Photojournalist James Nachtwey Featured Speaker in Fall Symposium

Photojournalist James Nachtwey Featured Speaker in Fall Symposium


Renowned Time Magazine photojournalist James Nachtwey captures life-changing images. He comes to USAO in October 2009 for a public lecture.

"James Nachtwey is above all a witness on the side of the victims. In the disturbing worlds of conflict, rivalry and cruelty, he sets out to communicate horrors that we often choose to ignore, addressing the victims' suffering and powerlessness with a clear and unflinching gaze." This is how the keynote speaker for the second annual Giles Symposium at USAO is described in the synopsis of his book Inferno.

The work and life of humanitarian and photojournalist Nachtwey will be featured during the second annual Ray and Mary Giles Symposium on Citizenship and Public Service Oct. 29 on the USAO campus. Nachtwey is scheduled to be the keynote speaker.

"Working with unrivalled commitment, travelling from one disaster to the next on a harrowing schedule, Nachtwey has, over the last 20 years, confronted war, famine and the gravest geopolitical issues of our time.

"With a brutally compassionate stance, he witnesses the tragedies of today that frighteningly could be buried and forgotten. His pictures are inspired by an overwhelming belief in the human possibility of change, despite evidence to the contrary."

Although many people would not recognize his name, they probably have seen his work. He is considered one of the greatest war photographers of recent decades -- covering conflicts and major social issues in more than 30 countries.

Based in New York City, he has been a contract photographer with Time Magazine for 25 years. In 1976 he started work as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980, he moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer.


Chechnya, 1996 -- Ruins of central Grozny.


His first foreign assignment was to cover civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike. Since then, Nachtwey has devoted himself to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues. He has worked on extensive photographic essays in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

Nachtwey was in New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and produced a body of work documenting the attacks. Although he had been injured in his work before, Nachtwey received his first combat injury in Baghdad in 2003 when an insurgent threw a grenade into Nachtwey's humvee. Nachtwey took several photographs of a medic treating Time correspondent Michael Weisskopf before passing out. Nachtwey recovered and returned overseas to cover the tsunami in 2004.

"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," Nachtwey says on his website.

"I want to record history through the destiny of individuals who often belong to the least wealthy classes. I do not want to show war in general, nor history with a capital H, but rather the tragedy of a single man, of a family.

"I used to call myself a war photographer. Now I consider myself as an antiwar photographer," Nachtwey said.


Nicaragua, 1984 - Relic of civil war became a monument in a park.


Nachtwey was one of the recipients of the 2007 TED Prize. As part of the prize, he received $100,000 and was granted “One Wish to Change the World.” "I’m working on a story that the world needs to know about. I wish for you to help me break it in a way that provides spectacular proof of the power of news photography in the digital age," Nachtwey said.

For 18 months, he went around the world to capture images of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis. On October 3, 2008, his wish became a reality with the launch of the website, a series of global projections and LED screen showings, and a seven page spread in Time Magazine.

In response to Nachtwey’s wish, both candidates for U.S. president responded with support for working to stop the spread of TB. Media outlets around the world picked up the story and hundreds of thousands of people viewed the slideshow in the first two weeks after its release.

Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College. Images from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer. He has worked aboard ships in the Merchant Marine, and while teaching himself photography, he was an apprentice news film editor and a truck driver.

He has had solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Palazzo Esposizione in Rome, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Culturgest in Lisbon, El Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, the Canon Gallery and the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the Carolinum in Prague and the Hasselblad Center in Sweden, among others.


Bosnia, 1993 - Ethnic cleansing in Mostar. Croat militiaman fires on his Moslem neighbors.


He has received numerous honors that include the Common Wealth Award, Martin Luther King Award, Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Henry Luce Award, Robert Capa Gold Medal (five times), the World Press Photo Award (twice), Magazine Photographer of the Year (seven times), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award (three times), the Leica Award (twice), the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents (twice), the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, the Canon Photo essayist Award and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography. He is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and has an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Arts.

USAO’s 2009 Ray and Mary Giles Liberal Arts Symposium is made possible through a generous gift from the Ray and Mary Giles Fund in the USAO Foundation.


Nachtwey Website

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Video: A portfolio of his work

Video: His philosophy

Video: His TB campaign