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War Photographer (2001)War Photographer (2001)

By many accounts James Nachtwey is the premier war photographer of our time. This powerful documentary of his life and work runs along three tracks. First, we learn from Nachtwey and his friends who are interviewed about his personal story, how and why he became a war photo-journalist, and what he is trying to accomplish in his work. We learn, for example, that this most famous of artists who makes a living by taking the "express elevator to hell" is, in fact, an introverted, retiring and even mysterious man. He reflects on to what extent he has benefitted from other people's misfortune. Second, the film makes a powerful statement on the horrific atrocities that he records in Kosovo, Rwanda, Jakarta, and the West Bank, whether war, urban poverty, or famine. One cannot watch this film without lamenting the stupefying dehumanization and depravity that takes place in so much of the world. Third, one is forced to consider the extraordinary, evocative power of images to capture and define reality in ways that text never can. In much of the film we see exactly what Nachtwey sees when he does his work, since he has a mini-camera attached to his own camera. It is not pleasant. For Nachtwey, twenty-five years in photojournalism has provided an extraordinary moral-aesthetic vocation. I count this as one of the best films I have ever watched.

Copyright © 2001–2024 by Daniel B. Clendenin. All Rights Reserved.
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