18 May 2005

A few words from James Nachtwey

It’s a shame! In spite of the excellent coverage of Kargil by the Indian media, and the Indo-Pak war many years before that, we still can’t boast of our very own war photographer. And, what about our photojournalists in war zones outside the country – Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia…? You can forget that too. Not a single war photographer in a population of a billion.

What’s wrong with us? As a nation, do we cower at war? Is our media too weak to present the correct pictures of wars around us? Can we not cut through the bureaucracy and head for the frontlines with our cameras? Or, do we simply not possess the right frame of mind that a war photographer does?

Whatever be the reason, we can always learn from others.

“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,” says James Nachtwey in the introduction to his website. I admire his commitment as much as his pictures. Mr Nachtwey has been one of my favourite war photographers for several years now.

Already celebrated for his wide spectrum of work, Mr Nachtwey caught a lot of media attention when he released his book, “Inferno”, in early 2000. In a PBS interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth in May 2000, Mr Nachtwey confessed, “I became a photographer in order to be a war photographer, and a photographer involved in what I thought were critical social issues. From the very beginning this was my goal.”

And, to John Paul Caponigro in the June/July 2000 issue of Camera Arts: “I think the raising of people's consciousness is the first step toward creating public opinion and public opinion creates an impetus for change. It creates pressure on decision makers, the powers that be, who make choices that affect the lives of thousands of people. Helping create the impetus for them to move in the right direction, through public opinion, is something worth doing.”


Besides determination, focus, talent and guts, I guess, it also requires a certain selflessness to be a war photographer. And, Mr Nachtwey points this out just as succinctly: “I'm a messenger. I don't want people to be concerned about me. I want them to be concerned about the people in the pictures.” (as told to Douglas Cruickshank in a Salon interview in April 2000)

1 comment:

pH said...

engrossing, specially the smooth transition from topics and the sheer variety.
refreshing compared to the single-minded rants in many blogs.

write on!