9/11 by James Nachtwey

One of the most influential living photographers today is James Nachtwey, who had captured tumultuous events in South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. He shot pictures of war, conflict and famine, and images of socio-political issues (pollution, crime and punishment). He won coveted Robert Capa Gold Medal an unprecedented 5 times.

Since the 1980s, he had worked for Time, the magazine he was most closely associated with. Nachtwey was one of the first photographers to respond to the events of 9/11 because he lived just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site. It was unusual for him to be in the city but he had flown in from France late the night before.

The photographs that Nachtwey took that day, over the next twelve hours, are some of the most iconic images of 9/11: the south tower collapsing behind the cross atop the Church of Saint Peter on Church Street and Barclay; ghostly figures coated in white dust emerging from the smoke; three firemen working around their leader, on his knees, bareheaded, looking back to see the flames sweeping toward them; and the twisted, otherworldly ruins of 1 World Trade Center.

He was still shooting on film and brought 28 rolls of film (he gave one roll away to a fellow photographer); Time published some of his photos and fourteen appeared on Time.com and had 2 million page views on that first day. Nachtwey himself did not revisit his photos and contact sheets from 9/11 for many years.

See his TED talk here.


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