Okay, lets get the hard thing out of the way first of all, Tim Hetherington is no longer with us, felled by a mortar round whilst covering the Libyan meltdown last year. Net result? The world has been robbed off one of its pre-eminent photo-journalists. Scratch that, Hetherington was a man who expounded a doctrine of trans-journalism and what this book represents, is an embryonic attempt at such a thing.
I read a pre-release copy of War, an amazing account by Sebastian Junger of his time in the Korengal valley. Hetherington features in this book and both men worked on Restrepo, a video documentary of their time in the valley and life at the outpost.
Infidel is a neat finish to the trio, a photobook that covers the span of Hetheringtons time in the valley.
We open with a short, well written intro then are shown formal Army portraits of the main players, then we move onto what is for me the best section of the book, Hetherington's head and shoulder environmental portraits of the soldiers. The use of shallow focus, catchlights in the eyes and the well chosen, colour-wash, backgrounds really allow the inner emotions of the soldiers shine through, all moods from the sombre to the light are captured.
The meat of the book comprises shots of life in the Restrepo outpost, moments of boredom, contemplation and testosterone fuelled mayhem are well captured. We then see various sketches of the tattoos the men gave each other at the outpost.
We then reach a section of full bleed images that are true 'war photos', breath-taking images of men under and returning fire. There is blood and mayhem and intimate moments of men reaching emotional peaks. Truly amazing photos that rightly won Hetherington a press photographer of the year award.
To end the book, there is intimate portraits of the soldiers at sleep, then we reach a section of text where the soldiers describe their attraction, and occasional feelings of ambivalence to, combat. In short, the grunts themselves care little of the politics surrounding their deployment, rather they are there to look out for their 'brothers in arms.'
Lastly, I would like to comment on the format of the book, it feels rather like a Moleskine notebook, softcover but tactile, strong and durable. The cover is flexible enough to allow the pages to be flicked through and the prints are of a very good quality. Bravo to the publishers for an excellently thought out and stunningly delivered book.
All told, this book is essential for anyone with even a passing interest in photography, foreign politics, combat or journalism.
The only sour taste left in the mouth is the knowledge that a pioneer in his field is no longer with us as this book has shown the potential for trans-journalism.
An absolutely essential book whose images and words will remain with you for a lifetime.