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AARON ECKHART’S PASSION: While the celebrity-hosted, for-a-good-cause social event is de rigueur nowadays, Saturday night’s Aaron Eckhart-hosted private viewing of photojournalist James Nachtwey’s latest body of work, “Struggle to Live: The Fight Against TB,” felt decidedly fresh. This was due, in large part, to the images that lined the walls of 401 Projects in the West Village — Nachtwey’s arresting black-and-white photos, taken in 2008 throughout Asia, Africa and India, of people stricken with tuberculosis or AIDS (usually both) and the medics and priests working with them.
But it was also nice to see Eckhart, the Hollywood draw, truly enjoying himself. Indeed, the “Thank You for Smoking” and “The Dark Knight” actor was shuffling around the gallery, clutching an oversize envelope with one hand (the package contained a print of one of the images in the show, a gift from Nachtwey) and old-fashioned networking with the other.
An amateur shutterbug himself, Eckhart said he’d been thinking about taking his hobby to the next level. “I’ve been shooting for a few years now. I do it in between movies and when I’m on movies because I’m in such interesting locations,” he said. “But I’m really into it and I’d kind of like to make it a little deal.” There was clearly nowhere better to put feelers out than this downtown art party. “I got so many hook-ups out of tonight, man,” he added, thumbing through the business cards he’d received over the course of the evening. “I’ve been hooked up with Vogue, I got Rolling Stone…”
As for his shooting style, “I use black-and-white film. I do street photography, I do fashion photography,” Eckhart said as he showed off a few photos of the actress Molly Sims frolicking in water, stored on his BlackBerry. (And there are more of them to come — Eckhart said he shot the visuals for Sims’ jewelry line, which will be featured alongside her pieces at Henri Bendel.)
With regard to Nachtwey’s work, the actor admitted his own would likely never compare. For his part, Nachtwey, a veteran war photographer for Time who also has documented such crises as the Rwandan genocide and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said the decades he’s spent photographing such suffering have not numbed him. “On the contrary,” the lensman said. “I think I’ve become much more sensitive, much more sensitized.…It’s very hard to witness someone suffering. It’s even harder to have to witness it with the concentration required to make an image which is powerful enough to reach people. You can’t blink. It’s hard and it never gets easier.”
— Nick Axelrod