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James Nachtwey

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The American government and American military don't permit images of dead GI's and the American media cooperates. The American government and military also does not keep track of civilian casualties in Iraq, despite that fact when credible figures are released about civilian casualties they always say that they are much to high. You won't see images from Nachtwey or any similar imagery on American media either as it gets in the way of the carefully crafted fairytale being fed to the American public

 

Hank, With all due respect, the American media go out of their way to provide the public with the most negative reporting not only about Iraq but any story that might challenge the current Establishment. It may be a perception in the ROW that we are being fed propaganda but I assure you that is not the case.

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Mike, I recall compariing Canadian and American news when the Iraq war was going on, and I was shocked at how contentless the American news were, even some of the more respected channels (and I am *not* talking about Fox). Many issues were not even covered, and the slant was so heavy on many topics that I had a hard time finding my footing.

 

American news in general is not unbiased, nor is it complete. You really need to watch some news in another country if you really believe so.

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Yes, another wrinkle in the ethical fabric--the nexus of propoganda and journalism. Your example illustrates this beautifully. To be the photogs in the rear of the frame is to be a tool of propoganda, but to be the photographer shooting over the shoulder at the whole scene is to expose the lie! Such a fine, fine line. As part of the audience, we have an obligation to question every photo we see--in fact, every thing we see.

 

Sol,

this assumes that the audience cant be bothered to either read the caption or understand the context.

The particular picture that Carsten posted a link to was reproduced in the WPP book opposite a picture, just as sickening, of an extra judicial killing (ie murder) by palestinian gunmen. The additional context rather changes its impact.

Yes we have an obligation to question what we are shown, but thats very different to dissing something, or someone, on the basis of preconception.

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Mike, I recall compariing Canadian and American news when the Iraq war was going on, and I was shocked at how contentless the American news were, even some of the more respected channels (and I am *not* talking about Fox). Many issues were not even covered, and the slant was so heavy on many topics that I had a hard time finding my footing.

 

American news in general is not unbiased, nor is it complete. You really need to watch some news in another country if you really believe so.

 

Hi Carsten, I have watched and read news in other countries (including yours, English only versions) and I was shocked on how anti American and biased some publications are, so if your comparing to some of them I see where your coming from. I don't disagree that during the start of a conflict or an event that patriotism / nationalism sells. But as time goes by it usually will slide the to other extreme and reporting will challenge the status quo. Americans in general no matter on the right or left want to do the "right thing". Our press is suppose to give us information to make those decisions, but unfortunately some have political agendas now that have tainted the process.

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Nachtwey is one of my photographic heroes, and I don't have many heroes of any kind. I not only have a copy of Inferno, I gave copies to my kids. It's weird to see people make arguments based on assumptions about what he is doing, without knowing what he is doing; or to segue from a discussion of Nachtwey's work into a general condemnation (or defense) of the American government or media...it's like saying Goya should have been more delicately aware of underlying political issues, rather than simply making Disasters of War...excuse me, but that's stupidity at work.

 

One extemely interesting thing about Nachtwey is his talent. There are hundreds of cameramen feeding the media mill from third world war zones -- they're all over the place, both local and foreign. But they don't get his images, because he has such an instinct not only for action, but for structure and form and color. One of the things that disturb people about his work is that it can simultaneously be ultra-violent and beautiful.

 

I'm not one of the people who think he could be using any camera. He uses Canon; he could use Nikon, but I think for his work, anything other than those two fast-frame-rate, weather-protected top-end cameras would be a problem. I could be wrong; but I see shots in his work that Capa would have had a hard time getting.

 

The argument about "privacy" and "would you want a picture of that if your mother was in it," is simply silly when it applies to a war zone. Your mother's privacy has been violated by an artillery shell and she bleeds to death in the street and you're worried that somebody might take a picture? If somebody took a picture of my mother getting blown up, and used it in an effort to stop such things, I'd say more power to them. How do you get a model release from a dead baby? Maybe we shouldn't just show such things because they're icky, and if people want to do icky things to each other, we should just pretend that it doesn't happen...Sure would make it a lot easier to deal with the great variety of holocausts we've had since the beginning of the 20th century, just to pretend they weren't there.

 

Excuse me if portions of this posting seem a bit intemperate, but Jesus Christ...get a life.

 

JC

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I am a British-Canadian who grew up in Denmark, but have never actually lived in England, so I guess the closest I have to a native country would be Canada. I don't own a TV here in Germany, so I just read the papers. I understand that the news in many countries comes across as anti-American, but I think it is rather anti-Bush than anti-American. Regardless of how one rates Bush's performance at home, his impact on the world as a whole has been distinctly negative. One could argue the virtues of being free vs. secure, in Iraq, so let's leave that one out of it, but Bush's impact on almost every other country in the world is either nothing or negative.

 

In Europe, his impact has been one of setting many countries against each other. In Germany and France and many other countries which stood up to him, there has been friction with other countries like Spain, Poland and England, where the governments chose to support Bush, mostly out of political and financial pressure as opposed to ideological alignment. In most of the countries which supported Bush in the beginning, there has been a shift, and some governments have even been removed based on those days.

 

Bush has very little support anywhere in Europe at this point, even in England, due to his simplistic, unilateral, confrontational, pressure-based foreign politics, and due to the lack of education in the States about European politics, little is reported about this in the States. The whole freedom-fries fiasco was a giant flashing red light that something is deeply wrong in the States with respect to comprehension of Europe. France doesn't care what Americans call their deep-fried potato wedges, they call them fried potatoes (actually fried apples, but that's another story).

 

In spite of the general low regard for Bush, I think that a large part of Europe is still very grateful for the part that the States played in the Second World War, and as soon as Bush is gone, and some more intelligent and reasonable president gets elected, whether democrat or republican, I think that the wounds will immediately start to heal, on both sides. It is clear that the American people is very outgoing and generous when it comes to fixing problems abroad and doing the right thing, but Bush gets in the way of all that, very deeply.

 

I personally have many American friends, having visited many times, and I fully understand that Bush != the States. There are many great things happening in the States, but as long as people like Bush continue to point their fingers outside the country, problems like inner-city poverty and violence, gender and race disparity, gun and gang crime, (world-wide) AIDS, global warming (let's not discuss that one; there is a problem, no one knows for sure what causes it, although there are some very strong indicators, and some even stronger opinions), drug trafficking, and so on, will not get solved. Invading Iraq and removing one minor dictator has done almost no good, cost two arms and three legs, and opened a real can of worms, leaving the middle east much worse off than it was before. Starting the whole missile shield thing going is yet another way to spend lots of money on something of questionable value (or worse; Russia has understandably reacted badly, and it looks like this has the potential to re-start the cold war), while lots of projects on unquestioned value go unfunded. There is just something so deeply wrong with how money gets allocated in the current U.S. government, and how priorities get set. I would estimate that Bush has single-handedly set back the state of world politics by 15-20 years.

 

Anyway, I see that we have different opinions on various issues, and I respect your opinion as just that. I don't consider myself to be in possession of the truth, but you have to understand that as an American, you don't see the impact Bush has had on the world in the same way as when you live in another country.

 

While accepting that some news you have seen from here has been anti-American, I am curious what you have seen which is biased. Could you give an example?

 

My personal favorite news source is the BBC, which is relatively neutral, with a slight bias which I understand and can easily correct for. In Germany, the news is in general very in-depth and relatively truthfully presented, although there is often a party-aligned preference. The German people, unsurprisingly given the history of the country, has a deeply rooted need for truth and honesty in news, and the news sources reflect that. The bias here mostly takes the form of editorials which support one party or the other. The news itself is cleanly presented, almost without exception, apart from the real rags, like B.Z. and Bild.

 

---

 

Edit: Erm, back to Nachtwey, a photographic hero if there ever was one.

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I'll watch the film. I find the subject matter interesting from an ethical perspective. What if that was your mother laying dead in the street? Is it right to put helpless individuals in service of a cause? On the other hand, you don't need permission to take someone's photo, and you shouldn't. Just an interesting set of questions that deserve serious inquiry.

 

BTW, if I have a gripe, it's not with the journalists, but with the appetite of their audience. For example, ask yourself why it is perfectly OK to show dead people of every stripe and color, but dead American GI's are a whole different ballgame? I think people (the "buyers" so to speak) have suspicious motives for wanting to be "moved" by these images of tragic situations. Many of us who have suffered personal tragedy can attest to a lack of appetite

for watching suffering. As for the imperative to shine light on injustice, this implies an arbiter of what is just.

 

Anyway, I don't fault any photographer for shooting anything--my issues are with the audience as I say. I'll watch the film with an open mind, though.

 

I suggest you read what he says about why he does it.

 

"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."

 

-James Nachtwey-

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Guest sirvine
Sol,

this assumes that the audience cant be bothered to either read the caption or understand the context.

The particular picture that Carsten posted a link to was reproduced in the WPP book opposite a picture, just as sickening, of an extra judicial killing (ie murder) by palestinian gunmen. The additional context rather changes its impact.

Yes we have an obligation to question what we are shown, but thats very different to dissing something, or someone, on the basis of preconception.

 

Guy, I wasn't passing any judgment on the Israel / Palestine issue at all! In fact, what I said about the positioning of the photographers was in earnest (not meant to be cheeky). Interestingly enough, the gentleman who is holding the baby up was ruthlessly discredited as serial propagandist. Also, we have very different interpretations of the meaning of that image. It's clear from your comments that the WPP attribute the tragedy to Israeli attacks in Lebanon. I could make a compelling argument that Hezballah instigated a fight from civilian areas in Lebanon in anticipation of such photo ops, but that would only fuel the fires of a pointless debate. Really...I don't pretend to know the truth enough to debate it in this instance. It just goes to show how wrong it is to anticipate an unthinking, incurious, uneducated audience. As a matter of fact, it was that same audience that has repeatedly exposed the gross ethical lapses of the major news wire photo editors (e.g., the cloned smoke incident from the same conflict).

 

However, you raise another interesting wrinkle in the ethical fabric, which is the nexus between objectivity and moral equivalence---putting atrocities side by side is the photographic equivalent of two wrongs not making a right.

 

Please don't misunderstand my comments as positional--these topics are endlessly complex and fascinating and the biggest mistake is to pretend to have definitive answers. Having said that, I think the discussion is useful and stimulating.

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Just to clear up my position in this: I am not pro- or con- Israel or various Arab nations. I posted the link to demonstrate my disgust with many so-called "war photographers", and the photo is in distinct contrast to James Nachtwey's work, which is much more respectful than that.

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I don't even know where to begin..so I won't

I'll just get my guns and chewin tobacco and go to the house.

 

I'm sorry we hijacked a thread about a remarkable photographer.

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Sol,

I wasnt having a go in relation to the WPP picture, I was having a go regarding your original comment re. exploitation. But I have calmed down now

Incidentally, in citing the WPP book I was just trying to say that the presentation of Oerlemans' picture is more even handed in the context of the book, I dont think there is any 'cancelling out', and I dont think (hope) that wasnt intended either.

 

To get back to Nachtwey, he says that he doesnt edit himself while working, he tries to tell the whole story. Inevitably because of the subjects he photographs his, and similar, work can be seen as political, just like the Oerlemans' picture. That doesnt make the photographer political or biased (although they obviously can be!), but it does mean that you need to be careful about who and what you believe. But Nachtway is definately one of the good guys!

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To get back to Nachtwey, he says that he doesnt edit himself while working, he tries to tell the whole story. Inevitably because of the subjects he photographs his, and similar, work can be seen as political, just like the Oerlemans' picture. That doesnt make the photographer political or biased (although they obviously can be!), but it does mean that you need to be careful about who and what you believe. But Nachtway is definately one of the good guys!

 

The truth or perhaps better it's better to say (as everyone interprets events differently even given the same 'facts') access to information, transparency, a panoramic perspective on a story is always political because so much that is wrong with the world is dependent on ignorance, deception and restricted access to information. Nachtwey reminds us that journalism can be a noble profession when practiced with the integrity and courage he brings to the field.

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Excuse me if portions of this posting seem a bit intemperate, but Jesus Christ...get a life. JC

 

OK. How about Mother Teresa with a camera?

 

Honestly, that's what I thought when I saw the film.

 

John

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My personal favorite news source is the BBC, which is relatively neutral, with a slight bias which I understand and can easily correct for. In Germany, the news is in general very in-depth and relatively truthfully presented, although there is often a party-aligned preference.

 

My biggest problem with the BBC is the anti-Semitism (and I'm not a Semite of any kind.) By American journalistic standards (which I know are not world-wide standards) the BBC is extraordinarily left-wing and arrogant, but their point-of-view is easily accounted for, and that makes their news casts usually entertaining and amusing and informative. Except for the anti-Semitism, which is clear to anyone who has spent any time in the Middle East. Same for some of the great British newspapers, most notably the Guardian. Every time I go to London, I buy probably four papers a day because they are such a pleasure to read compared to the staid US papers. Even the Sun reeks of a peculiar kind of intelligence. (The first time I read a London female columnist refer to some other person as a "silly twat," my teeth almost fell out. Is it possible that "twat" has a somewhat different meaning in Britain? It seems unlikely...) But the Guardian's anti-Semitism is unmistakeable and powerfully distasteful. It pretends to be anti-Zionism or some other deniable hyper-politicalism, but the old stinky odor is there all the same...and the same with the BBC. (And the British foreign office, for that matter.) Perhaps it because the British were beaten like drums by the Hagganah, the Irgun and the Lehi...

 

JC

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Nachtwey is certainly unique in his ability to keep to the traditional "concerned photographer" approach of showing evil as it overwhelms ordinary people, as well as with the skill with which he does it. I notice that he has avoided the compromised situation of being "embedded" with troops or embroiled in the grisly photo-ops that characterise media-aware conflicts today. (Like the photo that Carsten linked to a page ago.) It takes a special set of beliefs to do this.

 

Read the description of the "Bang-Bang Club" of photographers during the transition from white rule to the current government in South Africa. These were ordinary guys, drawn equally by the possibility of fame (or at least steady employment) and the hope to expose some unbelievably callous incitement. Nachtwey was there, too, but they lived in it and are still there, at least the survivors are. While it is interesting to discuss the moral ambiguities, I am left mostly aware that the personal impact on journalists who cover this side of human cruelty makes it mostly irrelevant whether they profit or just survive.

 

scott

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Hank, With all due respect, the American media go out of their way to provide the public with the most negative reporting not only about Iraq but any story that might challenge the current Establishment.

 

Last I checked the 'establishment' in the US was firmly controlled by large corporations that own all the media and own the politicians in Washington through their lobbyists. They get the laws they want and they get the news they want and they pay big bucks to make sure it stays that way. Up until the last election the vast majority of that money was being funneled to right wing Republican politicians who controlled all branches of government (I am sure they are busy buying Democrats now -Hillary seems to be getting quite a bit of the lobbyists largess). It's hilarious that right wing radio try to paint the billionares who control the country as 'outsiders' up against some make believe liberal establishment. It's even more hilarious or maybe scary that they have an audience that buys that nonsense.

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He shoots with a Canon 1D-series camera. I don't know which exactly. I have seen a short video of him working. He uses zooms, perhaps 24-70L and 70-200L or something similar.

 

Nachtwey shot most of his work in recent years with Canon EOS 1-V and 1-N film cameras.

 

He's one of the few PJ's left who still shoot film for magazine assignments (Tri-X), but also shoots digital, when he needs to transmit from the field. I don't know Nachtwey personally, but last I heard he was shooting with a Canon 1Ds mkII for that purpose.

 

The longest lens he uses is a 50mm. Take a look at the DVD "War Photographer". You can see him at work with anything from a 20 or 24mm to a 50. He's a firm believer in Capa motto: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough"

 

There is a famous picture of Nachtwey at work, by David Turnley. It's on the cover of the War Photographer DVD.

 

http://tinyurl.com/mocot

 

 

That's no 70-200.

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I was fortunate to attend the VII London seminar back in the spring.

 

 

Hmmm, I may have been sitting next to you.

;-)

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