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HomeContents > People > Photographers > James Nachtwey

Dates:  1948 -
Born:  US, NY, Syracuse
Active:  Global
War photographer and photojournalist concentrating on issues of social concern such as famine or AIDs. He has been a member of Magnum and VII and has won the Robert Capa Gold Medal an unprecedented five times.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
The title of Nachtwey’s recent book, Inferno (1999), symbolizes not only the super-heated, destructive nature of the Hellish world events he has documented, it also asks his viewers for a pronouncement of guilt against the sins of sinister forces that destroy humanity and thrive outside the moral boundaries of common decency. In a way, Nachtwey’s own career as a universally celebrated photojournalist has "caught fire" and has propelled his imagery into the forefront of the world’s news and print media. Born in Syracuse, New York, educated at Dartmouth, Nachtwey learned the rudiments of newspaper photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He quickly rose to the top of documentary talents with membership in Black Starr (1981), Magnum (1986–2000), and more recently with Agency VII. He is on staff with Time magazine. He has traveled the world wherever hot spots are ignited by war, revolution, genocide, or mass famine — Belfast, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, and Romania. He is the recipient of four Robert Capa gold medals, the Leica Medal, and the W. Eugene Smith award. His cumulative work is unquestioningly the ultimate visual summary of the worst unspeakable acts occurring in the last two decades. His dedication, not unlike many genuine photojournalists, puts him so close to the action he needs to use wide-angle lenses on his cameras. Inferno contains a brutal look at the savagery of the slaughter of Tutsis by the Hutus — pictures that Nachtwey hopes he will never have to replicate in another time and place. His desire is to compel world consciousness to undertake social and political action to prevent these kinds of horrors. 
(Author: Ken White - Rochester Institute of Technology) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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References are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 
René De Carufel
James Nachtwey 
[The Photographer's Eye] 
2004, November
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Visual indexes for this photographer are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 

Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Internet resources

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James Nachtwey ... 
Interview by John Paul Caponigro as a part of his Artists on Art series ( 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on James Nachtwey.] 


The wit and wisdom.

"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."
"I want my pictures to cut through political abstractions… and make a connection on a human level."
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