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Inspired by: James Nachtwey


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James Nachtwey has had a huge influence on my thinking and my approach to photography. He is at the top of my list of people who inspire me.

On my list of “must-see” documentaries is War Photographer by Christian Frei. It follows James Nacthwey as he photographs war and social injustice.

Most inspirational to me is Nachtwey’s credo. It begins by asking a single question:

“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.”

(view comments below for the entire credo)

This credo was one of the major inspiration points for the founding of The Artists Group at SnapFactory. I do believe that photography can change the world. I may only be able to make a small change, but I’m only one of millions of photographers. If we all strive for positive change those millions of small changes will add up to one big change.

Let me give you an example of one photographer I know who is quietly making a big impact here in Phoenix. Her name is Diane. Yep, my wife and partner here at SnapFactory. She hasn’t been shouting her charitable work from the mountain tops because for her it’s about saving the lives of animals, not fame and fortune.

Every week Diane drives over an hour to the Arizona Humane Society and photographs dogs, cats, and critters that are in need of adoption. The Humane Society then takes these photos and posts them on their website. The results have been amazing. Since Diane’s involvement at the Humane Society adoptions in the Lonely Hearts club have increased dramatically (I believe it’s 80%!!!).

The bottom line is that through her work Diane has saved the lives of many animals and have helped families find loving pets in the process. Diane is changing the world.

There are many ways photographers can use their talents to make changes. In 2007 James Nacthwey won the TED Prize and last year he started a new campaign against TB. And now he’s asking for your help.

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

You may not be James Nachtwey but I hope that you’ll be inspired to use your talents to make positive change in the world. Get out there. Do it.

  • http://blog.snapfactory.com SnapFactory

    Nachtwey's Credo:

    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 extent to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself.

  • joe2pointoh

    “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.”

    Isn't it due to this very effect that photojournalism is so strictly controlled in areas of war?

  • http://blog.snapfactory.com SnapFactory

    I think that's part of it. There is definitely a desire by many to suppress images of war. One of the most interesting works I've seen about this is the book Unembedded. If you haven't seen it then I highly suggest giving it a look.

    http://www.unembedded.net/main.php

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