Spent the weekend rather immersed in the world of war photography. I’ve been involved in James Nachtwey’s XDR-TB campaign over the past couple of weeks, and seized the opportunity to watch the documentary about him, War Photographer, at a rare screening at the Barbican. The film is a must-see. If I were screening it, I’d programme it on a double bill with Chris Marker’s Sunless. To me, both Marker and Nachtwey focus unblinkingly into the abyss which — for much of the world — was the twentieth century, yet frame their record of these terrors in a radiant humanism. In Nachtwey’s case, the visual results are stunning, but I do feel a certain ambivalence about his stylistic finessing of such horrors: at first glance, the visual language of many of Nachwey’s photos — unflinching though the view and choice of subject matter may be — suggests they result from fashion shoots in Hell. There is a much longer post than this one worth writing on that aspect of his work.
Watch the film and make up your own minds. For UK readers, your best bet is probably to buy the NTSC Region 1 DVD via Amazon, or hunt the film down on Bit Torrent. But watch it.
Also went to check out the rest of the Barbican’s This is War show. For me the highlight wasn’t the Capa and Taro work, but An-My Lê’s magnificent large-format works, Events Ashore. Go see for her work, if nothing else.