James Nachtwey

War photographer.

It is appropriate that this fine documentary is introduced by that other famous lover of danger, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour. For decades now James Nachtwey has found it impossible to stay away from conflict. Where most of us are happy reading the Sunday cartoons, Nachtwey is risking his life at the frontlines of whatever conflict ails the world on any given day. As he sadly explains, he is not about to run out of photographic opportunities.

Nachtwey comes over as a compassionate, caring individual who manages to establish close rapport with his subjects, allowing him that special close-up perspective which distinguishes his pictures. Appropriately, the documentary starts with Robert Capa’s famous dictum “If your photos aren’t good enough, you are not close enough”. Nachtwey is always close to the action.

One remarkable aspect of this piece is that Nachtwey uses a video camera – perched on his shoulder, I would guess – while taking his stills, so that you get pretty much the photographer’s view of the action, right down to the LCD panel atop his camera. It’s a little disconcerting how intrusive that seems but once you hear Nachtwey explain how he works with his subjects – and why he seems invisible to them – you understand.

This is a fine documentary but be warned that many of the pictures are very, vary hard to stomach, so if you get queasy at the sight of war pictures you should really avoid this film.

Nachtwey is showing the world what it chooses not to see. Gripping viewing.

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