Sunday, June 26, 2005

War Photographer

I watched this movie last night, about renowned photographer James Natchwey, and it was incredibly moving; right up there with Hotel Rwanda. Videocameras followed Natchwey around for a few years - from 1999-2000 he was in Palestine, Kosovo, and all over Indonesia. In my dreams, James Natchwey is the person I wanted to grow up to be. In his twenties, in the early 70's, he decided he wanted to be a war photographer, largely because he wanted to see the world and because the images from Vietnam had such an impact on him. Over the past thirty-five years, he's taken some of the most powerful photographs of the worst conflicts this world has seen. Genocide, starvation, mass poverty, even police beatings right here in the states.

Natchwey interviews that he struggles with what he's doing, if he's capitalizing off people's misery. But that's not what he's doing. He talks with these people, which is more than most of us can say; he tries to understand their lives, and his photographs are the only way to communicate that to the rest of the world.

If I were a braver person, I would follow his footsteps. But, I don't think I am. And it's not fear of being in the middle of it all - though I might feel differently once I'm on the street filled with men firing guns at each other - it's fear that people wouldn't accept me there. I love my camera and can take thousands of photos in a couple of days abroad. The few photos I have of people, in their own environment, are usually my favorites.
Boy in Bolivia Athenian Ticket Seller

I feel more comfortable with landscapes, inanimate objects that don't look back.
Bolivia Laguna Desert Plant San Pedro Church Playground

Everytime I point my camera at a person I fear they're going to resent me for some reason, for intruding into their lives. It's something I could over maybe. Maybe the real fear is treading into non-academic waters. To me the path to a career has always been through school, so it's hard for me to believe I could take a leap of faith and rely on some artistic talent without failing miserably. So, maybe I admire Natchwey for waking up one morning and knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life and pursuing it to the end.


At 10:47 AM, June 27, 2005, Blogger Chai said...

So, maybe I admire Natchwey for waking up one morning and knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life and pursing it to the end.

I love that sentence because isn't that what life is all about at the end of the day? This photographer sounds amazing (and your pics are beautiful!).

I think the hardest part, like you referred to, is taking pictures of someone and trying not to capitalize on a person's emotional turmoil. But then again, there are people out there who don't want the world to know what is happening. It's hard and tough debate.

At 2:22 AM, June 28, 2005, Anonymous shell said...

I simply can't resist beautiful photographs. Too bad I'm the world's worst photographer.

Are you a documentary photograph fan? Or more of a nature scene person?

At 1:36 PM, October 15, 2005, Anonymous Bernard Tan said...

Hi there, I accidently stumble into your blog when I did a search of Natchwey. I'm a undergrad from Singapore and like you, I'm a photographer as well as a fan of Natchwey.

Well, I believe Natchwey's path of photography is unlikely to be repeated by anyone else. It takes alot to come close to what Natchwey has done. I guess most who take up photography likes the beauty part of it but there must be some brave ones, who are willing to put themselves in such situations, to remind man that hey, there are people out there who are still suffering.

Well, like you, I wanted to follow his path and choice in photography. Though my peers would probably prefer the comfort of the office and the air-conditioner, I guess you share the same sentisments as me. To see the world and to bring the attentation of society to problems that most people wished never exisited. Hey, don't lose hope okie. Work hard and you never know if you would be the next Natchwey. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and never lose hope or direction :)


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