Two years ago today, war photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who, along with journalist and co-director Sebastian Junger, was nominated for a 2011 Oscar for their 2010 documentary Restrepo about American soldiers in Afghanistan, was killed in Misrata, Libya, during the civil war, having bled to death at the age of 40 after a mortar exploded. In recounting, on NPR’s Morning Edition on April 18, 2013, a conversation Hetherington had with his father, Junger said that Hetherington defined “rich” as having “the power to determine your future.” This got me to thinking about what psychoanalysts strive toward, that is, facilitating people toward greater freedom to determine their emerging lives. In covering war, Junger notes a “moral awareness” in making a living telling stories about people dying, which sometimes weighed heavily. Therapists, too, have a ‘moral awareness’ that we make our livings off the suffering of others. War correspondents can comfort themselves that stories must be told, just as we therapists can. Additionally, I think, and as the brave survivors of Monday's Boston Marathon proved, running toward suffering is the best hope to relieve it.
In an interview on Wed April 17, 2013 by Daniel D'Addario in Salon, Junger said of Hetherington, “Tim …was trying to understand the human experience, … engaging people in conversations and trying to tell their story, ... trying to get the experience and connect with someone.” I think this aptly describes what relational psychotherapists do as well. Also, when Junger described his own job, “I think you definitely have a need for feeling comfortable with feeling overwhelmed and in over your head, and the challenge of that is frightening, but also very stimulating. I think there’s a feeling of specialness, like I’m doing a special job that most people don’t do…”, I recognized that I, too, feel that way about my job.
Junger, whose latest documentary Which Way is the Frontline from Here?, which includes footage shot by Hetherington, and which aired on HBO two nights ago, said of his colleague Hetherington, “ [H]e really was an astonishingly open-spirited person.” And regarding the impact of photojournalists, “He broadened the sense of what’s possible.”