Synopsis: To many, Don McCullin is the greatest living war photographer, often cited as an inspiration for today's photojournalists. For the first time, McCullin speaks candidly about his three-decade career covering wars and humanitarian disasters on virtually every continent and the photographs that often defined historic moments. From 1969 to 1984, he was the Sunday Times of London's star photographer, where he covered stories from the civil war in Cyprus to the war in Vietnam, from the man-made famine in Biafra to the plight of the homeless in the London of the swinging sixties. Exploring not only McCullin's life and work, but how the ethos of journalism has changed throughout his career, the film is a commentary on the history of photojournalism told through the lens of one of its most acclaimed photographers.
Genre: Documentary
Production: British Film Company
  Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 win.
Rotten Tomatoes:
91 min

Tonight's Imagine presents an intimate portrait

of the great British war photographer and photojournalist

Don McCullin.

In his early 20s, and with no formal training,

McCullin began his career here in Finsbury Park,

photographing the violent teenage gangs ruling the roost in the 1950s.

He would go on to capture history as it was being made,

bearing witness to the bloodiest conflicts of the last 50 years.

Despite announcing his retirement from the warzone ten years ago,

after returning from Iraq,

McCullin decided to make a trip to Syria late last year.

He wanted to show the human side of the ongoing conflict in Aleppo,

where, not for the first time in his career, he came under sniper fire.

A self-confessed war junkie,

Don McCullin's quest to bring the ugly truths of the war

to international attention would come at great personal cost.

Jacqui and David Morris's often graphic film

lays bare the addiction to danger, and the commitment to justice,

that lie at the heart of this extraordinary life.

This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

War is partly madness, mostly insanity,

and the rest of it is schizophrenia.

You do ask yourself, "Why am I here? What's my purpose?

"What's this got to do with photography?"

And it goes on and on, the questioning.

You're trying to stay alive, you're trying to take pictures,

you're trying to justify your presence there.

And you think, "What good is this going to do anyway?

"These people have already been killed."

There were many battles within my own mind,

before I got to these major conflicts.

And when I got there, I was even more confused.

I try to stay calm.

I try not to indulge myself in this picture-taking.

It was something I was meant to do, but how far was I allowed to take it?

There was a lot of hypocrisy spinning around

inside my own mind at the time.

I didn't really think, um, it was right to be there,

because I sometimes felt that

the people who were doing these terrible things

thought, you know, that I was OK-ing it,

which I certainly wasn't.

The first execution I ever saw in my life

was a dawn execution of a bomber who had killed a load of people

in the Saigon market a few weeks before.

And there were all these photographers and journalists,

they were all on this Jeep, you couldn't get another man on,

and there was nowhere I could see. But I saw the event.

They brought the man, in a Volkswagen truck.

He got out and screamed anti-Americans.

The firing squad shot him.

A man stepped forward, grabbed a turf of his hair,

and shot him through the brains.

And I stood there with my mouth wide open.

And I heard a man saying,

"God, that was great stuff, did you get it, did you get it?"

And I have never forgotten, to this day, and that was in 1965,

and I didn't get it.

And I never said anything about this situation

to the people in the Sunday Times, because they would have thought

I must have been a rank amateur not to have got such a picture.

But, looking back,

did I have the right to take that man's picture of his murder?

Because, in a way, public executions are nothing less than murder.

And I didn't get the picture.


You came from a fairly rough background, didn't you, in London?

It seems an unlikely ambition to have, your first ambition,

to be a painter. Was that regarded as a bit sissy?

Well, yes, it was, because where I live,

you were expected to take on anybody.

You'd never back down from an argument.

I used to get some terrible hidings when I was a boy.

But my father, when he was alive,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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