Sunday 9 October 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to a fearless old photojournalist called Don McCullin

Don McCullin, internationally known photojournalist, who has concentrated on the underside of society, the unemployed, downtrodden and impoverished as well as war and urban strife, is 76 today.

Things you possibly didn't know about Don, that he :

* was born in London 4 years before the outbreak of The Second World War in 1935, did his 'National Service' in 1956 in the RAF and was posted to Egypt during the Suez Crisis, worked as a 'photographer's assistant', failed to pass the written theory paper necessary to become a photographer and so worked in the darkroom.

* saw a photograph he took of a local London gang in 1959, published in 'The Observer' newspaper and between 1966 and 1984, worked as an overseas correspondent for the Sunday Times Magazine,

* recorded ecological and man-made catastrophes such as war-zones, like Biafra in 1968 and victims of the African AIDS epidemic as well as hard-hitting coverage of the Vietnam War.

* shot his most celebrated image of a dazed American marine, entitled 'Shellshocked' taken during the battle for the city of Hue in 1968.

* closer to home, created some of the most memorable images of the early Troubles in Northern Ireland, during a riot in Derry, was blinded by CS gas and recovered in a dingy house which reminded him of his working-class upbringing in London and has said that : "I was caught between the two sides, with the Provos warning me off one day and the British army chasing me the next."

* had his beloved Nikon F camera fractured by a sniper's bullet in a rice field in Cambodia in 1970 just as he held it up to his face.

* wounded and in a field hospital in Phnom Penh in 1970, having been hit by fragments of a mortar shell, said that he was most afraid, when he was captured by Idi Amin's soldiers in Uganda and held prisoner for four days : "They dug pits outside our cell. The sense that something awful was going to happen was constant and almost overwhelming."

* took the photographs of Maryon Park in London which were used in Antonioni's film 'Blowup'.

* in 1982, was refused a press pass by the British Government to cover the Falklands War, believing it was because the Thatcher Government felt his images might be too disturbing politically but finding recently that he was turned away simply because the Royal Navy had used up its quota of press passes.

Has said : "Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures."

Article in Gaurdian newspaper and link with John talking :

Don talking about social documentary photography :

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