James Nachtwey

Photojournalist, United States

James Nachtwey is the winner of the 2023 ICFJ Excellence in Visual Journalism Award.

Since 1981, James Nachtwey has dedicated his career to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues, worldwide. In Europe, Nachtwey photographed the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia, wars against the Soviets in Chechnya, civil strife in Northern Ireland, the refugee crisis in Greece and Croatia, and most recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He documented the fall of the Berlin Wall, industrial pollution throughout Eastern Europe and state-sanctioned, institutional abuse of orphans in Romania.

In Africa, he documented genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, famines in Somalia and Sudan, the desertification of the Sahel, and the liberation struggle in South Africa.

In Asia, he photographed the overthrow of dictatorships in the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia, democracy movements in Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea, military coups, political demonstrations and the violent crackdown on protesters in Thailand, the use of water in China, natural disasters in Japan, Nepal and Indonesia, and the extrajudicial ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines.

In the Americas, he photographed the civil wars that engulfed Central America during the 1980's, the U.S. invasion of Panama, the overthrow of the military dictatorship in Haiti, homelessness and street violence in Brazil, as well as crime and the criminal justice system in the U.S. His work on the opioid crisis in America was published as a special issue of Time Magazine. When the World Trade Center was attacked on September 1, 2001, he photographed the collapse of the twin towers and the aftermath of the wreckage.

In the Middle East, Nachtwey documented various phases of the civil war in Lebanon, the Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza, the exodus from Russia of the Jewish population and their resettlement in Israel and the war in Iraq, where he was wounded in a grenade attack.

In Afghanistan, Nachtwey photographed the mujahedin during the war against the Soviets, the siege of Kabul by the Taliban during the final phase of the Afghan civil war, the expulsion of Al Qaeda and the American military operation in Helmand Province, as well as heroin addiction among the Afghan population.

He has pursued global health issues throughout the world with equal dedication, concentrating on TB and HIV-AIDS.

Nachtwey has received numerous awards from the journalism profession, as well as for contributions to art and humanitarian causes. In 2016, he was a recipient of the Princess of Asturias Award. In 2012 he was awarded the Dresden Prize, for promoting world peace. In 2007 he was a recipient of both the TED Prize and the Heinz Family Foundation Award for the arts. In 2003 he received the Dan David Prize. Five times Nachtwey has been awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal, for exceptional courage and enterprise, and the World Press Photo Award twice. He received the Infinity Award, for Documentary and Photojournalism from the International Center of Photography in 2000, 1993 and 1989. He was the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography and has been named Magazine Photographer of the Year eight times. Nachtwey has received the Henry Luce Lifetime Achievement Award from Time Inc. as well as lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Overseas Press Club of America. In 2017, Nachtwey was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

Nachtwey’s photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Bibliotheque nationale de France, the Pompidou Center and the Getty Museum among other venues.

He has had numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, including the International Center of Photography in New York, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Palazzo Reale in Milan, El Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Fotografiska in Stockholm, New York and Tallinn, Estonia, Palazzo delle Esposizione in Rome, Karolinum in Prague, the Hasselblad Center in Göteborg, Sweden, Fondazione Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia, Italy and C/O Berlin, among others.

In 2001, “War Photographer”, a feature length documentary film about the life and work of James Nachtwey, directed by Christian Frei, was nominated for an Academy Award. His books include Deeds of War and Inferno.

Nachtwey has been awarded four honorary doctorate degrees from American universities, including Dartmouth College, which has acquired the archive of his life's work.