A few hours ago, the British Parliament has voted for going to war (again) in Iraq, this time against ISIS and, for now at least, the actions are "only" limited to airstrikes.
James Nachtwey, when he was struggling to publish some of his close-ups of the first Iraqi war because those were "too shocking" for the masses treated to the videogame-like TV coverage of the seemingly push-button war, argued: any nation that is ready to go to war against another country (I may add, for whatever reasons...) must be ready to look at that war's consequences.
It just so happens, that for the last few days I've been intending to write a little blog posting about his currently being celebrated 30 years at TIME magazine. Today's parliamentary vote has provided one with an extra motivation, and a sad timing, too.
"I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should
not be forgotten and must not be repeated.", states Nachtwey on his website. However, as today's events show, people have once again proven their ability of repeating their previous acts and their rhetoric. Latter doesn't matter, neither do the particular (real or not, distant or close, unspeakably vile or not) enemies the politicians list every time as direct threats to us.
What matters is that once again, there will be two wars: one in the mainstream mass media, the same push-button and clinical warfare that we have been treated to in the past... and another war, in which photographers of the most respectable kind will bring to our anaesthetised and resisting visual senses the close-ups of a reality unleashed by us.
I came across Nachtwey's astonishing photojournalism many years ago via the furore caused by his close-up of a driver of a burnt-out truck, which was bombed in Kuweit.
I was a young lad back then, and the first thing that caught my eyes was that yes, of course, James Nachtwey's photography is truly hard-hitting, it can hit one's chest with a fist, it can stop one's heartbeat and breathing temporarily - but his unique sensitivity to the human elements of the investigated reality make his photos go beyond mere documentary records.
Reality, honesty, integrity... these are words that are perhaps over-used nowadays, as we are all overcompensating for the unreal, the dishonest, and the manipulative in our everyday reality.
However, James Nachtwey's photography, for more than the 30 years he has spent at TIME, has been an etalon for those words. Maybe, one day, his modest statement on his website will become reality... and we shall stop repeating ourselves so horrifically perfectly.