Don McCullin is one of Britain’s most important photographers; he covered most of the 20th century’s most important wars and combat zones. Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin, is currently being exhibited at the Imperial War Museum, London and is the largest collection of the photographers work ever.
Don McCullin is famous for his dramatic black and white photographs of conflict that helped with our understanding of the suffering inflicted by modern warfare. His photographs are often harrowing but have irrevocably informed us about. His break came in 1958, when The Observer bought one of McCullin’s photographs of a local gang that had been involved in the murder of a police officer. Following this in 1961, he took a self-funded trip to Berlin to take photographs of the construction of the Berlin wall, for which he won a British Press award. He then followed up this trip with one to Cyprus in 1964 to photograph the conflict occurring there, again his exceptional photographs won him another British Press award.
Some of his hardest hitting and powerful work comes from his time spent in Vietnam, he made a total of 15 journeys to photograph the Vietnam War.
Many of his fellow photographers were killed on assignment; these included Dana Stone, Sean Flynn, Gilles Caron and Kyoichi Sawada who actually photographed McCullin when he was injured in
Phnom Penh after being hit by fragments from a mortar shell. McCullin accounts for his own survival due to the fact that he develops all of his own prints himself, he states:
“I never air freighted my work out which suited me in other ways in that I could come and go a bit. I always knew that if you hung around those war zones for long enough you would die. And many of my friends and colleagues did.”
This exhibition includes works from his assignments in Berlin, Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra, Bangladesh, Lebanon, the Congo, Cyprus, and the Middle East. There is also a selection of his magazine spreads including his work for the Sunday Times, passports, press passes, helmets, and many of his cameras; including the most notorious of his cameras, a Nikon F which was shot by a sniper in Cambodia in 1970 just as McCullin had held it up to his face.
Shaped By War: Photographs by Don McCullin is running till the 15th of April, more information can be found at www.iwm.org.uk