Shaped by war

I'll take any opportunity to profess my admiration of Don McCullin, who I have mentioned before. This time it's because he has an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. Reason enough for me to trek over the Pennines in May when I return to the UK for a visit. I won't repeat what I have said before except to say that for anyone who wishes to go out into the world and photograph the worst of humanity, the pain and suffering of war and conflict, disasters both man made and natural and in fact any kind of social documentary in general it should be mandatory to listen to and absorb what this remarkable man has to say about his work and his life.

These things are not glamorous. They are horrific. They can get you killed. They are people, not subjects. If your attitude is one that puts you in these situations because you think - even if you don't admit - that the pictures you make will advance your career, turn you into a superstar photographer and earn you respect, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. All those things should be a by product of the work you do, not the motivation.

I've been close to plenty of violence but I've never been to war. However, this is what a war correspondent looks like in my mind - uncannily similar to a shell shocked soldier right?

Don McCullin with Delta Company, 1/5th US Marines during the Battle for Hue, Tet Offensive, Vietnam, February 1968. (DM 97 A)
Photograph © Nik Wheeler

And if you think you're immortal - more fool you. This camera illustrates how close to death you can get and still walk away.

Don McCullin’s Nikon F camera, damaged by a Khmer Rouge AK47 bullet at Prey Veng, Cambodia, 1970.

I have utmost respect for the many photographers who are following in McCullin's footsteps, it's just a shame that there others who trample over them without any regard.

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