Does the appelation "Best War Photographer" mean anything? Certainly not in term of gruesome and voyeuristic content. Nevertheless, it might apply to James Natchwey because he has shown true commitment to many - if not all - of the world's political and social conflicts for the last thirty years. And also because, as a notable photojournalist, Natchwey's compelling black and white photographs are heavily loaded and demonstre the destructive power and traumatizing fear of these raw issues.
Editor of mono.kultur, Kai von Rabenau, describes what it was like to speak with James Natchwey as he shares a portfolio from their upcoming issue.
Could you introduce us to James Nachtwey and his work?
James Nachtwey is an American photojournalist, and probably the most prominent war photographer that is still active. Nachtwey has been working as a staff photographer for Time magazine and freelancing for a plethora of other publications worldwide for over 30 years, winning countless awards over the years and exhibiting across the world. He has covered pretty much everything that was of relevance politically during the last three decades, in photographs that are sincere, brutal and heartbreaking. Nachtwey has always focused his lens on the victims, showing the cost of wars and disease on a human level; his images radiate an astounding warmth and seemingly endless capacity for empathy and compassion, and that's very much the feeling I got from interviewing him.
How did this collaboration and interest in James Nachtwey come across?
I've been following Nachtwey's work for a long time and he has been on our and my personal wish list for years. At some point we reached out, and thankfully he agreed instantly, even though he rarely gives interviews – he usually prefers to be behind the lens. But from that point of initial contact to actually making it happen took another year or so.
Why did it take so long to interview him?
Because he is on one hand very demanding and exacting, and on the other hand has no assistants or gallery or agency anymore – he does everything by himself. He was very involved in the entire process of the magazine, from the editing of the interview to the selection of images that we used down to the design of the issue – it was a truly collaborative effort. Which was a true pleasure, but also took a long time, given that he had plenty of other assignments and things to take care of.
Does he choose to always shoot in black and white? If so, why?
He also shoots in color, but not as much as in B&W. I actually never asked him why that is, so I don't know. But initially, we wanted to use only B&W images in the issue, which he felt didn't convey the full scope of his work.
When is this issue coming out?
It came out in the middle of October in Europe, and should be available in the US and the rest of the world very soon.