James Nachtwey Documentary Show

James Nachtwey.

“Oh so you like him” Yumi said.
“Yah and I had got a chance to see his work when I was in Dhaka.” he replied.
She looked at him with admiration, familiarity I don’t know. But my observation skill told me that they shared something in common.
They talked a little longer about him while I scribbled down the name unsure of my spelling. Nachway, that’s what I wrote in my diary.
So, like any other Friday morning as its holiday in our college I was tuned into Namaste Kathmandu. The RJ informed about a documentary being shown at the Nanglo Bakery Café, Sundhara about the life of James Nachtwey, a war photojournalist. Sumit, an RJ in Kantipur FM reiterated the same. I had to go there.

The 58-year-old photojournalist began his career in the 1980s when one fine day he realised what he truly wanted in life, be a war photojournalist. To witness history, to be a part of it.
“War photojournalists are the messengers of peace, perhaps that is the reason why people unnecessarily prolonging war do not like their presence,” he said. A lean physique, greying hair and a quiet tone James Nachtwey talked of his profession. When asked if he ever felt afraid when he was out in the war zones. His answer was ” Fear. To ask if you experience fear or not is not the question. It is how you handle it.”
“I wish everyone could be present in the war zones. People should see what is going on there. But that is not possible. That is why photojournalists are needed.” I want my photos to evoke a sense of humanity in all the people who see them he continued.

Sheer interest in knowing more about Nachtwey had driven me to the place. And I was thoroughly enjoying each and every moment of the documentary, not to forget congratulating myself on making such a wise decision to be there despite the lack of company. “It’s tough to take pictures in situations like these,” Nachtwey continued talking of his pictures taken in war ridden Kosovo of family members mourning the death of the loved one killed in war. “It is not possible until people really want me to be there. Sometimes it’s a greeting, a touch or nothing at all that makes me feel like a part of them.” I think they want the world to know of what they are going through, their struggle, their pain or else I would never be able to take all those photos.

Samudaya.org did a wonderful job of showing the documentary, which I must agree. But the show wasn’t flawless. Natchwey was in Ramallah taking pictures when all of a sudden the DVD would rewind going back to Kosovo. The one handling the DVD would ask the audience, “Any one remember where we were? 16th or the 17th scene”.
A woman across my seat replied, “17 damn it!” The voice sounded familiar and I turned to my right to see a popular RJ cum VJ. Oh so a biggies show, I thought. The hall was dark, and I was yet to realize that I was the only one in the crowd who had gone to attend the show because of interest. Everyone else was there with someone they knew, and they were related to the field of journalism one way or the other.

The show was over with frequent rewind and forward sessions. And it began, the interaction session. Kunda Dixit, facilitated the program and asked the audience to come forward with their queries. The first question was from a guy clad in a clean white “United We Blog!” T-shirt sitting two seats next to me to my left. “USA Today was interviewing me… (The name of the journalist). And he took about 100 pictures, and when I asked him if he was done with it. He told me he was only joking till then; he was yet to take the picture. So could somebody explain why there exists a need to take so many pictures?”
The USA Today beginning had everyone’s eyes glued to the guy. I sure had fun observing. 😆

Min Bajracharya was called to answer the question. He beat around the bush for a long time but finally said, “Earlier you didn’t have digital cameras. But the digital ones these days have made photojournalism more competitive. Then you had a roll of film and taking pictures frequently was something done by the ones who could afford it.”
Rajesh KC then came forward to answer. “It is just like watching this documentary. First of all I was seated in the back and I couldn’t see it clearly. Then I moved forward. Again I wasn’t satisfied so I came here to have a better view. You aren’t satisfied with what you have got so you repeatedly take pictures. It is not about a professional taking many pictures and an amateur taking a few. It’s again about capturing the moment.”

I was not satisfied with the answer at all. I wanted to ask, “How can you say you’re capturing “the moment” when the moment doesn’t last even till the next instant? Isn’t it about not being satisfied with the moment itself rather than the picture you have of it? Maybe you think the moment is not so appealing to the ones seeing the picture. I just don’t think “capturing the moment and taking too many pictures” logic goes together. I made a face:x after the reply, as I always do when I am not convinced but didn’t ask. I seldom ask questions while in crowds, which is a major problem with my character. The dissatisfaction torments me to find answers for myself. And though I wish I were bold enough to ask most of the time I am glad I did not for the answers are always something you need to ask yourself, or develop your own perspective on sort of queries. But having Asish sit with Dhungz and me would sure help. Hoina ta Pravin Bhai? Hahahah:lol:

Kunda Dixit nevertheless brought the session to a fine end when he reiterated Robert Capa’s saying which the first thing shown on screen. It read, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, then you are not close enough.” A photojournalist’s excellence is seen in the way he keeps him/herself away from his/her pictures. Or else there are chances of being biased. Hmmm.Fine ending. Did I say that? Confusing would suit better. You can’t take a picture of human suffering by keeping yourself at a distance from it, not having any trace of empathy towards it, can you?

Another photojournalist wanted to see the brighter side of the those places in war. Why doesn’t he show that? She asked. It made me feel that his work is incomplete…
Not all were convinced by what Natchtwey had to say either. A foreign journalist told the audience How much money the German magazine, STERN,that Natchwey worked for made just by using his photos. In the end its he who makes money, so he can talk big. Its photojournalists like you( talking of the Nepalese photojournalists) that stand out.

Good that I came here I concluded. But coming to another place where you don’t belong after attending a bratabandha with 600 guests and 22 pundits where you don’t know anyone, other than a little 3 year old kid is sure too much 😦 I headed for the door , as soon as the Samudaya guy was finished with informing everyone that there was free tea! WHo Cares?

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3 comments

  1. welcome to WordPress world…your msn space was just too troublesome to open, especially when using browsers other than IE… this is really a very nice theme – clean interface and very easy-to-eye colours…sorry, i have no comment on your post though 😦

    keep on bloggin!

  2. Wow, thanks Maheshji, glad to know that this blog is better, Hahah 😆 really needed to know that. ya, no worries nothing to comment here, am puttin Gagan’t interview now, that maybe something interesting. 🙂

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