James Nachtwey


James Nachtwey was born the 14th of march 1948 in Massachussets, United States. Nachtwey graduated from Dartmouth college in the New Hampshire. He studied Art History and Political Science in the years 1966-1970. His passion for photography emerged once seeing photo from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement, which had a decisive turn in his career. The photos moved him because they had a power in which a photographer could speak and communicate through the still images. While being an amateur photographer he works at different places such as the Merchant Marine, at NBC as a news writer and even worked as a truck driver.

His career all started in 1976 when he worked has a newspaper photographer in New Mexico for 4 years. He then moved to New York City to start as an independent photographer. His debut career was to photograph the hunger strike in Northern Ireland in 1981. He then pursued his journey through The Middle East, Central America, Eastern Europe and Africa. He conceive many photo assignments in various countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, South Africa, El Salvador, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, United States, India, South Korea, Sudan, Brazil, Russia, Romania, Bosnia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Thailand, Lebanon, Kosovo, the Philippines, Rwanda, Chechnya and Gaza. Since 1984, he has been a photographer for the Time magazine

Chechnya, 1996- Ruins of central Grozny

.Awards and Exhibitions

James Nachtwey has been honoured with various important awards such as the Common Wealth Award, Henry Luce Award, Martin Luther King Award, Robert Capa Gold Medal five times, Magazine Photographer of the Year seven times, the International Center of Photography Infinity Award three times, the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents twice, the World Press Photo Award twice and many more. James Nachtwey has been displaying his work at different exhibitions such as the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, the Museum Photographic Arts in San Diego, the International Center of Photography in New York and many others.

Rwanda, 1994- Survivor of Hutu death camp

James Nachtwey’s Genre

James Nachtwey is a documentary photographer. He takes images of wars, conflicts and important social issues occurring all around the world. James worked in various countries in which he made extensive photojournalist essays that show the importance of the issue in question. For him taking pictures of tragic events is a way to show the true world that we are living in. He feels like he is a witness of those events and that his risky adventures should be shared in order for human beings to reflect more deeply into these tragic events and also to shake them out of their indifference. Most of his pictures are shocking and deal with the most serious issues of the 21st century, for example famine, AIDS, pollution, civil war, terrorist attacks, homelessness and refugees. The most important reason that James Nachtwey became a documentary photographer was to give a voice to the people that didn’t have the power or the opportunity to do so.

Somalia, 1992- Child starved by famine, a man-made weapon of mass extermination

Sudan, 1993- Famine victim in a feeding center

James Nachtwey’s Style

James Nachtwey’s pictures now are taken mostly in black and white since his colored pictures were criticized by the public and seen as “too pretty” for the importance of the issue encountered in the images. The fact that now James takes mostly black and white pictures shows a certain feeling of darkness to the image as well as paying homage to the victims. What makes James Nachtwey style different from the other photographers is the fact that he infiltrates himself in the moment of the action and even risks his life to take his images, which gives it a deepness and strength. James Nachtwey doesn’t have a specific technique in taking his pictures; he only wants to make people aware of the important social issues occurring around the world. His images makes the viewer enter in the privacy of those events, which are rarely showed on television or newspapers. For James Nachtwey content always comes before aesthetics. One important technique that he frequently uses is the depth of field with gives his picture more profound meaning.

Afghanistan 1986- Mujahedinpraying while on an operation against the Soviet army

Afghanistan, 1996- Mourning a brother killed by a Taliban rocket

James Nachtwey Subject

For James Nachtwey taking pictures of war is more than just showing a shocking picture to people, it is also to reach out and grab people’s attention in order for them to protest against the violence occurring around the world and to change the situations. He wants to make people aware of the social injustices and make them realize how frequent these events take place.

Romania, 1990- An orphan in an institution for “incurables“

Zimbabwe, 2000- In a tuberculosis ward where the great majority of the patients suffer from AIDS


The first influences that made Nachtwey wanting to be a photograph was during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement, where he saw many pictures that had a powerful impact. Also, James has been influencing a great amount of people with his photojournalist pictures of war and translated his view of the world into books such as  “Inferno“ and “Rethink“.

Afghanistan, 1996- Ruins of Kabul from civil war

Albania, 1999- Kosovar deportees meeting in a refugee camp