The N-Photo In­ter­view

As a cur­tain raiser for his talk at The Pho­tog­ra­phy Show in March, the leg­endary Don McCullin talks to Ge­off Har­ris

NPhoto - - Contents -

Leg­endary pho­to­jour­nal­ist Don McCullin talks about life on the front line

on McCullin has been tak­ing hard-hit­ting news pho­tos since

the late 1950s. We asked him about his tough early years, the de­vel­op­ment of his tech­nique, why he’s sick and tired of his most fa­mous war im­age, and why he wants to be re­mem­bered more for his land­scapes...

To start at the be­gin­ning, we won­dered if your tal­ent for ex­press­ing your­self vis­ually may have arisen as a re­sult of you suf­fer­ing from dys­lexia as a child?

I’ve al­ways strug­gled to read, and I miss things; it’s a bloody nui­sance, but I don’t be­lieve that quit­ting or sur­ren­der­ing to a dis­abil­ity is the right thing to do. Al­ways fight the things that hand­i­cap you in life. And I am cer­tain that one half of my brain is open to vis­ual arts, as much as it is to mu­sic – I’m very fond of clas­si­cal mu­sic. So if I fall down on dys­lexia, it’s not the great­est tragedy. You’ve talked a lot about your tough child­hood. Your fa­ther gam­bled and died young, your mother drank, and you were mis­treated as an evac­uee dur­ing the war. Did you have any aware­ness of or in­ter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy as a child? None at all. I first be­came aware of it when I saw pic­tures from the war – the lib­er­a­tion of Belsen, for in­stance. I didn’t come from a par­tic­u­larly schol­arly back­ground, and I was dis­obe­di­ent and played tru­ant a lot. There was one art master who per­suaded me to take a schol­ar­ship to get into Ham­mer­smith School of Arts and Crafts, although it was more as­so­ci­ated with the build­ing trade and brick­lay­ing. I used to ab­scond to look at birds. You ended up work­ing as a pho­tog­ra­pher’s as­sis­tant in the RAF. Is that where your ca­reer started? Not re­ally. In fact, I failed my trade test to be­come an aerial pho­tog­ra­pher in the RAF. I couldn’t re­mem­ber enough to pass the the­ory pa­per, and my dys­lexia made it hard. I did buy my first cam­era when I was in the RAF, how­ever – a Rolle­icord. So how did you get started as a se­ri­ous pho­tog­ra­pher? When I left the RAF I started mix­ing with bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers and en­joy­ing

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