Tag: james nachtwey


There are many aspects of photography, many different paths down which it might lead. My own path is a journey in pursuit of reality, or “true reality” as I like to call it (though I know how redundant that sounds), and with the potential of photography to freeze a moment in time, “reality” is indeed a common pursuit in photography, but not the “true reality” or the spiritual reality which lies behind, through, and all around that surface-level reality. I heard a quote that really seemed to be attempting to bridge the gap between the surface reality and the deeper and wider reality.

In the biographical documentary about James Nachtwey, War Photographer, Nachtwey said, “It’s more difficult to get publications to focus on issues that are more critical, that do not provide people with an escape from reality, but attempt to get them deeper into reality, to be concerned about something much greater than themselves.”


I have been challenged by War Photographer, a documentary film about the “anti-war” photographer James Nachtwey. As it points out, though he may have started out with at least a partial desire for the travel and adventure, he has become something of an anomaly: he is a quiet and hopeful photographer, who believes his photography can make a difference, even in such overwhelming issues as war, poverty, hunger, and disease.

He says in the film, “We must look at it, we’re required to look at it, we’re required to do what we can. If we don’t, who will?”


I simply must start with the oft quoted Robert Capa: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Somehow, I think a lot of us already have a feel for the fundamental problem here, but we fix it the wrong way. We want to get closer to our subjects, but we do it by buying longer lenses.

One thing I love about photographs is that normal viewers can feel how close they are to the subject. And I am talking about everyman kind of viewers, not photography educated folk who talk about lens length and depth of field and all that jibberish. There is something really fundamental going on in people here, and we photographers have a chance to touch that gut level feeling.