The Digital Journalist
James Nachtwey: TED Prize
May 2007

by Ron Steinman

James Nachtwey, the documentary photographer, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time to get the remarkable photos he does, is the latest winner of the TED Prize. Created in 2005, TED – which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – awards a $100,000 prize, but also, and this is most important to the TED template, grants the winner a wish in the hopes that the TED community will help make the wish come true.

The mission of TED is to spread ideas. At the acceptance ceremony, Nachtwey made a speech and presented a slide show of his photographs to illustrate his ideas and tell how and why he made his photos. In his talk, which you can access at, Nachtwey takes us back to his memory of the Vietnam War, when he decided to become a documentary photographer. We journey with him from Northern Ireland in 1981 to Darfur today. His theory is simple: "The front lines of contemporary wars are right where people live." In his work, he says that when a photo catches our attention, it can bring about change.

His TED wish, like Nachtwey and his work, is unique. He says, "There's a vital story that needs to be told and I wish for Ted to help me gain access to it and then to help me to come up with innovative and exciting ways to use news photography in the digital era." On the TED Web site,, there are details on how James Nachtwey suggests you can help.

Watch the speech, feel his humility, and marvel at his photos.

© Ron Steinman

Ron Steinman, Executive Editor of The Digital Journalist, is an award-winning producer of television news and documentaries. He was NBC's bureau chief in Saigon during the Vietnam War. He is also an author and freelance documentarian through his company, Douglas/Steinman Productions. Buy Ron Steinman's book: Inside Television's First War.