Essay #1: Susan Sontag and James Nachtwey walk into a bar …
James: Good afternoon, Susan.
Susan: James, how have you been?
James: Fine, thanks, I just came back from a reporting trip to Yugoslavia. It’s amazing what is happening there, amazing, but tragic. Do want to see some photographs?
Susan: Do you think your photos over expose the situation?
James: No, I have witnessed first hand these images, these pictures are my testimony to what I witnessed.
Susan: But do you feel your images will be shuffled and mixed in with all the other photographs taken for this war?
James: What I witnessed, what I experienced had a powerful impact on me and I believe these photographs stand out as they have stories that can be told along with the images.
Susan: For example?
James: This photo here, this used to be a park. Now it is a graveyard. These two young men are suffering from the loss of their friends. The Bosnia soldier who guided me told me that all of his friends were there now.
I think this is a story that needs to be told.
Susan: You don’t think a form of the photo hasn’t been taken during every war? Young men missing the dead. Fields turned into graveyards.
James: I believe every one deserves their story to be told and that every story is different. No war is the same.
Susan: That’s true. No war is the same. But if we indicate the media with constant images won’t wars just bleed into one another?
James: I don’t see it that way. These photographs arose public opinion and encourage public debate. They show they social problems they are having. If images are not shared then the warring parties have complete control of the agenda. Information and images must be shares.
Susan: What about this image, a cart filled with dead soldiers, is that necessary? Don’t you think images like this desensitize the public? It looks like you took it for the shock factor.
like this desensitize the public? It looks like you took it for the shock factor.
James: At first glance you would think that. But again there is a story to this photograph. These dead Serbian soldiers were used a barter for the return of Bosnian soldiers, killed or prisoners. Showing that even after death soldiers have a value. Soldiers still serving their country even after their death. This is the kind of story that needs to be told. I am going honest and uncensored, not looking for the shock factor.
Susan: What about the thought that photojournalism is a business. And is being used to promote political agendas. Glorifying war with the sponsorship of a government, religion or faction.
James: I cannot speak for others, but I became a documentary photographer because pictures were a powerful influence on me growing up. Photos fueled opposition to war and racism. Change became not only possible but inevitable because of the photographs taken and shared.