The Greatest Living War Photographer
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“When human beings are suffering, they tend to look up, as if hoping for salvation. And that’s when I press the button.”
Don McCullin is known internationally as the greatest living photographer of conflict, having covered wars in Cyprus, The Congo, Vietnam, Cambodia, Beirut, Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Afghanistan and Iraq to name a few. As well as shooting assignments in Biafra, Bangladesh, Uganda and many other places, where he documented the suffering of the downtrodden with an empathy born of his own poor and violent upbringing in Finsbury Park in London. His first picture, published in the Observer in 1958, was that of a street gang whom he knew which was involved in a fracas that lead to the murder of a policeman.
His imagery projected the realities of war, the lives of the dispossessed, the poor and victims of corrupt politics into the homes of those who were safe, reading their Sunday papers. He has survived injury, imprisonment and real danger in order to record and send those images home. He has spent a lifetime using his wits to survive and his instinct for being in the right place at the right time in order to document a story.
He has an innate moral compass and sense of justice and political awareness and speaks with a charismatic honesty and dry eloquence about his life, the conflict he has seen, and the events that shaped the last half century in a way that is both educational as well as entertaining.
There is a fascination about his life, in his 80th year, a life which not only continues to be involved with areas of conflict (he recently returned from Iraq), but also with other projects, such as his recently published work on the vulnerable architectural landmarks on the fringes of the Roman Empire in Northern Africa and the Middle East, and the haunting landscapes around Somerset in which he resides.
His has been a life full of danger, action and survival, at the same time creating the greatest of visual images, recording events from the middle of the 20th century right up to today.