Today was the third time that I have seen the video biography McCullin about the great war photographer Don McCullin. Each time I watch it I realise there is a lot more to this man than just the amazing photographs he takes.
I went to his exhibition at the Imperial War Museum a few years ago and was amazed at the breadth of work he had produced. It seemed that every major conflict and hot spot I had heard of had been covered by the man: the Congo, Vietnam, Israel, Cambodia, Northern Ireland and Beruit to name but a few. His iconic black and white images defined photo-journalism for several generations.
I wonder what the price of this lifestyle has been on the man? Physical injuries aside (he was shot) he seems to be a man who is haunted by what he has seen. He now spends his time taking pictures of quiet country scenes. He has had a great time to contemplate the arguments of his critics, chiefly that his work was voyeurism and that it did nothing to help the plight of any of the subjects he captured. He talks about this in the movie and his answered are quiet, measured and given in an unfaltering manner. Watching earlier interviews, such as one with Michael Parkinson, shows that this stoic reflection only comes with time. In his youth he craved the danger and only felt alive in perilous situations.
The public image of McCullin is as finely crafted as his pictures. I think that he hides his demons well and has learnt to cope with the nightmares he must surely have had.
You can buy a DVD (or blu-ray) of the movie from amazon and it can be bought digitally from iTunes. At the time of writing iTunes has a special offer on and you can get a HD version of the film for only £3.99!
I’ve also found a 27 minute video of McCullin at work using a Canon 5d Mark III. It’s sponsored by Canon and so is essentially a long advert but there are some interesting bits in there.