“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

James Nachtwey started his documentary career as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico. He moved to New York in 1980 to work as a freelance photographer for magazines. He began photographing critical social issues the next year when he went on his first foreign assignment was covering the conflict in Northern Ireland during an IRA hunger strike.

Social issues, wars and conflicts

Throughout his career, James Nachtwey has created extensive photographic stories on these most important social issues. His work encompasses photos made in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Isreal, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

 From the Middle East to 9/11 to now

Nachtwey had documented the Middle East since early in his career. During his TED talk in 2007, he drew the line of his work in that troubled part of the world:

“I didn’t see either of the planes hit, and when I glanced out my window, I saw the first tower burning, and I thought it might have been an accident. A few minutes later when I looked again and saw the second tower burning, I knew we were at war. In the midst of the wreckage at Ground Zero, I had a realization. I’d been photographing in the Islamic world since 1981 — not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia and Europe. At the time I was photographing in these different places, I thought I was covering separate stories, but on 9/11 history crystallized, and I understood I’d actually been covering a single story for more than 20 years, and the attack on New York was its latest manifestation.”

“Let my photographs bear witness”

Read the transcript of Nachtwey’s TED talk.

Time magazine, exhibitions, awards

Nachtwey has been under contract as a photographer for Time magazine since 1984. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions in New York, Rome, Paris and other cities around the world. His goal for his work is that humanity understands that in war, there truly is no winner. He’s won the Robert Capa Gold Medal five times, Magazine Photographer of the Year seven times, the World Press Photo Award twice and many others. He is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and holds an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Arts.