If a war photographer is awarded a Peace Prize, furthermore in a city once devastated by a war, then he must be a very special person and a truly extraordinary photographer. And he must have something to oppose to war.

For it is the nature of war to engage and take in everything, to occupy and appropriate, without exception. Which war film, for example, isn’t, deep down, a glorification of war, even against better judgment, and often even in spite of the best intentions?

And: It is in the very nature of images to represent what they depict. “What you see is what you get.” That’s exactly what makes them so very powerful. It’s almost like trying to square the circle if you want to dissociate yourself from what an image presents and conveys, let alone try and tell the opposite of what it shows,

War is a huge, infernal industry, the largest one on this planet. It seems presumptuous for one man to attempt to stand in the way of this machinery. Once war has broken out, everything spirals out of control almost immediately, turning even the armies and the soldiers who fight in it into helpless onlookers, victims of their own hubris. Who would dare then to oppose it and put it into perspective with mere… photographs. Who would seriously deploy cameras against tanks!

Just make the effort and visualize it for yourself! After all, almost all of us take pictures today! Even your cell phones don’t come without a camera any more. Or perhaps you have one of those small, convenient digital devices. Or you may even own some professional equipment… Just imagine going to war with that! And imagine doing so just to take a picture to undeceive the entire world and tell them what’s going on there! Yes: a photo that would influence the outcome of the war or even end it! Right. That would be sheer madness!

All right then, imagine just this: You want to change the life of ONE person with a photograph. That alone is an enormous challenge, if you think about it. The short moment when you look through the viewfinder or at the tiny display, as you point the camera at something, and finally press the shutter button… that second is supposed to achieve something, to capture something and thus captivate, and thereby move somebody, or more so: even shake up the world?

How can that be possible? Who do you have to be to attempt such a thing? How… would you possibly go about it?!

James Nachtwey’s images give us an accurate idea of how he “goes about it”, in the true sense of the word: where others “just want to get out of here”, that’s where he goes. He travels, in principle, in the direction of places that other people are only desperately leaving from, or have already left in a hurry, or can’t leave anymore.

It is with that first movement that he’s already opposing war: With himself. With his safety, his life, his affection, his conviction. All of the above are captured in his images…

“Wait a minute!…” you may object. “Perhaps he gets a kick out of this going-to-war thing, or maybe he is some kind of thrill-seeking tourist. After all, there are people who climb up skyscrapers or walk tightropes at dizzy heights or hurl themselves out of planes or jump off bridges – things which none of us would do,but which a few others apparently like to do. Couldn’t Nachtwey be one of those?”

If he were, he surely wouldn’t win a Peace Award, he would just win some medal as an action hero. This James Nachtwey may have the same first name, but he certainly isn’t a James Bond type. Who is he then?

I don’t think you have to know a photographer’s biography to understand who he is. That’s what he shows us in each of his pictures. Each photograph contains a second one, invisible at first, that doesn’t reveal itself immediately. It’s a “reverse angle”, if you will, a “counter-shot”. That reminds us that taking photos is also called “to shoot pictures”… Yes, the camera is shooting back, is literally “backfiring”! The eye that looks through the lens is also reflected on the photo itself. It leaves a faint, sometimes shadowy trace of the photographer, something between a silhouette and an engraving, an “image” not of his features, but of his… heart, his soul, his mind, his spirits. Let’s stay with the first and simple word for a moment, “the heart”.

The heart is the real light-sensitive medium here, not the film nor the digital sensor. It is the heart that sees an image and wants to capture it. The eye lets the light in, sure, which is why we also call it a “lens”, but it doesn’t “depict the image”, it doesn’t “depict” anything. Nor does the retina nor the nerve cords that transmit the information. The “image” is created “within”.

There, it is matched with many other signals that are coming in at the same time. Some of these are related to formal or aesthetic criteria, like to composition, focus and contrast, or to the overall impression and to details. Other signals are of an ethical or moral nature. What’s going on here? What’s happening to the people in front of my camera? What does their dignity consist of? Or rather: what is violating that dignity? What is that image telling us? Which history lead to this moment, and what continuation does it suggest? How do I react to it as the one who is seeing it, as the witness with the camera? Am I sure I’m free of prejudices or, worse, cynicism? What is it about this image that touches me!? Do I have the right to show it to others? How will it affect other people? Could what I see be possibly misinterpreted? How can I prevent that from happening? Would it help if I took a step forward or to the side? If I stepped back a little more? If I left this or that out of the frame?

There are a thousand signals and messages arriving simultaneously, all of which have to be processed within a fraction of a second. The hands are already part of the thought process as they correct the frame, the finger already knows what’s coming and presses the shutter button…

What I’m trying to say is: The photograph that’s just being created includes all of these thoughts, processes them as another kind of light, “an inner light”, depicts them and “contains them” at the same time that it deals with “the outer light” and the outer events, thus producing next to the objective picture the invisible portrait of the photographer himself, that “counter-shot” I mentioned earlier.

And all of this isn’t happening at a birthday party, or on a football field, or at a rock concert, but in a war. Everything is raw, tense, loud, cruel, out of control, insane, incredible, awful, unfair, perfidious… But that’s exactly why the photographer has to be just as precise, quick, careful, considerate and dependable as if he were at a wedding or on a Red Carpet.

No, that’s not true: he has to be even more precise, quicker, more careful, more considerate and more dependable. In war, often enough, you don’t get a second chance.

The photographs exhibited in the Dresden Museum of Military History represent a small selection of the many pictures that James Nachtwey has taken in over thirty years as a traveler and documentarian. They were taken in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in Ruanda, Chechenya, Darfur, at Ground Zero in New York and in Iraq. This list could easily be extended to include images from Sudan, from Northern Ireland, from Romania, and so on, and so on…

James Nachtwey was in “The Heart of Darkness”, to quote the title of Joseph Conrad’s famous novel. If ever someone actually was there, it’s him! One might think that this darkness shows through, that its grim, depressing reflection makes its way through the photographer’s eye, weighing down his heart, his soul, his mind, his spirit.

And indeed, very often that’s exactly what we feel watching TV documentaries, or seeing newspaper or magazine images: that the atrocities we see depicted have hardened the photographer’s or cameraman’s heart. We can often tell that he was already looking the other way while he was taking the picture, was already done with all that death, starvation and fear around him, was only thinking about himself, his own salvation from all this hell, was no longer really WITH the subjects in front of his camera, and no longer really willing to watch death at work. Taking a picture can be a form of no longer wanting to see…

In all of James Nachtwey’s images we can also perceive (at the same time, in that reverse angle,) that he didn’t want to look the other way, that he wanted to endure the sight and watch exactly what was standing or lying there before him, that he knew he owed it to the people, the dead, the starving, the sick, the entire situation in front of his camera, that he’d see and show it as exactly as possible, wide awake and with wide open eyes.

If someone’s dignity has been violated James Nachtwey doesn’t violate it a second time, as a voyeur would – but he makes an effort to restore it. (Oh yes, photographs can do both!)

Now, am I just making this up, or do I have something to back up my impressions?

I believe that all we really have to do is take a closer look. All we have to do is train our eyes to see not just the PHOTOGRAPH itself, but the ATTITUDE of the eye and the heart that took it.

Every look represents a certain attitude or state of mind, your gaze just as well, at any given time. Interest, boredom, disgust, indifference, sorrow, love, surprise, curiosity, hatred, cynicism, affection, respect, aversion, exhaustion, frustration… whatever guides our eyes is depicted along with the subject when a camera is lifted to the eye. There is no picture that wasn’t taken with an attitude of some kind or other.

And nowhere is this more necessary than when you stare death in the face, when you’re confronted with violence, despair, the abyss, the darkness. You can make out and decipher in each and every one of his photographs the attitude of James Nachtwey. It is no secret.

© James Nachtwey

I’m just picking an image of his from this exhibition that at first glance isn’t all that “warlike”: Three children, little girls, are standing behind a tree. They’re covering their eyes with their hands. Some distance away a helicopter is landing or lifting off, clouds of dust swirling around. We immediately recognize these helicopters. There are usually guns protruding from the fuselage, and indeed, there they are! These roaring bumblebees are bringing troops, weapons, bombs… in short, war from above, out of the blue, and just as quickly as they came, they’re gone. You immediately hear the “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Apocalypse Now”…

The children are everything but Valkyries. Their colorful clothes, the slippers on their feet, or the little one’s innocent best Sunday shoes and socks, all tell us how ill-prepared they are for what is coming their way, inevitably, or what is leaving them behind, possibly, like astronauts would arrive or leave on a distant planet. A few moments ago the girls were scampering around, laughing, without a care in the world, …and then came the invasion of the foreign gods.

The photograph invokes what may happen next or what might just have happened. Whichever the case, these children will remember this moment as long as they live. The caption that I’m turning to, after I have tried to decode the picture myself for a long time, says: “El Salvador, 1984. The army evacuates wounded soldiers from a village football field.” Well, this explains it a bit.

Still the message of any photograph is only the photograph itself. In museums, you might have noticed, many people pounce on to the caption, before they even look at the picture. It’s as if they were trying to protect themselves from the image. Reading creates distance, you’re not really concerned any more, the information lets you stand above the things that might otherwise trouble you.

I ask you urgently: First read the photographs closely, also here, in this extraordinary Museum of Military History. Then you will realize, in the case of this picture we just looked at: There’s a lot of tenderness in it! This photo was taken by someone who was more interested in the children than in the troops and their business. It’s not a subject you would expect to see in a picture taken by someone who went there to photograph the war. To see (or find) this, you have to be on the children’s side. You can’t cover your own face with your hands and try to protect the lens of your camera from the dust. You have to do the opposite: open your eyes wide and risk the dusk in your face and your lens.

© James Nachtwey

I’ll move on to another image, almost the opposite to the one before. The Balkan Wars.

It shows a truck unloading its horrific cargo: dead bodies are sliding down from the bed. The driver is leaning out of the window of his truck so he can see where he is dumping his load of dead men. Among the bodies there is a wheelbarrow, in a moments it will also come crashing down… The dead are all fully dressed. The way they’re sliding down the tilted surface, with their heads dangling, shows that rigor mortis hasn’t set in yet.

A hand is held up I the foreground, partially covering the lens. We see the palm of the hand, the thumb pointing down. This is the right hand of a man who is standing with his back to the photographer. This isn’t someone trying to stop the photographer from taking pictures; he’s just motioning with his hand to direct the truck driver to the pit that we know must be there, just outside the photo… The most horrifying thing about this scene is that it feels just like an everyday building site.

Do we even want to know which war this is?

Yes! The caption explains it: “Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian army has successfully held off a Serbian infantry attack near the village of Rahic. The bodies of Serbian soldiers who fell in the battles have been brought from the battlefield behind the Bosnian lines on a truck…”

James Nachtwey is extremely precise. He is a witness, (the word “eye witness” is fitting more than ever…) and he takes this responsibility very seriously. he is someone who not only wants to describe what he has just saw, but also wants to record it with words as precisely as possible so that it can be used as evidence.

We can see that the image wasn’t taken at eye level. The photographer didn’t look through the lens, it was “shot from the hip”, so to speak. As quick as a flash, before the man who raised his hand could turn around. If he had turned around, the image would have been a completely different one, in fact, might have become impossible.

As with most of Nachtwey’s photographs, the lens is a slight wide-angle. With such a lens, the photographer has to be right where it’s happening. To be able to take photos such as this, you have to get close to the scene. You can’t just easily zoom in from a distance. The photographer himself has no distance, he is there. And therefore we are, too, no matter if we are sitting in our living room, stand in a museum, or hold a book or a magazine in our hands.

These are pictures by someone who has a strong desire for justice in the face of the horror unfolding right before his eyes, someone who puts a lot on the line for this. Even if the photo is being taken within the fraction of a second by lifting the camera just a little more — he still instinctively finds the right angle at the same time, as if his hands were able to see… With all his senses he is present! With his body and his mind and his heart he really is where his photo takes place! The picture is a part of his own existence.

© James Nachtwey

Or let us look at a third image taken during the Chechen War in the mid-nineties. A village road, a singed wooden barn in the foreground. On the snow-covered road in front of it lies a dead woman, wearing a simple winter coat. Beside her on the ground, a purse. We see the sneakers and her thick socks, her left foot strangely and unnaturally twisted. Is it broken, was she shot at?

Around the corner comes another elderly woman, cautiously, almost looking at the sight with curiosity, “the neighbor”, as the caption tells us, a peasant scarf wrapped around her head. She stops in her tracks and stares at the frozen body in the snow. You can almost see her thought: “That could be myself lying there!” There’s a hint of surprise in her stopping short, looking at the scene. The simple, one-storey houses in the background bear witness to the place’s poverty. There are shingles missing, or is that damage caused by the war, too?

Actually, we can’t help thinking or perhaps it’s more of a vague feeling than a conscious thought: this photo is “just altogether impossible”! There’s something about it that we can’t quite get into our heads. In a movie, OK, we could accept a scene like this… And then we realize what it is that we think is so “impossible” about it: it’s the fact that the photographer was present that he was part of it, at this very place, that he captured the neighbor right at the moment of recognition, as if she were all alone at the scene, as if there couldn’t possibly be another person with a camera who’s not only watching, but creating evidence of the moment as well.

We are totally at a loss to explain the photographer’s attendance here. How could he make himself invisible like this? Unless he wasn’t there as a photographer in the first place, rather as someone who had just rushed to the scene as well, a fellow human being who was just as shocked, just as astounded… Someone who has become so much as one with his camera, that it indeed has become invisible to other people.

I’m also beginning to catch a glimpse of something else in each of the three images that I just instinctively picked out, almost arbitrarily: I can’t quite put the finger on it, but it seems to me that in these pictures the photographer doesn’t just see for himself! And this is something you can not at all take for granted!

Actually, the act of photographing is a very lonely job. You are mostly left to your own devices, especially when war is raging around you or hunger and death are haunting the land. But these photographs here all have one thing in common, an “attitude”, a point of view, the photographer’s awareness – whatever we call it – of standing where he is for others of seeing on behalf of others, of exposing himself, and of giving testimony, for others.

Who are these “others” on whose behalf James Nachtwey goes to war, so to speak? Are they just the subjects of his photos, the starving, the dying, the dead, the perpetrators, the sick, the injured, the sufferers, the horrified? Or don’t these “others” also include us, the viewers, the very moment we begin to get involved with one of his images? When he makes himself a witness, and stands by this task, doesn’t he call us to the witness box as well?

If this is indeed the case, then James Nachtwey creates a community between the subjects of his photographs and us, a community that we can’t get out of so easily. He turns us into one humanity, not more and not less: Common humanity. The word “compassion” takes on its original meaning. (In German it literally means “sharing the suffering”.) It doesn’t connote condescension or “pity”, “the pitying smile”, but real empathy, when the suffering of others becomes ours as well.

Nachtwey manages to see things on behalf of both sides of humanity, the victims and the viewers, because his work is not only directed AGAINST something, against war, arbitrary violence, injustice or inequality, it is, above all, intended FOR (and dedicated to) the people he encounters in wars and in suffering, as well as for us.

I am aware that the word I’m going to use is somewhat antiquated, and it’s probably difficult to translate. This man is a “Menschenfreund”, a lover of humanity, and therefor an enemy of war.

And when he goes right to the heart of the war he does so on behalf of us, in order to force us to look closely, but also on behalf of the victims, as the eye-witness who wants to testify in their favor and belie war and its propaganda.

Maybe James Nachtwey is not just a photographer, but has a lot of professions.

He is also sociologist who doesn’t just dutifully record the phenomena and symptoms, but who wants to understand what caused them; a minister who knows that it is not consoling that gives consolation, but most of all being there for someone else; an archeologist who doesn’t just hastily burrow down into the dirt, but who carefully uncovers stone by stone; a poet who knows that he must never name things in plain words, but only invoke them in the reader; a philosopher who’d rather encourage people to think for themselves instead of self-righteously doing the thinking for them; a teacher who commands our respect because he respects everyone, including himself; a gardener who knows that you have to get to the roots when you want to pull out the weeds; a surgeon who knows that it won’t do just to operate on the fractures, but that you have to lay bare the trauma inside…

In short: a man who is able to look life and death in the eye, not because he is more courageous than we are, but because he lets himself get carried by all of those for whom he does it. And because James Nachtwey is all of the above, because he has never stopped believing that there is reason behind his work, because he has never stopped believing that his images have their greatest possible effect only if the eye and the heart behind them have an unfailing faith in humanity and its ability for compassion…

For all of these reasons and many more we should stop calling him a “war photographer”. Instead, look upon him as a man of peace, a man whose longing for peace makes him go to war and expose himself… in order to make peace. He hates war with a passion, and loves mankind with even more of a passion.

I can’t think of anyone who would deserve this award, in this city of Dresden more than James Nachtwey.

February 11, 2012



Photographer James Nachtwey has been honoured with the third Dresden International Peace Prize on 11th February 2012 in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, Germany.  Laudator has been the director and photographer Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders will be featured on BURN in early April. He is currently having an exhibit in Hamburg. Wim Wenders is up for an Oscar this year for his film Pina. He was previously nominated for Buena Vista Social Club


Related links

James Nachtwey

Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders Photography




54 thoughts on “Wim Wenders – Eulogy for James Nachtwey at the occasion of the Dresden Prize”

  1. Wait, what?
    Wim Wenders will be featured on Burn?
    Just WOW!
    Only one of the BEST directors of all time!

    (oh, and Nachtwey got yet another major award?
    Who’s surprised?
    The guy is in his own league…
    At some point (hopefully not very soon) there’ll sure be a James Nachtwey award…)

  2. “Eulogy” and “James Nachtwey” really shouldn’t appear in the same story on the Internet, especially on a site that Google is going to privilege. Is the title from Wenders or from Burn?

  3. Preston, is the title from Wenders. Strange word in know..but it makes sense.. Thank you for giving me the chance to explain this in the first comments.
    I copy and paste “Eulogies can also praise a living person or people who are still alive, which normally takes place on special occasions like birthdays etc. Eulogies should not be confused with elegies, which are poems written in tribute to the dead”..

  4. Hi, Diego. The wikipedia definition doesn’t change the fact that most people reading the title will assume Nachtwey is dead. I did. You might put a caveat in there somewhere.

  5. Hi Preston, i would.. but Nachtwey and Wenders seem fine with that. We coordinated this post with both..

  6. Thank you for posting the text here. I heard about the price, but had no chance to hear or see the speech until now. I am also looking forward to see the Essay in April.

  7. Thanks for posting this. It’s one of the best (if not the best) tributes I’ve read about James Nachtwey and his work. Every time I revisit his work I’m struck with the feeling that I’m not doing enough or that I don’t care enough.

  8. I thought the same thing as Preston….my heart skipped a beat!

    This was such a great read. Congratulations to James Nachtwey!
    The man is an inspiration for me. I have watched his TED talk many a time and I have looked at his photographs even more.
    This is a well deserved prize!

    Looking forward to Wim Wenders piece here on burn.

  9. A great read and like Andrew said it is one of the best tributes (if not the best) that I’ve read about him and of his work.

    I also was quite struck of using the word eulogy. To me the word gives a feeling that nothing will come after this, that he has stopped working and this price is the last tribute to him. I might be wrong.

    Congratulations to James Nachtwey and totally amazing to see Wim Wenders featured here in Burn.

  10. a civilian-mass audience

    A eulogy (from εὐλογία, eulogia, Classical Greek for “good words”) is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently dead or retired….

    Eulogies can also PRAISE a LIVING person or people who are still alive, which normally takes place on special occasions like birthdays etc.

    ευλογια …!!! I am Greek and I get it…but for the rest of the world…hmmm:)))


  11. Eulogy in German has primarily a different meaning than in English.. might be that Wim Wenders being German has influenced this.. anyway, this is great stuff, thank you Burn for bringing here Wim Wenders and bringing back to Burn James Nachtwey once again!

    Having had the honor and pleasure to meet him at the loft not that long ago, totally unexpected..that is something I will cherish and remember for quite some time.. one of the reasons I say thank you to David.

  12. Not only a great director, but also a great teacher of vocabulary. When the elegies are someday written, perhaps the latter will prove more important than the former? Probably not.

    Anyway, congratulations James Nachtwey. Well earned recognition. Thanks.

  13. thanks, Civi. In English, a eulogy is usually given at a funeral and generally consists of telling the the assembled mourners and the deceased’s family what a wonderful human being the dearly departed was, even if the dearly departed was a complete and utter shit. Some eulogies really can be an exercise in keeping a straight face, as in the case of my late and unlamented Uncle Max.

  14. speaking of elegies, here is the greatest one in the English language:


    The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
    The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

    Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

    Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
    The moping owl does to the moon complain
    Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
    Molest her ancient solitary reign.

    Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
    The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

    The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
    The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
    The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
    No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

    For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
    Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
    No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
    Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

    Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
    Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
    How jocund did they drive their team afield!
    How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

    Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
    Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
    The short and simple annals of the Poor.

    The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
    Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

    Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
    If Memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
    Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

    Can storied urn or animated bust
    Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
    Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
    Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

    Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
    Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
    Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
    Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

    But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
    Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
    Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
    And froze the genial current of the soul.

    Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

    Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
    The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
    Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
    Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood.

    Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
    The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
    To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
    And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

    Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
    Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
    Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
    And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

    The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
    To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
    Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
    With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

    Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
    Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
    Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
    They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

    Yet e’en these bones from insult to protect
    Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
    With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
    Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

    Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d Muse,
    The place of fame and elegy supply:
    And many a holy text around she strews,
    That teach the rustic moralist to die.

    For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
    This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
    Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
    Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

    On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
    Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
    E’en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
    E’en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

    For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
    Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
    If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
    Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, —

    Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
    Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
    Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
    To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

    ‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
    That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
    His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
    And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

    ‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
    Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
    Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
    Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

    ‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
    Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
    Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
    Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

    ‘The next with dirges due in sad array
    Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
    Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
    Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.’

    The Epitaph
    Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
    A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
    Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
    And Melacholy marked him for her own.

    Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
    Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
    He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
    He gained from Heaven (’twas all he wish’d) a friend.

    No farther seek his merits to disclose,
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
    (There they alike in trembling hope repose),
    The bosom of his Father and his God.

    By Thomas Gray (1716-71).

  15. CIVI

    hey Nachtwey is not the only winner here…i too got a really terrific prize….today…when your package arrived…big hugs, big thanks, big appreciation…you are always so so thoughtful….please visit me next time you in the U.S……hello to Vissaria please…..

    hugs, david

  16. What a treat to witness Wenders’ read on these three photographs. Juggling the subject matter, the image, and the mind of the photographer is the sort of dissection important to students of photography. We are blessed, and I am humbled, to have had this experience here.

    Perhaps in April we will be able to return the favour.

  17. Man – I’m sure everyone and I immediately google news about Nachtwey. Common usage of the term definitely means the passing to most if not all but the few English majors :-), especially with the news from Syria.

    Diego, may be an (*) on the title would lessen the number of racing heartbeats :-)

  18. Very fitting tribute for Jim and his important work — well written by another legend, Wenders who clearly understands the process what it takes to make it the meaningful and masterful work, HOWEVER “EULOGY” next to Jim’s name almost took me to tears, so I agree – an (*) explaining Jim is very much alive — would lessen the number of racing heartbeats…

  19. @ ALL:
    What a text from Win Wenders. Does he make workshops?
    The beginning is very powerful! Glad that Nacthwey received the prize and Wenders had written this text to present him at the ceremony. I remember the TED Prize winner some years ago, I think Nacthwey won in 2oo7. Well deserved.

    @ DIEGO:
    Thanks a lot for posting this!
    I don’t know what is in your mind or DAH’s mind for the next couples of weeks here in burn, but could you leave this post for a while, per favore? I think that is really interesting any everybody has to read it, and sometimes burnians and not burnians couldn’t connect every single day. And with Syrian attacks going on, it will be worthly

    @ EVA:
    I have the chance to see a retrospective in France, then HE talked for a few minutes. It was incredibly to listen to him, with his calmed voice and every single word was accurate. No more no less. Just the necessery.
    He was in front of a big wall with pictures of doctors, in a reanimation center in Irak, trying to cure wounded soldiers and he said to me: These guys are amazing, you can not imagine what they can do… HE does not care about where it is, when, technical stuff, how to get there, if it was an assignement or whatever… HE care about THEM, working in that restreint space, with 45 Celsius, and saving a soldier life in less than a blinking of an eye…
    Wish than everyone here in burn met at least once in this short life!

    @JAMES N.
    Thanks a lot for being so engaged, have that commitement to show us what was happening when wars go on. Stay safe…

    @ MY BED: I’m coming, it’s 3.59am


  20. I remember the first time I saw James Nachtwey, it was so intense, his vision was like nothing I had ever seen. His photographs we’re not like those many pictures of people firing at unknown target. It was the vision of what was happening all around the theater of war. It was very special, brutal and hard to look at sometimes, but always true and with an incredible human dimension. No wonder he won that incredible prize, he deserves it more than anyone.

  21. I have never met James Nachtwey and Win Wenders.
    but I love and respect them and their works very much.

    Thank you very much for sharing this article.

  22. Pingback: James Nachtwey | detectiveswearglasses

  23. I don’t want to sound prudish or anything, but I think I must object to public television’s blatant pandering to the audience’s basest and most prurient instincts. I am referring to this past Tuesday’s egregious display of cetacean porn. I am not sure if I am now a better person knowing that a male right whale’s testicles each weigh a ton or that its generative organ is nine feet long. Nor am I sure that knowing that female right whales are promiscuous sluts is something that should be broadcast widely, lest other, more impressionable creatures follow the right whale’s morally obnoxious example. I am further dismayed that public television would, under the guise of “scientific research,” encourage pornographers to film this wallowing in a moral morass and present the resultant filth to a family audience. I realize that in this day and age there is not much I can do to prevent the media elite’s nostalgie de la boue from polluting the airwaves, but as qui tacet consentit I feel I must protest this abuse, and yes, no sooner than the footage became overly graphic I changed channels, going immediately to Fox News, where I know I will not have put up with this sort of disgusting rubbish.

  24. @ ALL:

    “What it Takes to be a National Geographic Photographer By Kent Kobersteen”

    It’s no different than if Manchester United is looking for a forward, or the Los Angeles Lakers are looking for a center. Because of the place that photography plays at the National Geographic Magazine, and because of the tremendous investment in each photographic coverage, the Magazine is no different than a top sports team. What does it take? Be the best there is. It’s quite simple. The Magazine can afford nothing less, and the competition for work for the Magazine is the photographers on this site.

    Here in Burn, we are in the seats, looking for that game, looking forward to be in the bench, then in the game…

    The whole article -> http://thephotosociety.org/blog/what-it-takes-to-be-a-national-geographic-photographer-by-kent-kobersteen/

    Have a nice week end.

  25. Thank God Natchway is still alive. Gave me a scare there.

    Excellent tribute. I look forward to the Wim Wenders essay.

    David, I haven’t had any free time to Skype at all, but I think I can pull it off Sunday morning, Rocky Mountain Time, if you are available and if the wifi connection here will sustain it.

  26. Pingback: James Nachtwey, peace photographer. « Shot from the shutter

  27. a civilian-mass audience

    I was writing and I was writing …and writing a long comment…I felt like AKAKY,BOBBYB,SIDNEY,JEFF…
    and pouf
    the whole post disappeared…therefore…I will say only this…THANK YOU MR.HARVEY…see you soon


    CAN I SING NOW?:)))

  28. a civilian-mass audience

    ok,MICHAELK…here I am singing:


    I tried to bring BOB DYLAN in…BUT …my country has blocked the song…oime,what a Freedom:(

    “open your eyes wide and risk the dusk in your face and your lens.”
    Wim Wenders

    Open your souls…

    “you cannot wait to be in the game, you must be playing the game …”
    our Harvey/the bald eagle

    back to me aisle and to our regular program…

  29. And then there are those of us who just watch the game and root for the home team, always provided, of course, that the home team isn’t the Red Sox–there are some things I will not do for love nor money– but shouting encouragement to the players is important, or to paraphrase Milton, they also serve who only sit on their asses and eat potato chips.

  30. James Nachtwey is such an incredible photographer. I remember the first time I watched ‘War Photographer’, I was completely blown away. There is a deepness to his images that is so compelling.. It really gives credence to the notion that photojournalism can sway hearts and minds and can stand its own next to any other art form.. I really like what Wim mentioned with his first Nachtwey example, the focus on the children as opposed to the guns and soldiers. Sometimes I see the photographs coming from photographers imbedded with the military as glorifying war, or at least a glorification of the aesthetic of violence. Nachtwey always finds humanity and writes an epic poem with each photograph. Truly amazing.

    Also, thought I’d reach out to the Burn community for help with a blog I’m trying to start the focus of which is photographic or written storytelling. I’m trying to emphasize the documentation of poverty, environmental degradation, conflict, and social issues through the human experience.. anyway, the project is in its infancy and I’d love any input or help from anybody who’s interested.


  31. Pingback: >Re: PHOTO » Blog Archive » Wim Wenders on James Nachtwey

  32. I think I’ve read Wender’s speech about five times and I still find it enlightening. One very obvious point is I’d never immersed myself so deeply into a single image as Wender’s does. It feels as if Wender’s was standing next to Nachtwey as he took those photos, like a first hand account of the scene. I suppose it’s the sum of two very visually talented beings. It’s certainly changed my way of probably looking at a strong image.

  33. Matt..

    have seen a couple pics on your last blog post I like very much.. when I have more time I’ll be back and have a closer look..

  34. It is said truly that all those photographs were matured within the heart………the representation is very simple and straight and hurts our feelings……….it is simply terrific.

  35. Talking about films and directors, although I must admit I have absolutely no idea about film, filmmaking, and the business of Hollywood. Any suggestions on what is the photography version of Citizen Kane?
    Maybe Robert Frank’s “The Americans”?

  36. Matt McInnis,

    nice blog….I’m sure it will evolve in the future. I liked the Nicaragua story the most.
    Some nice shots hiding in there.
    Thanks for sharing.

  37. Pingback: Photographer Lynsey Addario’s best shot - World Bad News : World Bad News

  38. Pingback: El mítico reportero humanitario que retrató a Alma Al Assad como "una rosa en el desierto" | Trasdós

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