Nachtwey was born in Syracuse, New York. He grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from Leominster High School and attended Dartmouth College from 19661970, where he was a member of Casque and Gauntlet, played rugby, and studied Art History and Political Science. Influenced by imagery from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement, he taught himself photography.

After graduating from college, Nachtwey held a series of jobs, including work as a truck driver and on merchant ships. During this period Nachtwey fell in love with photography. He acquired skills in these jobs that would later prove useful to him as he navigated the globe in search of news stories.


Nachtwey started working as a newspaper photographer in 1976 at a small newspaper in New Mexico. In 1980, he moved to New York and began working as a freelance photographer. In 1981, Nachtwey covered his first overseas assignment in Ireland. Nachtwey has documented a variety of armed conflicts and social issues. He spent considerable time in South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union shooting pictures of war, conflict and famine, and images of socio-political issues (pollution, crime and punishment) in Western Europe and the United States. He currently lives in New York City.

In 1994, Nachtwey was covering the upcoming elections in South Africa, the first non-racial ones in decades. As an associate of the Bang-Bang Club, he was at the scene when Ken Oosterbroek was killed and Greg Marinovich was seriously injured.

Nachtwey had been injured previously in his work, but it was during his extensive coverage of the United States invasion of Iraq that he received his first combat injury. As Nachtwey, along with TIME correspondent Michael Weisskopf rode in the back of a humvee with the United States Army Tomb Raiders, an insurgent threw a grenade into the vehicle. Weisskopf grabbed the grenade to throw it out of the humvee, but it exploded in his hand. Two soldiers were injured in the explosion, along with the TIME journalists. Nachtwey managed to take several photographs of medic Billie Grimes treating Weisskopf before passing out. Both journalists were airlifted to Germany and later to hospitals in the United States. Nachtwey recovered sufficiently to return overseas to cover the tsunami in Southeast Asia of December 26, 2004.

Nachtwey has worked with TIME as a contract photographer since 1984. He worked for Black Star from 1980 until 1985 and was a member of Magnum Photos from 1986 until 2001. In 2001, he was a founding member of the VII Photo Agency.

He was with Thomas E. Franklin at the World Trade Center when Franklin made the famous Raising the Flag at Ground Zero photo of three firefighters raising the flag in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Nachtwey later made series of photographs about the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nachtwey also compiled a photo essay on the effects of the Sudan conflict on civilians.


Nachtwey uses Canon cameras and lenses, and has appeared in Canon advertisements. Currently, he shoots a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and an EOS-1V film camera. To process digital images, Nachtwey uses a PowerBook G4 laptop in the field, and a Power Mac G4 and an Epson 2200 large format printer in his studio. VII (co-founded by Nachtwey) requires photographers to edit their own photos. When shooting film, Nachtwey uses a variety of 35mm emulsions, both color and black and white.

Awards, honors and films

His photographs have been exhibited throughout Europe and the United States and he has received numerous prizes and awards including the World Press Photo award in 1994. In 2001, a documentary about Nachtwey and his work was released entitled War Photographer. The film was directed by Christian Frei and received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary film.

In 2006, Nachtwey was awarded a Heinz Foundation Achievement Award, which carries a US $250,000 prize, for his body of work. Nachtwey is also one of three winners of the 2007 TED Prize. Each recipient was granted $100,000 and one “world-changing wish” to be revealed at the 2007 TED conference, in Monterey, California. Many members of the TED Community, and a group of world-class companies, have pledged support to help fulfill the wishes. Nachtwey’s wish, revealed March 8, 2007, is this: “I’m working on a story that the world needs to know about. I wish for you to help me break it in a way that provides spectacular proof of the power of news photography in the digital age.” Those who wish to help him will sign an NDA and help him “gain access to a place in the world where a critical situation is occurring and fully document it with photography; set a date to unveil the pictures and find a series of innovative ways to create powerful impact with them, using novel display technologies and the power of the Internet as well as media; and use the campaign to generate resources for organizations that are working to address and transform the situation.”

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Sin duda uno de los mejores fotógrafos del mundo, aunque lo que fotografía no es agradable, guerras, hambrunas, catástrofes. James Nachtwey ha sido 7 veces fotógrafo del año, y 5 veces premio Robert Capa. En el link algunas fotografías para aprender: Rumanía, Ruanda, Kosovo, Afganistán… “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated”


James Nachtwey nació en Syracuse, Nueva York (1948). En uno de los fotógrafos americanos mas influyentes del fotoperiodismo y de la fotografía de guerra. Creció en Massachusetts, se graduó en la High School de Leominster y fué a la universidad de Dartmouth a partir de 1966 – 1970, donde estudió historia del arte y ciencias políticas. Influenciado por las imágenes de la guerra de Vietnam y del movimiento a favor de los derechos civiles, empezó con la fotografía.



WAR PHOTOGRAPHER / Christian Frei, 2001 (96´)
Documental que describe la vida diaria de James Nachtwey (uno de los más prestigiosos “fotógrafos de guerra” de la actualidad) durante su estancia en varias regiones -Indonesia, Kosovo, Palestina…- sumidas en cruentos conflictos bélicos. Dirigida por Christian Frei, la película trata de indagar en los pensamientos y sentimientos de Nachtwey que ha dedicado toda su vida profesional a retratar el sufrimiento y el dolor que causan las guerras.



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