Thoughts and Reflection: "War Photographer" (2001)
Updated: Apr 4, 2018
War Photographer, filmed in 2001, and directed by Christian Frey, peers into the life of photojournalist James Nachtwey, a documentary photographer who has been traveling to war zones for over 20 years. Reflections in the eyes of an aspiring documentary photographer.
Currently working on a reflection paper and blog post, that revolves around the trip I recently took to South Africa and Swaziland. During my journey I worked on a project, that involved pushing myself into the field to further my comprehension.
“It took me a long time before I was able to feel confident inside myself that I could do this job. Before I tried to convince other people I first had to convince myself."
Recently I watched the documentary War Photographer, which follows James Nachtwey through some of his experiences, mainly focusing on his life, how he got into photography, specifically war photography, and how he takes his photographs. Unlike most documentary photographers Nachtwey is up close with all his photographs where as many other images that portray war are from a distance. They are inspiring, they are intense, they are a part of the war. Nachtwey takes a different approach to how he photographs the situations he places himself in, and that's just it, he places himself directly in the middle of the conflict.
He doesn't stand on the sidelines as most people do, meaning the journalists, photographers, cameramen, all of them the same, working for the shot that will change their career and make them known. Let's be honest, many of them do just wait and want something destructive to take place so they can document it from a distance. "When it comes to up close and personal thats Jim." said by cameraman Des Wright. Some believe they are not "involved" in the conflict because they are documenting, though in realty they are a part of the issue. Jim takes ownership of his actions and allows himself to be completely submerged in what is occurring and his photos display it. His way of thinking fascinates me, though he doesn't reveal it often in the documentary but each time I waited for it. Waited for him to speak again about his thought process and experiences.
Throughout my life - not long, as I am only 20 years of age - my fondest memories of a child was running around the house taking polaroids. When my mother's friend came over with a professional camera I begged to try it. I have always had a passion for the field of photography, and crave to explore deeper the limits that can be pushed with photographs. My eye focuses by framing things from everyday life as a potential photograph. But when it comes to this area of photography, I need to -just as James said about himself- prove to myself that I can be involved in this area of the field. This area of photography is not only fierce, extreme and harsh but it takes a lot of out of a person, just as it does soldiers fighting in conflict.
"If your pictures are not good enough, you're not close enough"
The documentary about Nachtwey, has a lot of depth to his experiences but really only scratches the surface of his techniques, goals and how and why he entered this area of the field. It's not that the documentary doesn't show the viewer these aspects, its that Nachtwey doesn't articulate everything that I personally wanted to know. What struck me most, other than his ability to throw himself into the center of the conflicts and really portray what others are semi-afraid to admit, is his use of technology. Specifically that he uses both a digital and film camera on his projects. When I entered high school I discovered my passion for dark room photography and the immense amount that can be learned from working in a dark room setting with a film camera. All four years of high school I spent more hours in the dark room than in any other room in the school. Watching Nachtwey incorporate film photography into his projects and work sparked my attention to go back to the basics of a film camera, to build my skill set on a deeper level. I had forgotten the power of film cameras, well not forgotten but blinded by the increasing development of digital cameras. The meticulous work Nachtwey does in choosing his film photographs, and having them printed very specifically, in a way brought my eyes back to realty of why I started photography.
If anyone does read this, keep in mind, that it's my first post. Bear with me as I find my feet and figure out the structure and forum I would like to write in. I aim to move towards a more journalistic style of writing that eventually can accompany my photographs in a way that captures readers' attention and gets my intended point across. Taking a tip from Nachtway, I want to prove to myself that I can accomplish want I strive to do before I bring it out in the world.