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Inferno Hardcover – January 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0714838151 ISBN-10: 0714838152 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press; 1ST edition (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714838152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714838151
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 2.2 x 15.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Though he is probably the world's most honored recent war photographer, James Nachtwey calls himself an "antiwar photographer," as the preeminent critic Luc Sante notes in his excellent foreword to Inferno, a landmark collection of 382 war-crime photos. Nachtwey has taken shrapnel and had his hair literally parted by a bullet, but he's never lost his compassionate outrage. The stunning images in this huge-format book--brutally abused Romanian orphans, Rwandan genocide victims, a rat-hunter family of Indian Untouchables barbecuing dinner, skeletal dehydration victims in Sudan, the miserable in Bosnia, Chechnya, Zaire, Somalia, and Kosovo--are excruciating to look at, yet impossible to tear your eyes away from. Nachtwey's art is meant to force us to face unbearable facts. Faces are the key: you can't gaze into the eyes of a Romanian toddler tied to a bed, or wired to a primitive "electromagnetic therapy" device, and not grasp the horror more fully than you would by watching a TV news item or reading a newspaper piece. (The book's text explains each photo's context.)

Inferno is also a masterpiece in strictly aesthetic terms. The power of Nachtwey's images transcends journalism. Bloody handprints on a living-room wall in Kosovo, the ghostly imprint of a Serb victim's vanished body on a floor, a Hutu with crazed eyes displaying the machete gashes he received for opposing the Tutsis' butchery, a howling orphan in a crib, one eye contracted in anger--these are compositions that depend, like Goya's, on the artist's skill as much as the subject's legitimate claim on our conscience.

Nachtwey's photographs make us capable of imagining that it could have happened to us. They are hard to forget, or forgive. --Tim Appelo


'Brilliant and often shocking images by the world's greatest photojournalist.' (Publishing News) 'Moving' (British Journal of Photography) 'One of the great contemporary photojournalists ... his first collection has been long-awaited ...' (The Times) 'Remarkable ... Inferno is the book's title, but even the sad words of Dante which preface the work ("Through me is the way to the sorrowful city / Through me is the way to join the lost people") are insufficient preparation for the full panoply of its horrors: images from Romania, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, many familiar, yet here, collected en masse and carefully composed, playing out a chilly coda to the history of the last century ... If Inferno can be said to contain any optimism, it lies in its own coda of photographs taken in Kosovo. Not because they are not disturbing - they are - but because of the subsequent Nato intervention which Nachtwey sees as a "turning point" in the world's relationship with calamity.' (Peter Aspden, Financial Times) 'Magnum star James Nachtwey may well be the last of the great war photographers, a breed whose images of human suffering can change the world ... Nachtwey has just brought out a thematically and physically monumental new book of his work. It is called Inferno and the title is no exaggeration. .. Inferno works on a vast, heavy scale. It is a fitting antidote to illusions about what the last decade really meant.' (The Herald (Scotland)) 'It is a sad testament to Western news values that we are less at ease with photos of emaciated famine victims than picking over pictures of wealthy superstars whose bones similarly poke through flimsy clothing. It is easy to get sanctimonious when confronted with these pictures but without these terrible images to haunt us we leave history to the spin doctors and media agents who would sanitise our memories of war. As a witness to violence and death, Nachtwey's lens always sits with the victims - recording the carnage not from the eyes of the soldiers but on the ground with the ordinary people caught up in the terror.' (The Big Issue) '500 pages, 15 x 11in, 10lbs, fabulous paper and printing, cool, elegant design and 400 exquisite pictures of horror, suffering, misery and death from the last decade of the 20th century ... a vision of hell on earth ... Inferno is an extraordinary book ... Nachtwey is an image-maker of great talent and maturity.' (British Journal of Photography) 'Nachtwey himself is acutely conscious of the other role of the documentary photographer: that of bearing witness and furnishing evidence of man's inhumanity to man. Inferno has been produced with that thought in mind and is being sent out to world leaders and non-government organisations with the active intention that it be viewed as an archive of a decade of conflict. It is undoubtedly a work of art, but the true, unashamed, function of art has always been to transmit a message ... With Inferno ... James Nachtwey seems to have moved forward in his control of composition and image making ... Death rituals from conflicts and famine across the world, for example, are used to bind together the plight of those who will neither meet nor hear of each other's existence. Emphasis remains on the fact that the last decade of the 20th century was a far from admirable or proud one in the history of humanity ... It would be utterly wrong to regard Inferno as just another photography book: in its ambition and achievement it is undoubtedly more than that.' (Royal Society of Photographers Journal) 'These pictures, unrelenting in the exposure of inhumanity, do not spare us and are not meant to, yet Nachtwey's belief in their necessity and power puts them among the most hopeful pictures produced in the century.' (Vicki Goldberg, American Photo) 'One of the 30 most captivating and influential photography books from the last five years.' (Photo District News)

Customer Reviews

It's a good book, very large and with very good quality paper.
Javier Herrero Valle
We can be so distant to the people, but in this book...they come into our lives, making us aware that the world can be a living hell.
Debbie C.
Thank you James Nachtwey for taking these images and creating this unforgettable book.
M. McClish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Maaike Lammers on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There are no words to describe this book. But as this is a review, I'll have to use them so I'll try. Watching these photo's for me is a physical experience. My heart starts to pound and the hairs in my neck stand on end. Reading about the atrocities that happen in the world, seeing documentaries, can't compare to James Nachtwey's work, the photo's are that powerful. James Nachtwey succeeds in making the people who read the book witnesses also. So that we can never again say that we didn't know this was happening. And by making us witnesses, he obliges us not to turn our backs to the Inferno that too many parts of the world still are. But however shocking these photo's are, love and compassion also speak through them. Love for human beings,love for the dignity the nameless persons in these pictures continue to posess in the eyes of James Nachtwey and therefore also in the eyes of the reader.This book reached out and touched me deeply. It made me feel connected to those nameless people, who speak so loudly in these photographs. And however deeply angry I am that the world is still such a cruel place for so many of us humans, the anger doesnt make me feel powerless. But hopeful that I am not the only one who feels this connection and that if enough people do feel the same, we as human beings can stop these things from happening. This book empowers us and it made a difference to me in a profound way. Thank you, James Nachtwey.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By scarecrow VINE VOICE on October 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you have the courage to look at these photos then you have the courage to say we've learned nothing from history, all the countless books and films and discussions,seminars and the millions in erecting museums have meant nothing. Why? It seems we don't care if children are hacked to death,or we allow whole nations of people to starve,or be tortured, to withstand humiliation being the victims of the new globalization schemes of the world's power brokers.
Nachtwey allows his truthful images to speak for themselves,from the barren lands,the forsaken lands of the world that god has forgotten about.Somalia,Sudan,Rwanda,India,Bosnia,Chechyna,but it really doesn't matter where this occurs, the fact that it does right now, everyday. On artistic terms as others here have said these photos transcend the artistic frame, and given a forever deeper meaning to what art can express of the human spirit. These images also speak of the past, asking the pathetic question where have we come, or does anyone care.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Leaf on March 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
These exquisitely beautiful and painful photographs bear witness to human suffering many of us otherwise might not see. Nachtwey has said it is his responsibility to record these images, and show the world. It is our responsibility as mindful beings to engage with them. This book will broaden your world and invite you to consider your connection to all who inhabit it. To view it is nothing short of a spiritual act.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. Bakken on March 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Like many other reviewers, I think this collection of photos is beyond words.
It may sound cliche to say this book brings out emotions inside you that have been hidden or you never knew existed, but it is true.
I heard about this book and had seen a few of the images from it in a TIME issue from sometime ago. I found a copy and looked through it.....
I could not stop and finally took the copy and bought it...
It had seared itself into my mind and I needed to own a copy because I could not ever let myself forget that the images inside this book are real and to forget they exist or happen would be like losing part of my humanity.
Highly Recommended!!!
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Byrd VINE VOICE on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's little to say about this book other than it is a monumental masterpiece! Nachtwey's photographes literally jump from the pages of "Inferno" and into the soul of the reader. They speak to the horrors that human beings convey upon one another while, at the same time, they reveal the unimpeachable dedication of one man (Nachtwey) to ending such atrocities. This is a book that will out live us all. Hopefully, it will appear in college courses 100 years from now as a testament to humanity's past, not its present condition. This book is highly recommended!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Caroline on April 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have only but seen a few of the pictures yet my heart is hardened with sorrow and grief. Thinking it could have been me, wondering why it was not me. My tears stream down my face knowing there is little I can do. But the pictures are too hard to ignore...yet I see hope. James has taken a great step to help heal their wounds....but it is time we too took a part to help lessen their pain. Because if it were you and me.....we would only hope that they will hear our cries and share in our pain. For no man is worth living like that.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "akbrit" on February 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have never felt compelled to write a review before but having, a few hours ago, looked at each photograph in this book in our local bookstore, and still consumed with the images I saw, I am writing to tell you that it is impossible to view these photographs without being viscerally seared. While we all know of these horrors their sheer magnitude renders them hard to assimilate: it is therefore generally easier and so much more comfortable to forget about them as people do with the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the killing fields of Cambodia and so on. Each photograph in this book shows a heart-breaking human tragedy that completely personalises the horror and thereby forces us to become emotionally involved with those who suffer. This book should be in every public library.
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