Thursday, March 1, 2012

War Photographer, Getting Close to get the Right Photo

Unfortunately unable to go to the WHNPA judging, I watched the film War Photographer instead. War Photographer really made me think about all of the elements that go behind a photo and how much emotion plays into it, from both the photographer and the scene. Images are more effective than text simply because a reader can visualize it in its actuality rather than using their mind to make it. But the way that photographer James Nachtwey sees photography is something I never thought of. He saw it as a means to stop war and that he would show the public with his photos that these actions were inhuman and needed to be stopped. He would put the public in that scene by getting so close to his subjects that he was almost in danger at times. I know the saying is that “a photo says a thousand words,” but Nachtwey’s thoughts take this a step further to mean that a photo can say enough to stop such terrible things. Another aspect of war photography I never considered before was that photography could be the opposite of war and evoke humanity. Nachtwey felt very passionate that photography could show the raw emotion that caused war. The pain, the suffering, the mourning and the anger could come through in a photograph and evoke the same feeling from the viewer. By doing this, he could really have an impact on all those who viewed the photograph. Nachtwey, himself, was a changed man. After each of his trips he would have seen so much suffering, but yet was reluctant to share his experiences with others. A woman who was a photo editor for a magazine reflected that Nachtwey had seen such horrors and kept them to himself, commenting on the fact that he must suffer those sights internally causing him great pain. Nachtwey even said that he had to get in touch with his emotions so that he could photograph the way he does. I think this is very true because the emotion he captures with his camera is so powerful and all the suffering he sees needs to be interpreted by him to get the most powerful angle so that the viewer can really feel what’s going on. Nachtwey commented on the profession of war photography, saying that some consider it to be a profession that benefits from tragedy. Though the places and scenes that Nachtwey has to go to and see to capture these amazing photographs are sometimes horrifying because people are dying and grieving, he is in no way benefitting from it. His purpose is to put a stop to what he photographs rather than see these horrors as a way to make his career successful. I understand where these people were coming from when they said such a thing; however, I think they don’t understand that these photos aren’t taken to make money, but they are taken to expose the horrors that are going on. While Nachtwey is passionate and seems to be doing good by way of his photography, I don’t think that I could ever be in his profession. The one story where he was on scene with other photographers during a war and the photographer next to him was shot and killed really impacted me. Knowing that it can be life or death in these situations where you’re so close to war to get that photo that will make an impact is scary to me. The risk involved scares me off, but I do think that it is necessary to have these photographs. People need to see these things that are going on because they aren’t there to see the suffering and photographers like Nachtwey bring that suffering to their homes where they’re safe.

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