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Old 11-16-2006, 02:37 PM
Darren Darren is offline
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Default Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

OK, this has been in my head since June, but since picking up the latest Nat Geo I was motivated to actually make a post.

This is a little hard for me to cover exactly, as noticing photographers and photos is second nature to me, as well as many others on this site I would guess. However, for the rest of the world, I believe the he may now be the one PJ whose name and work is recognized, even if it is just vaguely so.

The reason this first came to mind was because of the June 5, 2006 Asian edition of time. The story was on the war in the Congo. However, what made it noticable for me is that on the cover of the magazine was not only one of his photos (naturally), but a tag line saying Photographs bye James Natchwey. To me, this seemed to be using his name almost as advertising: If the name didn't mean anything, I don't think they would have mentioned it on the cover. I read time most weeks and I can't remember a photographer getting such credit. My memory could certainly be foggy though.

Now, I will make my guesses as to why he has become somewhat of a known brand name, if that is truly the case. First, of course, are his photographs. I have mentioned in the past that I can't look at Natchwey's shots for too long a period, as they just tend to be too much for me. This does not mean in any way that I am lessening his impact, just to say that I find it all depressing after some time. Most certainly, he has caught some of the most memorable photos of the past 10 or more years.

Almost the same as his photos, but still slightly different, is the areas in which he plies his trade. If the spot is awful, Natchwey seems to be there. I have to admit that I greatly admire his willingness to put himself in the face of such misery month after month. I am sure he has enough money, and even if he didn't, he could doubtlessly make good money in more pleasant areas. His willingness to be "the guy with the camera" in all these hot spots certainly makes him more noticable.

I think another reason for Natchwey's ascendance(sp?) is that he has now become a part of the story. I am sure most know this, but he was actually injured in Iraq in 2003. A grenade was thrown into the hummer he was riding in, along with two soldiers and TIME writer Micheal Weisskopf. Weisskopf lost his hand in trying to get rid of the grenade and I believe Natchwey was hit with shrapnel. Now that Weisskopf has written a book, I do think that Natchwey becomes a part of the story as opposed to just an observer.

Like I said, I was prompted to write this because of the latest Nat Geo, where Natchwey has provided quite a large number of shots related to the field medicine happening in Iraq. I don't recall him being in Nat Geo before, and while he is certainly deserving, I just can't help but wonder if his name recognition is now one of the reasons for his shooting for the magazine.

Bottom line, it seems to me that he has crossed the threshold whereby he is now recognized not only by photographers, but by others in the world as well. I would think there aren't that many photographers who have done this, and of them even fewer PJs. In the world of fashion, I would say that Helmut Newton for sure, and maybe Herb Ritts were known outside of photographic circles. I think that because of his notoriety and subject matter, RobertMapplethorpe jumped this barrier as well. Of course Ansel Adams would be in this group, HCB too (I would guess, although I have to admit that I would likely not recognize his name if it wasn't for my being involved in photography and I have mentioned his name to friends who just returned blank stares) and Steve McCurry too, if for no other reason than the Afghan girl photo.

Anyways, am I just nuts, or has Natchwey really crossed over into the realm of mini celebrity? Or am I missing out on the other end and there are a number of photogs who are well known by non photographers? I find this hard to judge as I am not one of the masses who knows little of photography. I hope to hear from both those who are far more knowledgable about current photographers than I (Maciek, Luko, Herve, Peter, etc) as well as from those who know less?

I would also love to know if I am overlooking someone and Natchwey is not in fact THE most known photographer outside of photography circles these days.
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Old 11-16-2006, 07:37 PM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

Well, Nachtwey is the only one (alive), who had a movie made about him, which tremendously helsp recognition and enhances his market value (his name sells now before the promise of his pictures on account of his notoriety, as you wrote), on top of the myriad awards he got from the medias, a lot outside the profession itself. He also, more than anyone else, personifies (thanks again to the movie) both the modern concerned journalist (dark, unideological, not a chauvinistic ladies man... ie. pure!) and enough of the iconic romance of the genre of war journalist (stoicism in danger to get the story out, selflessness, alone if not lonesome, broody, hard to read the man behind the pjotographer, etc...).

It just adds up, and though what he touches, er...shoots, doesn't turn in gold, he can back all of the above with his established body of work. Will he become as iconic as Capa, I would say not sure. The reading of his pictures is not as simple and gut-level as the most famous from Capa. And i do not think that they have made the impact outside of the people who follow his profession (like us) to the public at large. It's like Mc Curry: "who?" "yeah, the guy who shot the afghan girl and went back 12 years after..." " ah that guy!....".

For public recognition, photography is not in a very good period, actually, for anything. I don't think people are impressed with photographers, and I am sure the word "coffe-table" book started when that trend set in.

There is an absolutely great critical assessment of both Webb and Nachtwey in a book (cheap on amazon.com) I recommend to anyone interested. Max Kozloff 's "lone visions/crowded frames", University of New Mexico press, 1994.
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Old 11-16-2006, 07:39 PM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

very sorry for all the text mistakes. at least, I should correct:

all that he shoots doesn't ALWAYS turn in gold.


apologies.
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Old 11-16-2006, 08:31 PM
Homerhomer Homerhomer is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

in short no.

I believe that no photographer has grown big enough to be reconised by masses, if you were to go on the street and make a survey, most would be able to name few movie directors, actors, opera singers, politicians, however very few would come up with a name of a photographer, let alone few, and those few probably would have some interest in photography or art in general. Going even further, I would say that Natchwey wouldn't be at the top of the list of being recognised, top place would be reserved probably by Adams or perhaps a fine art photographer (most likely it would depend on the region of the world).

And while the names aren't household, the images are. I would say that large number of poeple will say that they have seen some monumental images like Afghan Girl, Napalm Girl, or a baby sitting in a cabbage that you can find in some washrooms (not sure who made that photo, think the name is Ann Gerber).

Peter
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Old 11-17-2006, 01:09 AM
Luko Luko is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

I fear that Nachtwey has a long time ago, crossed the fence and that his name is probably more bankable than his photos (personal opinion).

Celebrity doesn't always mean quality unfortunately, to the names Darren mentioned I would add names in two categories the worst and the better (and also that popular french recognition might be quite special to some photogs). Long before Nachtwey, everyday people would link photo to :

the better category : Doisneau and Salgado,
the worst ones : Hamilton and Arthus-Bertrand.

(Peter, the name of that horrible photogapher who sell bunches at christmas and calendar times is is Ann Geddes, while her pictures are everywhere, few people really know her name...)
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Old 11-17-2006, 01:19 AM
Luko Luko is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

It wasn't probably that clear, as an answer to Darren. I was stating that Salgado is probably MUCH more iconic than Nachtwey for any reason (let's not even speak about the character differences, I remember a few years ago a thread where I convinced Sohrab that Salgado was a much better man and photographer than Nachtwey), at least he is in Europe... in France, only a few photo nerds would know about Nachtwey.
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Old 11-17-2006, 05:50 AM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

in France, only a few photo nerds would know about Nachtwey.
----------------------------

ahah, this is where i first heard of him, when Arte (I believe) showed that movie about him. I am not sure Salgado is an icon of photography in the public at large. Even here, when I put a thread about a whole newspaper issue with extra links concerning him, not even one member commeneted on it. And i see Nachtwey has 4 of us butting in..... One thing I dig about Salgado, beyond his superb photographic temperament, is that he left Magnum, and that didn't go too well for the Grande Dame of agencies, now I hear his name is not to ever be mentionned over there, and that "he's not that good" anyway (Parr).
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Old 11-17-2006, 07:05 AM
Darren Darren is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

Hi Luko. I am guessing that this sort of thing is very regional, but my impression is that in North America (guessing to be honest, I don't live there) and in Taiwan for sure, Natchwey is better known than Salgado, by a good margin. Now, among photographers, the responses would be different, but my thinking was more about non photographers. This is also why it is difficult for me to really know the correct answer, as I am out of the sample population I am aiming the question at.

As for who is better; while I prefer Salgado as well. I do have a lot of respect for Natchwey though, just that I prefer Salgado. Although they often get lumped in together, I actually consider them to be quite different. My opinion is that Salgado tells a long term story through his photos. This takes a very long time and requires that he become fairly immersed in the culture he is shooting. Natchwey is far more of a documentarian to me. He comes in, he records what is happening at god awful times and he leaves. He is IMO more of an observer. Of course, my perception may or may not be accurate whatsoever.

As for who is a better person, well that is hard to say of course. I do have a lot of respect for Salgado and he supports causes I believe in and seems to have very good values. I would have to say that in the past few months, I have read some articles and interviews of Natchwey and I have to say that my opinion of him has grown greatly too.

I liked how you categorized the notables into good and bad in your previous response. I wouldn't disagree at all. Of course, my thoughts were not about who is better, just who is better known. Sadly, Britney Spears is super famous, yet most recording artiss produce better stuff than her. Sadly, she would win in my little competition were it about music.
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Old 11-17-2006, 07:25 AM
sohrab sohrab is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

ummmmmm there was a salgado train running in austria sometime back..
there has been no nachtwey richkshaw.....

in india.. neither are too known..
it is mccurry who rules the roost. he's more well known that even bresson.

ummmmm herve... do you even know why salgado left magnum ???
or do you simply like the fact that he left magnum?
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Old 11-17-2006, 07:28 AM
sohrab sohrab is offline
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Default Re: Has James Natchwey hit critical mass?

and i think not too mamy people responded to your salgado post because firstly the link is a very old one.. lots of people have already seen it..
secondly.. darren has brought up an issue here and asked for opinions.. :)
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