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Thread: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

  1. #1
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    Default Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    was at the Film Fest yesterday to watch War Photographer & City Of God, and was very inspired/in awe of the works of war correspondents and photographers, esp in light of the Iraq war now. thought i'll post some of my thoughts there.

    excerpt from the Film Fest 2003 website
    (scroll to the bottom)

    "WAR PHOTOGRAPHER

    Photojournalist James Nachtwey has been traveling to war-torn countries for two decades to document the poverty, famine and suffering. This film combines interviews with photographs, and even a "photographer's-eye view" of the action-a video camera was fixed to the body of Nachtwey's still camera, bringing us into the frontline as well. From Nicaragua during the contra war, South Africa in the mid-1980's Kosovo, Indonesia and Rwanda, the film reflects on what kind of difference the photographs have made."

    several things struck me while i was watching the show...
    - you must really have a calling in life to want to become a war photographer - the pay can't be great, you take incredible risks and all for the sake of recording history as it happens
    - i really wonder how war photogs deal with the reality of it all - the brutality, death and sheer violence. from the movie, seems that different people deal with it differently, from drinking (like soldiers), talking non-stop about it or simply being very cynical about life. what is more aew-inspiring was the determination to capture the scene before you, clicking away @ your shutter despite all the bullets and dying people all around you.
    - makes me realize what a cushy life we have here. i mean, photogy to most of us is just a hobby to kill time and interest, but to these people, it's a means of telling the world to sit up and take notice.
    - i really admired James Nachtwey for his lack of use of zoom lenses (thoughout the show, he only uses 28-70mm or 24-70mm zooms, without flash) while the rest of the photogs were lugging 70-200 type zooms. he really epitomizes Robert Capa's saying that "if your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough".
    - the theatre was only about 2/3s full, but i think most of them were photogs. i saw plenty of Crumplers, lowepros and domkes in evidence. spotted a couple of media photogs and CS members as well (met rueyloon and i think i spotted Red Dawn and Lance from Offstone).

    all in all, a very worthwhile movie to catch if you're into street photog or planning to become a media photog.

    just some random thoughts. feel free to comment or add your 2 cents worth.

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    oh one more thing to add - it really inspired me to revert back to B&W film (i think Nachtwey uses Kodak Tri-pan extensively) and go back to the darkroom.

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    I am there too.

    Anyway, he uses a EOS 1 series camera + 17-35 (I can read the thing off the lens barrel), not 28-70 and definitely not 24-70 (too new). That's how he gets those "in your face" shots. His friends are all using the 70-200 types.

    In the show, you can also see custom darkroom printing (and a huge one) in action - the doding, burning, etc. "Can we have more sky?"

    Regards
    CK

  4. #4

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    Yup
    Excellent show.
    At first i thought it was gonna be another boring documentary movie, but as the movie went on, it made me realised that life is too fragile.


    SPOILER












































































    We are surfing the net in our own home, yet some people don't even have a house to live it, lost an arm and a limb, yet are still able to support their own family.

    And to think James Netchway devoted his entire life to photography, but im glad he got the recognition he deserve after 25 years.

    Pictures tells a thousand words, but for James Netchway's case, his pictures tells a billion words, probably more.

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    Originally posted by Giantnookie
    We are surfing the net in our own home, yet some people don't even have a house to live it, lost an arm and a limb, yet are still able to support their own family.
    oh yes, that particular portion about the Indonesian railway track familiy struck a particularly poignant chord with me... probably cos ID is so near to us here in SG.

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    Yes, totally excellent docu. And how he gets so close to his subjects. Guess must develop the 'iron stomach'.

    The thread discussing the movie on the film fest forum is quite detailed with a lot of links.
    http://www.filmfest.org.sg/ys.shtml

    Excellent, excellent docu.

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    "In 1985, shortly before becoming a member of the world famous photo agency Magnum, the then 36-year-old James Nachtwey wrote the following text, a credo about the relevance of his work as a war photographer.

    Why photograph war?

    There has always been war. War is raging throughout the world at the present moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating.

    Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.

    For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war and if it is used well it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.

    In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a war in order to communicate to the rest of the world what is happening, he is trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that is the reason why those in charge of perpetuating a war do not like to have photographers around.

    It has occurred to me that if everyone could be there just once to see for themselves what white phosphorous does to the face of a child or what unspeakable pain is caused by the impact of a single bullet or how a jagged piece of shrapnel can rip someone's leg off - if everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands.

    But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there - to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on - to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference - to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest.

    The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for me to believe otherwise.

    I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can. The act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's predicament. The extend to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself.

    - James Nachtwey"

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    Default Re: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    Originally posted by Larry
    - i really admired James Nachtwey for his lack of use of zoom lenses (thoughout the show, he only uses 28-70mm or 24-70mm zooms, without flash) while the rest of the photogs were lugging 70-200 type zooms. he really epitomizes Robert Capa's saying that "if your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough".
    no that's a 17-35 f2.8L he uses all the time. u can read it off the screen. there's no 28-70L in sight at all. mid range zooms are of no use to most photojournalists

    And just to add on to this thread, yes like wat CK said, he's using a 1 / 1n type body, shoots in Manual mode all the time (again u can spot that on the LCD with the nifty microcam attached to his camera) and prefers to shoot with at least 1/250. (again visible on the top LCD readout of the EOS 1n)

    And u can observe he focuses with thumb on * button, utilising custom function 4-1 . That's not surprising cos it most closely simulates the Leica rangefinder way of shooting, separating focusing from exposure metering. He uses a Leica for most of the earlier part of his career.

    He's a great photographer, yes, but he comes across to me as a very uninteresting person
    David Teo
    View my work and blog at http://www.5stonesphoto.com/blog

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    Default Re: Re: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    Originally posted by Red Dawn
    no that's a 17-35 f2.8L he uses all the time. u can read it off the screen. there's no 28-70L in sight at all. mid range zooms are of no use to most photojournalists
    ah ok.... hehheh what do i know i'm just a nikon-user.

    but if he uses 17-35mm zooms, then my respect for him deepens. very rare to see a journo using a ultra-wide as opposed to the masses who uses long zooms to get close-ups of the war action. like i said earlier, he's quite the epitome of Capa's famous saying.

    He's a great photographer, yes, but he comes across to me as a very uninteresting person
    he is quite deadpan isn't he? i thought he was slightly "inhuman" the way he doesn't react to anything. no drinking, no letting off steam, no cynism. all that despite the horrors and atrocities he's seen. wonder how he compartmentalises his thoughts and still manage to bring out the human drama of his shots.

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    Default Re: Re: Re: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    Originally posted by Larry
    ah ok.... hehheh what do i know i'm just a nikon-user.

    but if he uses 17-35mm zooms, then my respect for him deepens. very rare to see a journo using a ultra-wide as opposed to the masses who uses long zooms to get close-ups of the war action. like i said earlier, he's quite the epitome of Capa's famous saying.
    hmm....actually there are a lot of photojournalists who don't use long zooms for war action. Not coincidentally, many of them in the Magnum fraternity, of which Natchwey was once part of.

    actually, he's more of a documentary photojournalist, rather than the traditional newspaper photojournalist. And he's an antiwar war photographer.

    What this means is that a lot of his work is not of actual combat, and does not focus on the "war action", as u put it. He's definitely not the kind to be embedded for example, with US troops in a Baghdad invasion taking pictures of the combat. He'll be more likely found among the civilians, and actually telling their story. This doesn't require long lenses.

    Nor is this kind of work as time sensitive as say, a newspaper photojournalist rushing to beat the deadline to upload photos to make it in time for the 9 pm news.......
    David Teo
    View my work and blog at http://www.5stonesphoto.com/blog

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    Default Re: Re: Re: Re: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    Originally posted by Red Dawn
    actually, he's more of a documentary photojournalist, rather than the traditional newspaper photojournalist. And he's an antiwar war photographer.

    What this means is that a lot of his work is not of actual combat, and does not focus on the "war action", as u put it. He's definitely not the kind to be embedded for example, with US troops in a Baghdad invasion taking pictures of the combat. He'll be more likely found among the civilians, and actually telling their story. This doesn't require long lenses.
    hmmm you're right, good point. the description of docu photoghr didn't occur until you mentioned it. but i think many of the times, he's still in the thick of the war, which was what i meant. bullets still wizzing past him and natives still waving parangs.

    what i was struck by was the lack of attention from the people to this photoghr going around shooting and snapping away. he must have an enormous sense of empathy for that to happen IHMO. i also recall him saying that all normal behaviour is suspended during war and disaster, which allows him to carry out his work. very interesting insight...

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    Dear Larry,

    After I read your post, I found that I really need another F100 body so that I can have Black & White film on standby on that body. If your got fed-up of your F100 of switch to digital, tell me ok. But I can only afford a thousand dollars, maybe I have to wait for another six more months waithing it to depreciate further.

    Cheers.

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    I was struck by the fact that they are people who find this show funny...........
    Last edited by rueyloon; 2nd May 2003 at 02:37 PM.
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    Is it still on? Or is it just a one-off film at the Film Fest?

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    one off show, but you can get the DVD online.. pretty ex though.
    36frames Wedding Photography - http://www.36frames.com
    rueyloon - http://www.rueyloon.com

  16. #16

    Question Re: Re: Film Fest - "War Photographer"

    Originally posted by Red Dawn


    He's a great photographer, yes, but he comes across to me as a very uninteresting person
    I think it he was uniniteresting, the docu wouldn't be so intriguing. He never boasted, was very humble and most of all, knowledgeable on his subjects.

    One of the best films at the fest. Maybe the Esplanade Library can bring the DVD in.

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    So much so for digging out old threads....

    Just watched the film "War Photographer" on DVD. Really admire and respect James Nachtwey.

    If you have watch the film and wants to re-visit his photos, you can take a look here:

    http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/

    Be warned...
    Last edited by roygoh; 9th May 2004 at 05:27 PM.
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    I want d DVD
    all his photos are so strong in meaning... amazing guy
    Last edited by SniperD; 9th May 2004 at 05:09 PM.

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    hehheh i was wondering why this old thread re-surfaced after so long. good show isn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry
    hehheh i was wondering why this old thread re-surfaced after so long. good show isn't it?
    Great show, I bought the DVD.

    Regards
    CK

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