Sir Don McCullin, born in 1935, Finsbury Park, London, is recognised as one of the world’s greatest photographers. McCullin started his photographic career in, then poverty stricken, Finsbury Park with a twin reflex Rolleicord camera. His photographs of friends and local scenes, which included a well-known North London gang, alerted magazine editors to his instinctive talent.
Between 1966 and 1984, McCullin worked for The Sunday Times Magazine, which was at the cutting edge of investigative, critical journalism at the time. During this period, McCullin’s assignments included conflicts in Biafra, the Belgian Congo, the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’, Bangladesh and the Lebanese civil war. Among his most recognized photographs are those that capture the human cost of war taken in Vietnam and Cambodia.
McCullin was able to capture such harrowing and intimate photographs by willing to take huge risks. He was threatened with a knife at a Muslim checkpoint in Beirut for having a Falangist press pass, blinded by CS gas during a riot in Derry, Northern Ireland, and wounded by fragments of mortar shell in Cambodia.
The Sunday Times editor Harold Evans resigned citing differences over editorial independence when Rupert Murdoch took over the paper in the early 1980s. Andrew Neil, Evans’ replacement, dismissed McCullin after he’d complained about the newspaper’s lack of serious foreign and social coverage under the new regime.
McCullin continued to travel and photograph internationally, visiting India, Syria and the African Continent where he documented the AIDS crisis. One of his most ambitious journeys saw him explore ruins in the southern fringes of the Roman Empire. This project spanned a number of years and is documented in McCullin’s book Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire (2010). McCullin now resides in Somerset with his wife. which has renewed his interest in the British landscape that is celebrated in his newer images. These landscapes allow him to feel unburdened by what he has witnessed throughout his career.
Sir Don McCullin has been awarded numerous honours over the years including a knighthood in 2017. Further solidifying his impact on British Art, Tate Britain presented a major solo retrospective in 2019 which travelled to Tate Liverpool in 2020. In 1993, he was the first photojournalist to be made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and has been the recipient of premier awards from the World Press Photo and the 2006 Cornell Capa Award by the International Centre for Photography in New York for his lifetime contribution to photography. He is the author of more than a dozen books and his work is held in numerous private and public collections around the world.