Tuesday, September 7, 2010
James Nachtwey made an informed decision in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1970 to continue in the footsteps of earlier photographers in the field and lengthen their path(s) of creating confronting, documentary style imagery depicting the unjustness of war. His images are just that, front-on, confronting and strong visual truths that honestly depict the extreme destruction caused and developed by the tragedy in itself, that is war.
His photographs are a way of raising awareness to the wider world, and give the humans made subject in his pictures a (loud and clear) voice to the world that they otherwise would not of had. Making unspeakable scenes not only speakable, but visual.
Visually, his photographs are so ghoulishly breathtaking as he is not fearful to get in amongst the intensity of the situations he is documenting, where instinctively others would back away. Risking his life daily, if not hourly or more, to capture an image. Believing that it's not fear itself that rules you, but how you manage that fear. "Nobody feels sorry for themselves, it's just part of it".
Although he has obviously come across so many heinous scenes, and the countless harrowing effects that transpire, he has not become cynical, instead holding onto optimism in the form of motivation. Nachtwey describes being motivated by the fact that photography might one day cease the human war, even if the sheer notion seems out of reach.
Interesting thoughts raised from the video include the concept that advertisers are threatened by photographic stylings such as Nachtwey's due to the fact that they focus peoples attention on the problems pursued in them, in turn creating awareness to aforementioned problems and detracting attention from the products being advertised. He says his aim is not to get people to look away from reality, but deeper into reality to care about critical situations which are bigger than themselves.
Personally, I found this video so unthinkably captivating, which I felt was a common feeling in the room. Nachtwey's images are so ghastly revealing, and in viewing each single image I felt exposed, and confronted with tremendous force and power. As mentioned in the video, Nachtwey felt photography evoked a sense of humanity, well I sure felt that looking at his images too.
"Transforming the real world into images"
Frank Hurley was an Australian war photographer who endeavored through both World Wars, among other expeditions, such as the first Australian exhibition to the Antarctic.
His works work a constant source of conflict as viewers, other photographers and professionals debated the ethicality of using multiple negatives, or composites, to represent visual scenes such as battlefields.
In reference to the video 'Frank Hurley: The man that made history', it was noted that professionals were torn over whether Hurley was "A conjurer with a camera" or a master of the visual arts. Although Hurley never attempted to hide the fact that he was using composites to add drama to his visual scenes, there was a strong feeling of untruthfulness associated with his work, and much of it was branded fake.
Hurley, however, did not see his composites as untruthful visual captures, arguing that he could not possibly capture the vast scales in which he was working with single exposures, and was using an artistic angle as well as the actuality of the imagery to create a sense of relative size and dramatics. This led him to use his dark room skills to manipulate his images using a palette of patterns, usually associated with the sky, to add effects and impact. His work being referred to as a combination of photography + cinema + historical painting, using the battlefield as his canvas.
Hurley was also involved in the initial introduction of documentary stylings, documenting a whole range of human existence on his adventures and was also one of the first to use colour in war photography.