PITTSBURGH, PA – Photojournalist James Nachtwey of the photography agency VII has won the 12th Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, a $250,000 prize given by the Heinz Family Foundation. It's one of the largest individual achievement prizes in the world. Teresa Heinz Kerry, chairman of the Heinz Awards, established the prize through the Heinz Family Foundation in 1993 to honor and sustain the legacy of her husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, who died two years earlier. Nachtwey is one of six winners announced by the foundation today.
The photographer was singled out for his “disquieting yet honest images of war and strife” that have “captured the human anguish wrought by conflicts around the world.” The Heinz Family Foundation presents the award in five categories: arts and humanities, public policy, technology, the environment, and the human condition. Nachtwey didn’t know that he was in contention for the award as the Heinz Awards are not a competition entered by participants. Experts in their fields, who serve anonymously, submit nominations; award recipients are selected by the board of directors for the Heinz Awards upon recommendation by a panel of jurors in each category.
Heinz Kerry told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview last week for a story about the award that was published today, “One does see every day horrible images about everything, and more often than not they crush you. And there may be some elitists who say, ‘Well, he's only a photographer.’ But he's a soul with an eye and the ability to transform images, to give them meaning beyond just what we see. His work tells a story that can uplift you, and you know you will try to do something after having seen it.”
“As a photojournalist, James Nachtwey has created art, not art that offers a new technique, but art that powerfully exposes man’s inhumanity to man,” she said in today’s press release from the foundation. “What he brings to us supersedes photojournalism in that he makes vivid images of the unspeakable. He photographs people who need to be brought to our attention, people whose truths need to be known in a visual context.” Heinz Kerry also said Nachtwey stands apart from many other photojournalists in “bravely exploring places that we who view his work cannot. The skill and artistry is undeniable as he captures these images and, through them, puts reality into our living rooms. He touches our hearts and minds by showing us the world as it is, not as we want it to be. His magnificent and compelling images transfer to us his compassion and determination to make the world a better place.”
Nachtwey started his photojournalism career in 1976 at a newspaper in New Mexico after serving in the Merchant Marines. Four years later he moved to New York and started a career as a freelance photojournalist, and in 1984 he was hired by Time magazine as a contract photographer. He's a former member of Magnum Photos and a founding member of VII.
The photojournalist has won the title of Magazine Photographer of the Year seven times, the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club five times for his coverage of conflict, and has twice won the World Press Photo Award. He was the subject of a 2001 documentary film, “War Photographer,” that was nominated for an Academy Award.