Tim Hetherington on the Ubiquity of Images

Posted in Photography, Video by Nathan Lee Bush on February 4, 2011

Oscar-nominated filmmaker and award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington sat down with us in December for a wide-ranging interview about his work and what it means to be an image maker today. Here he is talking about the image overload of the digital world and about the need for context in people’s understanding of images. The transcript is below.


Tim Hetherington: I think that we live in an image world like none other before. We really are surrounded by images in a way that’s… driving us all crazy, in certain ways.

Nathan Bush: Yeah, you turn on your Facebook and you see more images in the first 30 minutes of your day, then someone saw in a month a century ago.

TH: It’s incredible. Somebody said to me, talking about, as if we live in a photographic world because you can just look at Flickr and there’s billions of images. What does that mean for us? I mean, so what? So there’s ten billion images on Flickr. Do we look at any of them? Or do they make any sense to us?

And in the end the single image for me – single images can move us, advertising understands that – but in another way, we’re always looking for context. Because context defines what we’re looking at, often. And that’s why the moving image, which is single images, 29.97 frames a second contextualized with sound, gives us context. So, the contextualization is what we’re looking for. And that’s why you were telling me before that with the Afghan project, Restrepo contextualizes the book. The prints of sleeping soldiers contextualizes the installation. So we live in this crazy image world, that when we don’t have any context, it’s very hard to make sense of.

At the same time it’s changed our understanding of images slightly. When I think of, “what are the iconic images that came out of the Afghan or Iraq wars? Are there any iconic images?” And often it’s been said, “there’s no iconic images that have come out.” But in some ways there’s so many iconic images that there’s not a single one that you say, “that’s it.” There’s amazing pictures, that have been taken. João Silva, Ashley Gilbertson – a number of press photographers making incredible images.

That was what made making Restrepo… worked in its favor. We don’t see many films about Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  1. […] this blog, Through The Looking Glass, Nathan Lee Bush interviews Tim Hetherington on war and the ubiquity of images in the digital age, and what it means for photographers and filmmakers; Dave Goldgaber highlights the Comtek wireless […]

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