Tobias Wolff, in his conversation at Stanford University with Tim O'Brien, refers to the war photographer James Nachtway. Specifically, Wolff links Nachtway and O'Brien together, stating that they are both vulnerable to criticism of "aestheticizing war." The word "aesthetic" denotes a sense of the beautiful; therefore, when Wolff uses it here, he means that both O'Brien and Nachtway could be criticized for their tendency to take human suffering and make of it a beautiful thing: a short story, a novel, a photograph.
Both Nachtway and O'Brien are deeply aware of this paradox in their work. Here is Nachtway, accepting his 2007 TED Prize. In this talk, he shows his life’s work and asks TED to help him continue telling the story with innovative, exciting uses of news photography in the digital era.