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Don McCullin Retrospective

There is a retrospective of Don McCullin’s work at the Tate starting tomorrow. It will be one of the great exhibitions this year and I would recommend you find the time to go. It will be tough, his war photography is uncompromising but he is a man of genuine compassion. As he said in a recent Guardian article while in conversation with Giles Duley…DMcC It’s about the emotional – we’re not just photographers, we gather emotionally. A camera doesn’t mean a toss to me. I just put it in front of me and transfer the image through that piece of glass and that film. But I’m using my emotion more than I’m using that piece of equipment. And at the same time there’s a thousand thoughts going through my brain saying: “Is it right do this?” I’ve seen men executed and I haven’t photographed it and I thought my God, if my editor knew that I hadn’t pressed this button he’d give me the boot. But it’s my moral duty not to take that picture because the man who’s about to be killed hasn’t given me his permission…….When a man is standing in front of you about to die, you can’t help him. He’s crying and he’s looking at you. He’s looking up to where he thinks God is and he’s scrambling around like mad to this last chance to keep alive and you’re standing there, you can’t help him. You are ashamed of humanity.

It is a dangerous mistress, and it’s one of those love affairs that never ends, you know. It just never ends. You’re totally captive to photography once it gets a grip of you.

There is a review of the exhibition here

x78Screenshot 2019-02-06 at 15.05.57Catholic Youths Attacking British Soldiers in the Bogside of Londonderry 1971, printed 2013 by Don McCullin born 1935Cyprus 1964, printed 2013 by Don McCullin born 1935

Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968, printed 2013 by Don McCullin born 1935

All images Don McCullin as seen at Tate Retrospective

6 photography quotes every photographer should live by

From Digital Camera World……Learn from the famous photographers and true legends of photography with our practical guide to the six best photography quotes ever uttered and how you can put them into practice.

In the 175 years that photography has been around, some very smart people have picked up cameras, and some of these very smart people have said some very smart things.

Indeed, some photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson, wrote extensively on the theory and practice of photography, and as we’ll see, were never short of an illuminating maxim or pithy aphorism.

Other photographers wanted their images to do the talking, and went in for more esoteric observations which we’re still puzzling over today.

Anyway, the best quotations about any subject are those which still help and inspire people today, so with this in mind, here are our six favourite photographic quotes – along with some ideas on how you can put these wise words into practice.

Photography Quote No. 1

Photographer:  Robert Capa

Photography Quote, Robert Capa: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”

Quote: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”

What it means
If you get closer to your subject you will often end up with sharper, better composed shots. By filling the frame, or even cropping in closer, you’ll also eliminate dead space, and get a more intimate, involving image.

Don’t get so close, though, that you put yourself in danger – war photographer Capa sadly got too close to a landmine while covering the Viet Minh uprising in Vietnam in 1954.

SEE MORE: The 55 best photographers of all time. In the history of the world. Ever.

How to do it yourself
Try using a standard prime lens with a fixed focal length, rather than a long telephoto zoom, as this forces you to get in close to your subject and engage.

Even better, 50mm and 85mm primes usually have wide maximum apertures, which are handy in low light and help to blur the background, while revealing less optical distortion than zooms. They’re often great value too.


Go and see the rest here

Ageing and creative decline in photography

“Photographers never want to talk about the fact that they may well be in decline. It’s the greatest taboo subject of all,” says Martin Parr in our special issue devoted to ageing, available now on newsstands, on the iPad and the iPhone. We spoke to photographers aged 19 to 100 about their career highs and how they keep their work fresh in the face of creative decline. ….

How do photographers keep their work fresh in the face of what Martin Parr describes as “probably the greatest taboo subject of all” – creative decline? In the June edition of BJP, we spoke to photographers aged 19 to 100 and asked them when they think they were at their peak. Do photographers hit their stride in their thirties, or is that merely a myth?

 The June issue of BJP, which centres around the issue of age, is available from today at newsstands in the UK, and on the iPad and iPhone worldwide.

It features exclusive interviews with Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Alec Soth, Saul Leiter, David Goldblatt, Duane Michals, Brian Griffin, Vanessa Winship, George Georgiou, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Wolf Suschitzky, Olivia Bee, Max Pinckers, Anna Orlowska, Anouk Kruithof and Lorenzo Vitturi.

Below, some of our highlights: see the article here

Olivia Bee, 19
“I don’t like to be known only by my age, but I know that because I’m 19 my age is a ‘thing’. It has always been a thing. I would prefer to be known as a photographer or an artist, rather than as a 19-year-old photographer.”


Image © Olivia Bee

Duane Michals, 81
“I was a late bloomer. I didn’t become a photographer until I was 28, and I didn’t go to photography school. In many ways, I’ve been a wolf in the hen house, dancing around what photography does rather than showing the world as it is. A photograph shows nothing.”

duane-michalsMolly Bloom, 2012. Image © Duane Michals, courtesy of DC Moore Gallery

Read our highlights

Photography galleries in London

There is nothing better for the keen amateur photographer than to spend time in photographic galleries looking at the work of great photographers. If you are in London then this guide to galleries on the Time Out website might help you find your way around

London has produced many of the twentieth century’s greatest photojournalists and fashion photographers – Terence Donovan, David Bailey, Don McCullin and Norman Parkinson among them. And although the medium sometimes struggles to be accepted as fine art, the first (and so far only) photographer to win the Turner Prize, Wolfgang Tillmans in 2000, was also a Londoner, albeit an adopted one.


The capital’s thriving and ever-expanding art scene is home to galleries that show and sell photography in all its forms, from the earliest nineteenth-century daguerreotypes to limited-edition fine-art prints and documentary shots of celebrities and pop stars.image-1See all the galleries listed here

5 Great War Photographers

Here at OSP Towers we try to bring you a varied diet of equipment news, tutorials and great photography. As part of that we feature photographers we think you should be interested in. We have covered war photographers occasionally because they have always had such an impact on our understanding of the suffering handed out by those who wage war and what atrocities our governments undertake in our names for the sake generally of the need for hydrocarbons. Anyway this article by those good people at Lightstalking gives you a brief insight into 5 of the greatest war photographers. Don McCullin ( we featured him here), James Natchwey (we featured him here), George Silk, Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White (who we featured here)

Don McCullin – Nikon F by martsharm, on Flickr

This is what Lightstalking has to say:

In any profession, there are wild pioneers who do things that others won’t do and go places that others won’t go. In photography, we have quite a few of these individuals. But some stand out from the crowd. Some go where nobody sane would even consider. And they come back with the shots that we all say, “hey, I wish I could have taken that.” War photographers especially are a special lot. Their stories and their photographs make and shape history. But let’s face it – some of these heroes are simply fearlessly insane to go where they go and do what they do with the almost certain danger of great physical harm that they accept as part of the job. Thank god for these folks. Here are some of our favourites….….MORE

Filmmakers seeking funds for Don McCullin documentary

Olivier Laurent in the BJP writes that money is needed to help get a documentary on Don McCullin finished, do you have any left after the Christmas splurge?

“I worked for Don as an assistant for many years, and have seen and read just about every interview with him,” says Jacqui Morris. “But I always felt he was holding back, and believed that the discussions he and I had regarding his experiences as a war photographer, and how that shaped his philosophy, were more moving and revealing than those I’d seen reported. With this in mind I asked Don if I could make a film of his life. He readily agreed and has given us unparalleled access to film some extraordinarily candid interviews.”

The resulting film is expected to be released in 2012, but the independent production company, Mugshot Films, needs help to raise the funds necessary to finance the post production process.”..…..MORE

Don McCullin – Photographer

If you are British and interested in photography along with David Bailey and probably Lord Litchfield you will have heard of Don McCullin. McCullin is undoubtedly Britain’s most celebrated war photographer, there have been many others, a number sadly now gone like Tim Hetherington, but McCullin is the one we all know. His story is from a poor and under privaleged background, not something that can be said of many of the greats of the photography world, to international recognition.

There is a most excellent exclusive interview by Colin Jacobson in the BJP called Shaped by War: Don McCullin in profile here

“An interview with Don McCullin is never going to be a dull affair. He is a complex man who has told the story of his life many times before. He is unfailingly polite and gentlemanly, but one detects a slightly weary tone as he goes over the familiar ground. He often pre-empts the questions with clinical self-awareness.

The story of McCullin’s rise from the impoverished backstreets of Finsbury Park in north London to becoming one of the world’s best-known photographers is one of fortuitous good luck…..
McCullin, who was becoming a bit of a tearaway, started taking photographs of ‘The Guvners’, a local gang. It happened that one of these hoodlums killed a policeman. McCullin was persuaded to show a group portrait of the gang to The Observer. It published the photo and this led to his burgeoning career as a photographer for the newspaper.”

“That gang picture was the ticket to rest of my life,” he reminisces. ‘£5 was the cost of my life as a photographer – that’s what my mother paid to redeem the camera I had pawned.”

In 1964, The Observer asked if he would like to cover the civil war that was hotting up in Cyprus. McCullin was elated. It was his first real foray into a conflict zone and the photographs he produced were remarkable, arguably still some of his finest work. They catapulted him into the international arena of photojournalism.”

Harold Evans, editor of UK’s The Sunday Times, recounts an incident that took place during a routine firefight in some nondescript zone of conflict in some obscure corner of the globe. People were screaming, gunfire was rattling, everybody was running and ducking for cover…and Don McCullin stopped long enough to take an exposure reading. Afterwards he said, “What’s the point of getting killed if you’ve got the wrong exposure?”

“Harold Evans, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times during the period of McCullin’s finest magazine work, places him alongside Robert Capa, Larry Burrows and Philip Jones-Griffiths as one of the greatest war photographers ever.”…..

“Rand feels that the plight of the poor and dispossessed brought out the best in him, and Evans agrees, telling me, “He cared about the victims, the ‘collateral damage’. He couldn’t express it in words but he expressed it in his photography.”

McCullin himself attributes his capacity for empathy partly to his own harsh childhood, including some miserable experiences when he was evacuated during the war. Nevertheless, McCullin now seems ambivalent and uneasy revisiting those heady magazine days.”

As you can see this is a wide ranging and excellent interview, as is so often the case with the BJP, if you would like to read more here is the link

Body of a North Vietnamese soldier, Hue, Vietnam, 1968 (c) Don McCullin, courtesy Contact Press Images Europe

“I came across the body of a young Viet Cong soldier. Some American soldiers were abusing him verbally and stealing his things as souvenirs. It upset me – if this man was brave enough to fight for the freedom of his country, he should have respect. I posed him with his few possessions for a purpose, for a reason, to make a statement. You see, I’d developed a mind by then, I was my own man and I’d got attitudes. I felt I had a kind of puritanical obligation to give this dead man a voice.”

………………….In these later days of his life, McCullin is preoccupied with the landscape and nature around him in Somerset. He has described his love of landscape as “herbal medicine for my mind”. He is scornful about fame, comparing it, tellingly, to a “smelling body”, but is honest enough to admit he enjoyed it when it came to him in the past. He says he has not become rich out of photography, but is rich in lifestyle, taking spiritual energy from his life in the countryside.”

Here are just a few of the books he has produced of the years, this link takes you to the Amazon pages for Don McCullin
Further reading, articles and videos

 John Tusa  BBC Radio Interview with Don McCullin

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