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Renowned war photographer to present keynote lecture for KU Common Book Program

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Update, 3:50 p.m. March 1: James Nachtwey's presentation has been postponed until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, due to inclement weather. The event is still scheduled to take place in Woodruff Auditorium.

LAWRENCE — James Nachtwey, one of the world’s foremost war photographers, will present the keynote lecture for the University of Kansas’ Common Book Program at 7 p.m. March 1 in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.

KU’s Common Book for 2015-16 is Ernest Hemingway's “A Farewell to Arms,” the story of an American ambulance driver serving on the Italian front during World War I. The novel bears witness to war, as do Nachtwey’s photographs of wars, conflicts and social issues around the world, most recently the Syrian immigration crisis in Europe. When he was invited to speak, Nachtwey said Hemingway was his favorite novelist.

“Hemingway is a wonderfully descriptive writer, so it is exciting to consider his work in relation to contemporary visual culture, particularly in ways that inform our understand of war,” said Sarah Crawford-Parker, assistant vice provost for the first-year experience.

During his lecture, titled “The Unvanquished,” Nachtwey will talk about how Hemingway has influenced him personally and how his work is in conversation with themes in Hemingway’s novels, in particular "A Farewell to Arms." He will share images of war wounded.

Nachtwey was in New York and photographed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. He also has documented conflicts and social issues around the world — wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Rwanda, AIDS in Africa and famine, among others.

“Mr. Nachtwey’s photos can be difficult to look at because they depict what is uncomfortable to see, but they also are incredibly beautiful,” said Carol Holstead, a KU associate professor of journalism who teaches visual communication.  

Nachtwey is a five-time recipient of the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Gold Medal, which honors the work of war photographers. In 2007, he received a Ted Prize. A 2001 documentary, "War Photographer," directed by Christian Friei, shows Nachtwey at work in part through a video camera mounted on his still camera. The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award.

Influenced by images of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, Nachtwey began a career in photography in 1980 after teaching himself to take photographs. He is a contract photographer for Time magazine and has also shot extensively for National Geographic.

KU Common Book is designed to connect first-year students to the campus community through discussion and lectures.

Nachtwey’s visit is co-sponsored by the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications.

The KU Common Book lecture is open to the public. Tickets are not required.

Photo: Bosnia, 1993 - Mourning a soldier killed by Serbs and buried in what was once a football field. Photo by James Nachtwey.

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