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James Nachtwey
James nachtwey waving.jpg
Born 1948
Syracuse, New York, USA
Occupation Photojournalist
Notable credit(s) See Awards, honors and films
Official website

James Nachtwey (born March 14, 1948[1]) is an American photojournalist and war photographer. He has been awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal five times. In 2003, he was injured by a grenade in an attack on his convoy while serving as a TIME contributing correspondent in Baghdad, from which he has made a full recovery.



Nachtwey started working as a newspaper photographer in 1976 at the Albuquerque Journal. In 1980, he moved to New York and began working as a freelance photographer. In 1981, Nachtwey covered his first overseas assignment in Northern Ireland illustrating civil strife. He has documented a variety of armed conflicts and social issues, spending time in South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union shooting pictures of war, conflict and famine, and images of socio-political issues (pollution, crime and punishment) in Western Europe and the United States. He currently lives in New York City.

In 1994, Nachtwey was covering the upcoming elections in South Africa, the first non-racial ones in decades. As an associate of the Bang-Bang Club, he was at the scene when Ken Oosterbroek was killed and Greg Marinovich was seriously injured.

Nachtwey had been injured previously in his work, but it was during his extensive coverage of the United States invasion of Iraq that he received his first combat injury. As Nachtwey, along with TIME correspondent Michael Weisskopf rode in the back of a humvee with the United States Army "Tomb Raiders" Survey Platoon, an insurgent threw a grenade into the vehicle. Weisskopf grabbed the grenade to throw it out of the humvee, but it exploded in his hand. Two soldiers were injured in the explosion, along with the TIME journalists. Nachtwey managed to take several photographs of medic Billie Grimes treating Weisskopf before passing out. Both journalists were airlifted to Germany and later to hospitals in the United States. Nachtwey recovered sufficiently to return overseas to cover the tsunami in Southeast Asia of December 26, 2004.[2]

Nachtwey has worked with TIME as a contract photographer since 1984. He worked for Black Star from 1980 until 1985 and was a member of Magnum Photos from 1986 until 2001. In 2001, he was a founding member of the VII Photo Agency.

Nachtwey was present during the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, and produced a well known related body of work. He also compiled a photo essay on the effects of the Sudan conflict on civilians.

Awards, honors and films

Nachtwey photographs have been exhibited throughout Europe and the United States and he has received numerous prizes and awards including the World Press Photo award in 1994. Nachtwey has also been awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1994 and 1998. In 2001, the documentary War Photographer was released, focusing on Nachtwey and his work. Directed by Christian Frei, the film received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary film.

In 2006, Nachtwey was awarded the 12th Annual Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities from the Heinz Family Foundation for his body of work[3], an honor that includes a monetary prize of US $250,000. Nachtwey is one of three winners of the 2007 TED Prize. Each recipient was granted $100,000 and one "world-changing wish" to be revealed at the 2007 TED conference, in Monterey, California. Many members of the TED Community, and a group of world-class companies, have pledged support to help fulfill the wishes. Nachtwey's wish, revealed March 8, 2007, is this: "There's a vital story that needs to be told, and I wish for TED to help me gain access to it and then to help me come up with innovative and exciting ways to use news photography in the digital era."[4] Those who wish to help him will sign an NDA and help him "gain access to a place in the world where a critical situation is occurring and fully document it with photography; set a date to unveil the pictures and find a series of innovative ways to create powerful impact with them, using novel display technologies and the power of the Internet as well as media; and use the campaign to generate resources for organizations that are working to address and transform the situation." Early results of this work have been unveiled at to document extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis throughout the world.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ratnesar, Ramesh; Weisskopf, Michael (December 2003). "Portrait of a Platoon". TIME.  
  3. ^ The Heinz Awards, James Nachtwey profile
  4. ^ James Nachtwey's TED price acceptance talk, TED, March 2007,  

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

James Nachtwey (born 1948) is one of the most influential photojournalists and war photographers of the late 20th century.


  • In a war the normal codes of civilized behavior are suspended. It would be unthinkable in so-called normal life to go into someone's home where a family is grieving over the death of a loved one and spend long moments photographing them. It simply wouldn't be done. Those picture could not have been made unless I was accepted by the people I'm photographing. It's simply impossible to photograph moments such as those…without the complicity of the people I'm photographing…without the fact that the welcomed me, that they accepted me, that they wanted me to be there. They understand that a stranger who's come there with a camera to show the rest of the world what is happening to them…gives them a voice in the outside world that they otherwise wouldn't have. I try my best to approach people with respect. I want them to see that I have respect for them and the situation they're in. I want to be very open in my approach…feel open in my own heart towards them. I want them to be aware of that. People do sense it…with very few words…sometimes with no words at all.
    • War Photographer, documentary, 2001
  • The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I'm benefiting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It's something I have to reckon with every day, because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition, I will have sold my soul. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's predicament. The extent to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other and to that extent I can accept myself.
    • War Photographer, documentary, 2001

External links

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