Before he was cut down by rocket fire Wednesday during a battle in Misrata, Libya, veteran photographer Tim Hetherington was in the midst of a career-long quest to capture the images he thought could help him -- and hopefully the world -- understand the humanity in war, according to longtime friend and war zone colleague Sebastian Junger.
"Tim with his camera wanted to understand life. Life includes war, unfortunately," Junger told ABC News hours after news of Hetherington's death emerged. "He would say, 'Look, war is terrible. Terrible things happen in war. But people also love really profoundly in war and they laugh in war. They do generous things and they do cowardly things. Everything happens in war.'"
Junger and Hetherington went to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008 on assignment for ABC News and Vanity Fair. Their reporting first formed for the basis for a series of Nightline pieces, including "The Other War," which won both a duPont and an Overseas Press Club award, and then became the documentary "Restrepo," nominated for an Academy Award.
Junger said that one of Hetherington's main motivations as a photographer was to bring light to the humanitarian suffering that accompanies war. Hetherington had gone to Libya on his own dime to help tell the world what was going on there and in his final Twitter message Tuesday, he wrote, "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."
"His last tweet is such a perfect one for him to have left this world with because I know that had to have been on his mind," Junger said. "He would've seen dead and dying and wounded people... and I know what that would've done to him personally."
Though Hetherington's prolific career took him to war zones from Sierra Leone through Afghanistan and finally to Libya, Junger said Hetherington did not consider himself a war photographer.
"He kept saying, 'I'm an image maker.' And he made a lot of images in war zones. Of course in war things are dramatic ... but he was really trying to capture something essential about life."
Despite spending months with a battle-hardened U.S. Army company dodging bullets in the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan during his work on "Restrepo," Hetherington never got so excited as the first day the fighting stopped and everyone fell asleep.
"I remember one day there was nothing going on and everyone was asleep and I was just sitting bored out of my mind," Junger said. "Tim was running around like crazy taking photographs of the soldiers as they were sleeping ... and he came up to me and said, "Listen, you never see soldiers asleep. This is incredible! No one ever sees these images!' And I realized that Tim was open to a whole part of reality that I and everyone I know is completely ignorant of, oblivious to. ... He would notice the most mundane things and make them extraordinary."
But when the bullets were flying, Junger said he noticed a curious duality to Hetherington: "I think he was braver than me and I think he got scared more than I did," Junger said. "I don't know how you put those two things together, but I saw it in him."