Through a series of unforeseen events and a missed flight, VII Photo Agency co-founder James Nachtwey found himself situated in New York on September 11. His generation’s most celebrated chronicler of conflict, Nachtwey, was only a few blocks from the Twin Towers when the terrorist attacks began. He photographed as the towers crashed down around him, initiating VII Photo Agency’s legacy of unflinching first-person and high-risk photojournalism just three days after its launch.
The role of VII Photo Agency as a witness to conflict and social injustice worldwide was put into sharp focus from the very beginning. This is the story of the inception of the VII ecosystem.
In the ensuing years, the photographers of VII focused on documenting war and violence. From 9/11 and the fall of the Taliban through the beginning of America’s longest war in Iraq, and conflict in the Middle East and Asia, as the agency evolved, it turned its gaze to climate change, human rights, mass migration, political life, inequality, and civil rights. VII transformed into a multi-faceted journalism organization.
At a time when Getty and Bill Gates were buying up small photo agencies and creating super-agencies, the then photographer-owned VII swam against the prevailing currents. It eschewed a commercial profit-driven culture and prioritized uncompromising photography of the day’s significant political and social issues.
Twenty-one years later, VII remains just as disruptive and continues to document the most important stories of the new century. Beyond its journalism, VII has responded swiftly to political and cultural changes in the media. Through its mentor program – the first of its kind – VII amplified the voices of a new generation of visual storytellers, many of them from the Majority World.
The Estate of Alexandra Boulat
Stefano De Luigi
Linda Bournane Engelberth
Danny Wilcox Frazier
Jocelyn Bain Hogg
Tomas Van Houtryve