Posted by: greercn | February 6, 2013


Don McCullin is the photographer who defined excellence in war photography, for my generation. From the 1960s until the 1980s, his images captured horror perfectly. He and his camera were always unflinching.

Wherever there was a crisis, McCullin’s photos showed the worst. It took some years before I could get his images of starving children in Biafra out of my head.

This documentary in the Discover Tuesdays programme was gruelling to view. If you’ve followed McCullin, there wasn’t much new information here.

And if you own 1980’s Secker and Warburg “Hearts of Darkness”, you will have stared at those iconic shots a great deal.

Somehow, seeing those pictures on a big screen gave them even more impact, as did hearing McCullin describe them.

Stratford East Picturehouse was crowded and most were younger people. From the conversations I overheard, McCullin has quite a big following among young photographers.

And there were lots of people here who have followed McCullin for as long as I have.

David and Jacqui Morris have made an excellent and comprehensive documentary that examines the ups and downs of McCullin’s career. His tough upbringing and ability to rough it out in war zones for weeks on end allowed him to get images that modern war photographers would rarely be able to take, as they are kept far away from the action.

“McCullin” pulls no punches and makes it clear that its protagonist has paid a personal and professional price for sticking to his principles.

Even his photos of life in Britain capture the most extraordinary suffering and character.

It’s flu season in east London and quite a lot of the audience – including me – occasionally sounded like tubercular mongeese. Given what Don went through to get these photos, there was no place here for self pity and quite a lot to humble you about the difficulties people go through when they suffer what Don calls “the madness of war”.

This was extraordinary stuff, in our age of celebrity obsession with trivia.


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