James Nachtwey

“For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war.”- James Nachtwey, War Photographer 2001


I dedicate my first blog post to bit of research on famous war photographer, James Nachtwey.  This blog is originally the idea of my Photojournalism professor at Western Washington University, Joe Gosen. We as a class were assigned an essay on which we were supposed to research and write about a famous photographer. I randomly selected James Nachtwey from the list. I had never heard of him before but I ran out of time to decide, so he is the one I chose. Honestly, I am so happy that I chose him because his work, ethics and work ethics are all one and the same.

James Nachtwey was born in Massachusetts and he became a photojournalist from the influences that his studies at Dartmouth College in art history and political science provided. Photographs from the American Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War were what inspired him most to become a photographer. Nachtwey finished his studies at the college in 1970, worked with the Merchant Marines, then proceeded to teach himself photography while apprenticing with a news film editor and a truck driver.

Nachtwey went into his profession in 1976 when we took a job as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico. Four years later, Nachtwey moved to New York to work a s a freelance magazine photographer. His first overseas assignment was covering the IRA hunger strike in Northern Ireland a year later.

Ever since that assignment, Nachtwey has dedicated his life and work to war, conflict and critical social issue photography. He has covered social conflicts and health issues in more than 30 countries. Nachtwey typically uses a wide-angel 17-35mm lens for his photos. He is known for getting up close to his subjects and photographing during times of social conflict.

Nachtwey has been working with Time Magazine as a contract photographer since 1984. He worked with the Black Star from 1980-1985 and was a member of Magnum for 15 years.  In 2001, he along with six other leading photojournalist, founded the photo agency “VII”. Nachtwey also has solo exhibits in New York, Paris, Rome, San Diego, Lisbon, Madrid, Los Angeles, Boston, Amsterdam, Prague, Sweden and others.

Nachtwey has received many awards and honors, such as the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography, the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents (twice), the Common Wealth Award, Martin Luther King Award, Henry Luce Award, Magazine Photographer of the Year (seven times), the Leica Award (twice), the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award (three times), Robert Capa Gold Medal (five times), the World Press Photo Award (twice) and the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award.

Nachtwey is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and he also has an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Arts.


As you can tell, James Nachtwey is a pretty accomplished gentleman, fueled by his experience as an eyewitness, he believes that what he has seen should not be forgotten and also must never be repeated.  Take a look for yourself to see what he meant by that.


James Nachtwey-New York, 2011- Collapse of south tower of World Trade Center

James Nachtwey-New York, 2011- Collapse of south tower of World Trade Center


James Nachtwey- Romania, 1990- An orphanage for incurables

James Nachtwey- Romania, 1990- An orphanage for “incurables”.
This orphanage is a place where children were abandoned for being handicapped or “incurable.”


James Nachtwey- East Germany, 1990-Pollution from a coke factory

James Nachtwey- East Germany, 1990-Pollution from a coke factory
Industrial pollution.



James Nachtwey- Chechnya, 1996-Chechen rebel fighting along the front line against the Russian army.jpg

James Nachtwey- Chechnya, 1996-Chechen rebel fighting along the front line against the Russian army
War zones although dark and dangerous, are one of Nachtwey’s preferred places to shoot so that those of us who can see can be affected and want to take action.


I hope you have enjoyed about learning about Nachtwey as much as I have!

If you would like to check out more of his work, here is his website: http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/

If you are interested in war photography and documentaries, Nachtwey, considered to be the best war photographer of our time, is featured in War Photographer 2001: https://youtu.be/k9cqobHzWW8


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