Today’s post features a show review by Newcastle University student, Katie Lin, of Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold – an exhibition of photos by Tim Hetherington.
This time last year, HotShoe carried an interview I did with Hetherington about the same body of work. Follow this link, HotShoe April/May 2009 for an excerpt from the feature. If you are interested, there are a few back copies of this issue available from HotShoe’s main office.
In a simple exhibition, which demands attention through its seamless display of frameless prints, film maker, image maker and documentarian, Tim Hetherington, shares an honest profile of war-torn Liberia – as he witnessed it – in his collection of images titled, Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold.
In a bid to display as many photos as possible in the Side Gallery’s modest exhibition space, Hetherington opted for frameless prints and kept distracting captions away from sight and in a booklet – a great decision, if you ask me. Whatever Hetherington’s intentions were, this display style allows the viewer more time and space to engage in an uninterrupted dialogue with each image before contextualizing it – but it also allows the viewer to move fluidly from one image to the next, giving the exhibit a stream-of-consciousness feel.
Of course, the captions were enlightening and I was moved by several of the impressive 78 images that Hetherington captured during the four years he spent living in Liberia. This highly political body of work presents the careful unravelling of a reality which is strikingly raw, but also strangely iconic in its depiction.
Viewing the set of images, it becomes clear that the primary recipient of Hetherington’s documentary affections is war, whose realities and social and political implications he explores through the lens. After being virtually embedded with the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) during the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 and continuing on in the country to witness the aftermath, Hetherington’s intimate experience with both the rebels and his subjects understandably provided him with a tragic narrative which he, in his own words, felt “a responsibility” to document.
Of the images, one of my favourites is No.58 where a young boy is doing his homework at night under a street light generated by a private compound in Monrovia. This fact inherently reveals another sad reality about the region: that it has had no public power since 1990.
While he admits that the country’s future remains uncertain, Hetherington reminds his viewers: “Liberia doesn’t need your pity – it needs your understanding.” Armed with the ability to capture emotion in its still form and generate emotion in his viewers, Hetherington should have no problem fulfilling this aim.
Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold is on show at the Side Gallery, Newcastle until 15 May.
Show review by Katie Lin, Newcastle University