Liberia has been a graveyard for lots of its people--it's leaders included. Photographers daring enough to work in the country have, over the past 25 years or so, documented a nearly unimaginable level of violence. Tim Hetherington first went to Liberia in 1999, and he's been working there on and off since then. He has a new book that tells the history of Liberia in pictures, oral testimony, and memoir, and it's a powerful tale of chaos and power. The title, appropriately, is "Long Story Bit By Bit."
Hetherington arrived in Liberia during the rule of Charles Taylor, whose forces killed enough people to earn him a war crimes trial at the Hague. Before Taylor, there was Samuel Doe, who in 1990 had the distinction of being the first leader of a nation to be tortured to death on video tape. (Doe once met with President Reagan, who, as I recalled, referred to him as "Chairman Moe.") Doe replaced William Tolbert, who was disemboweled in a coup d'etat in 1980. Out of this history has come some hope, with the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first female president of an African nation.
Hetherington's book finds that hope, but in its novelistic, winding way it captures the feeling of a nation lost in a nightmare.--David Schonauer