Don McCullin the legendary British photographer will make you witness the terrors of the last 60 years in his retrospective show in Tate Britain.
Beirut, Berlin, Biafra, Cambodia, Congo Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Ireland, Iraq, Syria, Vietnam just to name a few major conflicts that McCullin covered during his career as a photo-reporter. For a person who became a photographer accidentally that's a pretty big achievement not to mention that he is still alive and working unlike many other war reporters from his generation.
"Seeing, looking at what others cannot bear to see, is what my life as a war reporter is all about."
McCullin was there where humanity failed - war, terror, hate, racism, discrimination, starvation, etc - and he documented everything with respect and with his commitment to stay neutral and to tell the truth. McCullin has always avoided the term 'art' when discussing his work. Yet through careful, intuitive composition and framing he creates images that have a formal clarity and even an uncomfortable kind of beauty. The ethical dilemma involved in producing beauty from tragedy has been a concern in the field of photography, but McCullin hopes that his images helps to bring the subject closer to the audience.
"Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you are looking at, then you are never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures."
Sir Don McCullin was born in 1935 and grew up in a deprived area in North London as it was bombed by Hitler's Nazis during World War II. Following the death of his father, he left school at the age of 15 without qualifications and started working on a catering job. In 1958 he took a photograph of a local London Gang in a bombed out building who were accused of killing a policeman. This photograph was published in the Observer and ignited his career as a photographer. The exhibition covers his life starting from the streets of London till the war zones. It is a deeply affecting show and emotionally draining but now it's our time to refuse to look away.
" I don't believe you can see what's beyond the edge unless you put your head over it."
Constantly covering the darkest pits on Earth isn't something you can do for a lifetime. No wonder that from the late 80's McCullin turned to a less brutal form of photography. In the last room of the exhibition we can also view his latest works from this period when he engaged with the traditions of still life and landscape photography in order to escape his memories of war.
With over 250 photographs, all printed by McCullin himself this exhibition will be a unique opportunity to appreciate the scope and achievements of Don McCullin's entire career.
The exhibition is open at Tate Britain, London, from 5 February to 6 May 2019.
Further info on Tate's website: https://www.tate.org.uk/
Written by: Marton Schneider