Bearing Witness With James Nachtwey

Powerful photojournalism and the service the press provides in raising awareness of issues is no longer held in the regard that it once was. In his 2007 TED Prize acceptance speech, James Nachtwey not only displayed some of his haunting imagery and talked about its meaning, but discussed the duty the press has. It seems more and more relevant as time passes.

Having worked for over 40 years as a photojournalist, Nachtwey certainly has some stories to share. In the selection of images he walks through during this brief presentation, Nachtwey shares photographs from confrontations, famines, and even some documentary of social issues in his homeland of the United States. He discusses the role of documentary photography as a force for the sharing of human experience and as a way to have relatively objective parties helping to prevent the stifling of knowledge. 

Whether you're a fashion photographer, landscape photographer, or any other type of artist, Nachtwey's words can encourage you to inject some form of meaning, message, emotion, or experience into your photography. His dedication to the sharing of the human condition is something that we can all learn from. 

The video here is available in higher resolution on TED.com so you can see the images more clearly. 

You can see more of Nachtwey's work on his website.

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6 Comments

I think a big reason for the decreased regard with which (photo) journalists are held is the globalization of (photo) journalism. Bear with me... In the past, people were more likely to accept the stories being told because there was typically only one story being told or only one of a couple stories was accepted as being right and true and good. We all "knew" the Nazis, Russians, Chinese, "whoever" were bad and Americans were good. Muslims were bad and Christians were good. Good people did X and bad people did Y. As more stories were told and from more perspectives, it wasn't so clear. We found out no group is entirely good or entirely bad. We had to decide which point of view made more sense in each case and then, to help us sleep better, demonize the opposing views and their adherents...and the (photo) journalists pushing that view.

When I started watching the video, I found myself looking for an agenda I would disagree with. 'Of course, journalists represent THAT view and aren't to be trusted.' We're not going back to the days of blindly trusting the media. Walter Cronkite is dead.

William Howell's picture

Yeah, that about sums up my thoughts too.

People forget that the oldest journalism school in America is only about a hundred years old. Anyone can be a journalist.

It happens so quick, I couldn't see her kicking the man or even attempting to do so.

dale clark's picture

You may want to watch again. It's really obvious she is tripping and kicking people.

Oh, okay. By the time I realized who I was looking for, it was difficult to see what was going on. Thanks.