Under a Brooding Sky: The Photography of Don McCullin

As a chronicler of war, Don McCullin is a legend. Henri Cartier-Bresson once compared him to Goya, and John Le Carré wrote, “He was a communicator of the world’s worst agonies, a pilgrim to the front line of human suffering, returning with his kit-bag of horrors to appal the comfortable, the wilfully blind and the unknowing.” As a photojournalist for The Observer and the Sunday Times Magazine, McCullin covered all the major conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s, and many of the minor ones: Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Cyprus, Biafra, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War. But McCullin has always hated the term “war photographer” for what he calls its mercenary ring. In recent years the photographer has turned his lens on more peaceful subjects, like the English landscape. Yet even in pastoral settings, McCullin’s work retains a sense of menace. The very light seems to brood, as one colleague put it. “My favorite time to photograph landscape is evening,” McCullin said in a 1987 interview. “I can’t avoid wanting everything to go dark, dark, dark.”

A major exhibit of McCullin’s work is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London through April 15, while a smaller exhibit of his non-war photographs (see above) is on display at the Tate Britain through March 4.


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