War Photographer

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War Photographer
War Photographer poster.jpg
Produced by Christian Frei
Starring James Nachtwey
Christiane Amanpour
Hans-Hermann Klare
Christiane Breustedt
Des Wright
Denis O'Neill
Music by Eleni Karaindrou
Arvo Pärt
David Darling
Cinematography Peter Indergand
James Nachtwey (microcam)
Release date(s) November 2001
Running time 96 min.
Country Switzerland
Language English, German and French

War Photographer is a documentary by Christian Frei about the photographer James Nachtwey. As well as telling the story of an iconic man in the field of war photography, the film addresses the broader scope of ideas common to all those involved in war journalism, as well as the issues that they cover.

The documentary won a 2003 Peabody Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 [1] and an Emmy Award in 2004. It also won or was nominated for more than 40 other awards internationally.[2]

James Nachtwey[edit]

Further information: James Nachtwey

War journalism[edit]

Further information: War photography

One of the main themes of the documentary is the level to which a journalist should become involved in the events that they are there to document. Nachtwey credits the intimacy of his photography to his emphasis on establishing a rapport with his subjects, often despite a significant language barrier. Des Wright, a cameraman with Reuters, describes the problem of being too far removed from what is happening. Discussing a video reel of President Suharto's resignation and a police crackdown on protestors, he notes: "[Some journalists] say, 'I'm sorry, I'm a journalist, I'm not a part of this.' And I say, but you are a part of it. I think a lot of people would be quite happy for that man to be killed so they can get the particular picture that they want."

The documentary uses footage filmed with a small "microcam" video camera mounted on Nachtwey's SLR cameras. This technique gives a sense of immediacy to the viewer, showing events from the perspective of the photographer.

Events and locations depicted in the film[edit]


Edward Guthmann from The San Francisco Chronicle has emphasized that the film appeals to the spectators’ sense for compassion:

War correspondents, at least the ones that appear in movies, are rancid, crusty creatures -- emotionally numb, frequently drunk. James Nachtwey, the subject of the extraordinary "War Photographer," not only belies that image but also stands so far apart from it that his idealism and monklike commitment are inspiring. (...) This film is an act of spiritual faith – an eloquent, deeply felt meditation on the nature of compassion.[3]

Ken Fox has estimated the humanistic approach of the film and of the work of James Nachtwey:

Frei assembles a fascinating profile of a deeply humanistic artist who, in spite of all that he's witnessed, remains surprisingly idealistic, and retains an extraordinary faith in the ability of images to communicate the truth of the world around him.[4]

Similar Peter Rainer from the New York Magazine:

Nachtwey, in his mid-fifties and lanky, with a full shock of hair, has a cool, almost Zen-like deliberateness. He speaks slowly and carefully, as if he had long ago weighed his words, one by one, and was only now offering us their gravity. He has been photographing the globe's worst hot spots for 25 years and has probably seen up close more grief and ruination than anybody should have to see in a dozen lifetimes, and yet he still believes he's making a difference. He regards his photographs as an antidote to war, and himself as an antiwar photographer. (...) Nachtwey clears the cynicism right out of you. He makes you realize that deep inside righteousness can be found a tough beauty.[5]


  1. ^ "NY Times: War Photographer". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  2. ^ http://www.war-photographer.com/en (click on awards). Page accessed June 21, 2012.
  3. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, 6 December 2002.
  4. ^ TV Guide's Movie Guide, February 2003.
  5. ^ New York Magazine, 24 June 2004.

External links[edit]