Hanya dengan delapan ribu perak, aku memperoleh War Photographer. (Ssst, jangan bilang pada teman-temanku. Malu. Banyak di antara mereka sudah menontonnya di Jiffest 2002). Film dokumenter karya Christian Frei ini merekam beberapa penggal pengalaman James Nachtwey di lapangan. Luar biasa.
Banyak orang bilang, Nachtwey adalah fotografer perang nomor satu sejagat. Lahir pada 1948, pria Amerika ini telah terjun di banyak kancah konflik, termasuk Indonesia. Tapi, jangan silap: Nachtewy bukan pemuja “darah.” Cermati ideologi antiperang dari kredo dia di bawah ini.
Why photograph war?
There has always been war. War is raging throughout the world at the present moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating.
Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.
For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war and if it is used well it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.
In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a war in order to communicate to the rest of the world what is happening, he is trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that is the reason why those in charge of perpetuating a war do not like to have photographers around.
It has occurred to me that if everyone could be there just once to see for themselves what white phosphorous does to the face of a child or what unspeakable pain is caused by the impact of a single bullet or how a jagged piece of shrapnel can rip someone’s leg off – if everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands.
But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there – to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on – to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference – to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest.
The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for me to believe otherwise.
I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can. The act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person’s predicament. The extend to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself.