their intended job of connecting us. To document warzones Tim Hetherington would immerse himself in surrounding communities, building relationships with those he documented, and would revisit the same places and the same people of those with he bonded.

At a time where photojournalists and photographers were ubiquitously using digital cameras, Hetherington preferred old-school film cameras, so as to slow him down, to shoot deliberately and precisely, rather than to snap numerous times and use the best shot. The art of photography itself is prioritised, and not reduced to a post-production routine.

Hetherington would immerse himself in the lives of those he documented. In 2007, on the frontlines of the Afghanistan invasions, he would engage in the operations of the platoon, eating on their schedule and accompanying them on their ventures. This level of trust and camaraderie enabled Hetherington to shoot them more intimately, capturing rare moments of vulnerability and closeness that would otherwise go unseen.

"I became much more interested in the interrelationships between the soldiers… than I was in the fighting."

A mortal wound would strike him whilst working in Libya, during the 2011 Civil War, of which Storyteller marks the 13th anniversary of. Hetherington would ultimately never complete his project which sought to close the distance between his audience and the stories his work would tell, and we can only extrapolate the tenants of his vision with the notes he had left behind.

Storyteller comprises the most complete set of Hetherington’s impressive, yet unfinished, artistic body of work. His unique methods and vision for the field of photojournalism serves as a behemothic inspiration for any artist wishing to bring audiences closer to the exceptional stories and experiences of those who seem at a distance, but are closer than we think.


Please note this exhibition includes strong language and images depicting violence. The film Liberian War Graffiti (shown in a separate screening room) contains illustrations of sexual violence which some visitors may find distressing. The film Diary (shown in a separate screening room) contains flashing lights and graphic imagery.