War Photographer

The motto is by war photographer Robert Capa: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.’ War photographer James Nachtwey has been close enough for twenty years. Director Christian Frei followed him for two years on the job. Nachtwey is in Kosovo when the houses are still ablaze; in Indonesia, where a family of beggars lives among the railway lines; and in Palestine, between the teargas and the young stone throwers. The spectator gets a unique perspective of Nachtwey’s work thanks to the miniature film camera Frei attached to Nachtwey’s photo camera. Now, the spectator can watch and think along as the shutter clicks, while Nachtwey’s breathing can be heard. The spectator becomes the camera. The difference from the angle of Frei’s camera, a few metres behind Nachtwey, is one of the ways in which film and photography are compared. Apart from shots of Nachtwey’s activities, Frei extensively shows the heart-rending pictures that are the result. In interviews, colleagues describe Nachtwey’s remarkable personality. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour calls him a single-minded loner. Nachtwey’s calmness and circumspection, rather unusual for a war photographer, reflect the inner confidence and conviction that allow him to persevere with this tough job. He speaks softly and without any cynicism and does not drink with colleagues. At home, his grey hair gives him the appearance of a retired professor, but the next moment he is biting the dust again, in the middle of a war zone. His photographs are not a purpose, but a means. In the end, the war photographer is an anti-war photographer.

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