James Nachtwey, is an American photographer who has worked for a few newspapers and magazines such as Time and Magnum. He didn’t start out as a photographer, but graduated with a degree in Art History and Political Science. He was inspired to pick up a camera by photos he saw of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Since then he has photographed all over and focuses his work on injustices. He forces people to see some of the harsh realities that happen in the world.
Some of his photos are powerful enough to really make you stop and really look closely at them. For me, when I saw them they brought up a conversation that I had with Larry on an idea he was throwing around for a potential class. The conversation started around the idea of when should a photographer step out from behind the camera and help out the person or people they are photographing. Many of Nachtwey’s photos show the suffering of people in the worst of conditions; it made me wonder if he ever stopped to really see what he was photographing as something more than a great subject to show the plight of people in a war zone or third world country. It’s something that as photographers in any field we really need to ask ourselves, “Will we know when to step away from the camera and intervene?” Makes the viewer wonder are these actually powerful pictures that open the masses to the horrors some people have to live or are they sick images of a man who couldn’t be bothered to actually help a human being in need?
For James Nachtwey I don’t think it’s the latter, he seems to really want to help these people and validate in some way that they’re suffering did not go unseen. That’s proven at least for me by his quote on the homepage of his website, “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”