War Photographer is an incredibly moving, challenging, and intelligent documentary film by Christian Frei, and it provides intimate micro-footage of James Nachtwey, the reknowned photographer. Attached to Nachtwey’s camera is a tiny camera that films not only what he sees through his lense(s), but also how he frames his shots through his paces. The intimacy is eerie at times, and Frei often switches between showing the micro-camera’s “in-production view” to the finished prints that Nachtwey has achieved.

The film is intense. I have no other way to describe it. If you’ve never seen a real war zone, the footage and prints that Nachtwey has produced is probably the closest you’ll (need to) get to seeing the aftermath of war. There is so much suffering in the film, an unimagineable kind of suffering and pain that shatters us. A static picture is no longer static in Nachtwey’s work; when juxtaposed with the micro-camera and additional footage provided by another cameraperson, we see how Nachtwey’s immensely important pictures transition into a seemingly different realm of photography.

What struck me most about Frei’s documentary was how Nachtwey was depicted as a quiet, introverted and single-minded. One could sense, in both his interview monologues and in watching him shoot, that Nachtwey’s career has profoundly affected his sense of self, for who would not be affected by the hundreds of thousands of images taken in hundreds of locations? His quiet, intelligent choice of words and post-production details gives us such a deeper understanding of the person who brought the warzones to us in the relative comfort of our living rooms or libraries. The pain that he has witnessed through his lense and as a human being is seemingly taken in, processed, but never lingering too long to create a deeper psychological wound that would never heal.

I watched him move through a warzone with the stealth of a lurking cat, but with a calm that not may humans would have under similar situations.

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