Bleak Beauty: Don McCullin

Packshot on 06/09/2013

Here is a marvellous interview with Don McCullin with The Telegraph’s Jessamy Calkin. (I can never resist writing about his work.) You wouldn’t associate his photography with beauty. But he frequently talks about it.

“There is beauty in war. It’s never far away. Even if it’s the last thing you can imagine, you will see it. I’ve seen black and white men crying over each other’s demises, men tenderly cradling the wounded, and caring. That’s what beauty is all about. It’s not about trees or sunsets, it’s about human depth.”

He’s absolutely right.

McCullin’s work has taken quite a toll on him, both physically and mentally. Afflicted by arthritis from half a century working in war zones and in dark rooms, and harangued by the memories from it all, he is never far from speaking of his issues with reconciling his photography with its often horrific contexts. But what I love about him is his frankness. Some people might find it a little perverse, the idea of finding beauty in these areas. But McCullin is brutally honest about it. War inevitably places people in the most extreme circumstances, and among his talents is the ability to highlight the ways in which people connect with each other and look out for each other with awful things happening around them.

This extended interview – complete with a selection of some of his work – highlights his sensitivity to these things, as well as his candidness. People who have fought and worked in war zones are frequently reluctant to talk about their experiences, which makes it all the more special to read what McCullin has to say. Like his photographs, he doesn’t ask to be liked. But he is terrific at arresting your attention.

Brilliant man. Brilliant photographer. Brilliant interview, too.

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