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CLASS - War Photography

Page history last edited by roy pataro 9 years, 9 months ago




James Nachtway speaks at a TED Conference 


War Photographer

We started the Walkabout Photography Elective by viewing the film 'War

Photographer', a film about James Nachtwey. Nachtwey has devoted himself to

documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.


"He has received numerous honours such as the Robert Capa Gold Medal (five

times), the World Press Photo Award twice, Magazine Photographer of the Year

(six times), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award three times,

the Leica Award twice, the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents (twice), the

Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, the Canon Photo essayist Award and the W. Eugene

Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography."



James Nachtwey's Credo:

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.


For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of

humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be

perceived as the opposite of war and if it is used well it can be a powerful

ingredient in the antidote to war.


In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a

war in order to communicate to the rest of the world what is happening, he is

trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that is the reason why those in charge of

perpetuating a war do not like to have photographers around.

It has occurred to me that if everyone could be there just once to see for

themselves what white phosphorous does to the face of a child or what

unspeakable pain is caused by the impact of a single bullet or how a jagged

piece of shrapnel can rip someone's leg off - if everyone could be there to see

for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would

understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that

happens to even one person, let alone thousands.


But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there - to

show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are

doing and pay attention to what is going on - to create pictures powerful

enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people

out of their indifference - to protest and by the strength of that protest to

make others protest.


The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone

else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every

day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by

personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for

me to believe otherwise.


I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can. The

act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The

only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's

predicament. The extend to which I do that is the extent to which I become

accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself."

~ James Nachtwey




About the film: 






The ethos of the film seems to reflect the sentiment behind Nachtwey's own photographs; that is, you don't get the ... explanation of who the victims are, who the perpetrators are, or what the socio-political context is. The violence and suffering are presented simply: this thing happened to this person at this moment...




Viewing Guide Document 




James Nachtweys’ home page:








New York Times Art Review | James Nachtwey

World’s Cruelty and Pain, Seen in an Unblinking Lens:








James Nachtweys’ Agency, VII


















Roger Fenton

Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner

Robert Capa

Joe Rosenthal

Eddie Adams

Huynh Cong [Nick] Ut

W. Gene Smith


Each of the preceeding photographers are known for an iconic image.

Research what they are and their effect here: War Photographers





Please read:

The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag, opinion and review

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing?

It Was All Started By a Mouse


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