James Nachtwey
[Photographer, b. 1948, Syracuse, New York, lives in New York.]

 We must look at it. We’re required to look at it. We’re required to do what we can about it. If we don’t, who will? 
 My job is not to go to someplace and fall apart. (Answer to a question about how he functions in the face of so much violence.) 
 The flow of reality has contours and dimensions much like the flow of a river. The characteristics of the current depend on the channel, whether it is a product of history or geology. Documentary photography has similar properties. The images I create are a confluence of what is in front of me and what is inside of me. They are objective and subjective at the same time, and they must be seen that way by the viewer in order to be convincing. 
 If I cave in, if I fold up because of the emotional obstacles that are in front of me, I’m useless. There is no point in me being there in the first place. And I think if you go to places where people are experiencing these kinds of tragedies with a camera, you have a responsibility. The value of it is to make an appeal to the rest of the world, to create an impetus where change is possible through public opinion. Public opinion is created through awareness. My job is to help create the awareness. 
 In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a war to communicate to the rest of the world what’s happening, he’s trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that’s the reason for those in charge of perpetuating the war do not like to have photographers around. 
 Every minute I was there, I wanted to flee. I did not want to see this. Would I cut and run, or would I deal with the responsibility of being there with a camera? 
 I like to work in the same intimate space that the subjects inhabit. I want to give viewers the sense that they’re sharing the same space with a photo’s subject. These pictures would have been impossible to make unless I was accepted by the people I was photographing. 
 I don’t believe there’s any such thing as objective reality. It’s only reality as we experience it. And whatever emotions I’m feeling, for whatever reason I’m feeling them, get channeled into my work. If I’m feeling outraged, grief, disbelief, frustration, sympathy, that gets channeled through me and into my pictures and hopefully transmitted to the viewer. 
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