Organised by Gulf Photo Plus, the screening of James Nachtwey’s ‘War Photographer’ proved to be an eye-opening evening.
It’s a touching film about the life of a dedicated war photographer. Indeed if ever you find yourself wondering what it takes to deal with the emotional burdens that come hand in hand working in conflict or war-torn territories … if ever you wonder how a war photographer deals with maintaining some sanity amongst such insanity … if ever you want to find some meaning behind the words “take the express elevator to hell” … then this is the film to see. In fact, I recommend it full stop as a reality check to put some perspective into our every day lives.
James’ imagery is truly stunning with strong black and white story telling frames. He’s worked, among other places, in war zones throughout Africa and in areas of great social poverty around Asia. An interesting quote I picked up was his reply to a question on how he manages fear. Awaiting his answer, I thought of bullets flying overhead, trauma, tears and heartbreak all round in cramped and constricted spaces, chaos and death an unavoidable reality. His reply was this:
‘It is like talking to a marathon runner about pain. Fear is similar. It’s not how your feel fear but how your manage it.’
His answer proved a great metaphor about so many aspects of our lives. Rough times are inevitable. We can’t escape them so we may as well embrace them, manage them and in turn, emerge stronger.
The movie touches on the role of photography during critical social issues like starvation in Africa, poverty in Indonesia and child labour in Asia. Why does one try to capture such hardship? Why not put the camera down and step in? Is it right to essentially be earning a living from someone else’s misery? All heavy topics which James reflects on with honesty and finesse. In short, he stands strong in the belief that photography is in fact, the opposite of war. Think about this for a moment …
To repeat James’ own words:
‘Why photograph war? Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history, by the means of photography?’
This film and indeed James deserve great recognition and he was in fact, the recipient of a TED prize wish. Below, a link to his speech, his work and his wish:
To James. I have a profound respect for your dedication to capturing and communicating such important visual messages. Of course, in an ideal world such situations wouldn’t even occur and therefore not need documented. But what you have done, you have done so well.
To the rest of the world. Get your hands on a copy of War Photography. You must see it to give it justice.