Shaped by War – Don McCullin

© Don McCullin
© Don McCullin

Photographs by Don McCullin - at the Imperial War Museum, London
7 October 2011-15 April 2012.

I recently attended an event at the IWM called ‘In Conversion’ with Don McCullin and Kate Adie. Kate put the questions to Don, about his career in front of a live audience, she also added her own recollections of reporting from conflicts during her distinguished career. There's no doubt we see the real personality here, he's very frank and honest on how he's still troubled by his career photographing death and misery around the world. This is not a celebrity gig, at times it was quite sad, much the same as his autobiography 'Unreasonable Behaviour'. He carries the guilt of having built a career and reputation on others suffering. He’s being very hard on his self, in fact his photographs are very anti-war, portraying the reality and not the John Wayne type of war that he was brought up on. He appears to be uncomfortable having these photographs in exhibitions, although he feels the Imperial War Museum is the right place.

He’s now building a new reputation as a landscape and still life photographer. He still shoots film and prints traditionally in his darkroom in Somerset, whilst listening to classical music. His war photography was captured by his bravery in the front line, he said he would have loved to have won a VC for saving others, if there was such an award for photographers he surely would have got one.

This is the largest collection of his work ever seen on public display, the exhibition is well designed, not the usual light walls and black frames, the predominantly orange and black walls works well, although I found the navigation of the gallery a bit confusing. The photographs are accompanied by film, magazines and personal memorabilia, which together tell the remarkable story of his life and work, including his most famous assignments in Berlin, Vietnam, Camodia, Biafra, Bangladesh and the Middle East.

The exhibition is a must, at £7 for adults and £6 for concessions it’s very good value!

My book, Great War Portraits, is available to buy now

“I am hugely impressed. It’s a brilliant book, quite unlike anything else I have seen.”
Dr. Richard S Grayson