James Nachtwey – War Photographer

In 1985, shortly before becoming a member of the world famous photo agency Magnum, the then 36-year-old James Nachtwey wrote the following text, a credo about the relevance of his work as a war photographer.

“Why photograph war? There has always been war. War is raging throughout the world at the present moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating.

Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.” James Nachtwey. These are a few excerpts from the documentary James Nachtwey – War Photographer. Segment 1 (6:20 min)

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4 Responses

  1. CS says:

    He has such a calm disposition that you almost cannot guess the courage he displays in his work and actions if you didn’t know much about the man. The Ted prize was very well deserved.

  2. shapeshift says:

    Yes, I think he mentioned something like, “It’s not a matter of feeling fear or not, it’s how one handles it.” His calmness makes it seem like he disappears into the scene even as he participates in getting the picture.

  3. Jamblichus says:

    There’s a particularly poignant moment in the second segment when he covers his face. Is he weeping? Is it the teargas?.. To me there’s something almost numb about his voice rather than calm; it’s the voice of a man who’s seen too many terrible things.

  4. sleepingcow says:

    i think you’re right, he becomes part of his surroundings instead of apart from them, and that takes a level of self awareness (or selflessness) that is inspiring to say the least. i do wonder though how he manages not just the fear but the pain of recalling memories of all he’s seen. does he just compartmentalize it, does he pray, cry, drink…

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