Don McCullin

It was when I was a student in London in the late nineties that I first began to take photography seriously - in that I thought it might actually be a useful pursuit. In my second year a friend of mine who was studying media was making a short film with a photographer as the lead character. He asked me to do production stills and also to make the photographs that would appear in the film as belonging to the protagonist. Sure, I said. The story was based in part on a change in direction for the photographer; from a war correspondent to an abstract photographic artist.

My friend, the director, showed me a bunch of photographs and said 'Do you think you could do something like that?'

The photographs I was to imitate were by Don McCullin. I was stunned. In those days I didn't know barely anything about famous photographers. My parents liked Salgado and Cartier-Bresson and I'd seen a few books and exhibits but Don McCullin was a name vaguely recognised and I certainly hadn't seen more than one or two of his pictures before.

Since that moment he has been one of my favourite photographers. His work is incredible, his attitude is forthright and direct and he has a refreshing honesty regarding what he would see as the failure of his work to affect change.

I've written briefly about his book 'Is Anyone Taking Any notice?' before. Check that out here.

The current issue of Aperture magazine has a short conversation between him and Fred Ritchin, with some video excerpts online here.

He is also exhibiting in my hometown of Bradford in the north of England at The National Media Museum until the end of September 2009. Their website has a wealth of resources relating to his work and career and is well worth checking out. If you happen to be in Bradford definitely put it on you itinerary (along with a trip to some of the UK's best Curry Houses - the best curry outside of India in fact...)

Actually, you should make a trip to Bradford specifically for the above reasons. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

McCullin has some (sort of) nice things to say about my home town:

"I stopped wandering when I reached Bradford, where I found a microcosm of the dark satanic legacy that we had inherited from Britain’s industrial heyday ... I was met everywhere by warm and courteous people ... In Bradford I experienced a new freedom, wandering through the quiet dilapidated streets where, for the first time in years, I encountered a great deal of hospitality and the welcome absence of violence. I discovered here a city, a living city, and in so doing I rediscovered myself – not always a comfortable process."

Here is one of his photographs of the place.

Oh yeah, and those pictures I was supposed to imitate for the film? Impossible. We did get some pretty cool fake warzone shots in a burnt out building in South London one afternoon though...

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