War Photographer | Chicago Reader

War Photographer

Reading about Sean Flynn, the hotshot photojournalist in Michael Herr's Vietnam book Dispatches, I understood how much danger a person faces in that line of work; this 2001 profile of James Nachtwey, five-time winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his war photography, asks how much human suffering one person can witness. Learning his craft in the 70s, Nachtwey was inspired by the social conscience behind the news photography of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, and the film comes alive whenever his haunting black-and-white photos—of genocide in Kosovo, poverty in Jakarta, lynching in Ramallah, and famine in Rwanda—fill the frame. Swiss TV documentarian Christian Frei follows Nachtwey into the field with a microcam (a gambit that doesn't produce as much as it promises), and when he interviews superstar CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour and the keenly ambitious Reuters cameraman Des Wright, their digressions on their own careers illuminate the compassion and Zen-like calm with which Nachtwey approaches his work: their medium requires color, action, and adventure, while his still, black-and-white images of people in pain give us time to reflect on war at ground level. 96 min.

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