Don McCullin

Don McCullin CBE

McCullin on TV Brasil, 2011
Born Donald McCullin
(1935-10-09) 9 October 1935
Finsbury Park, North London, England
Residence Somerset, England
Nationality British
Occupation Photojournalist
Years active 1959present
Children 5

Donald "Don" McCullin, CBE Hon FRPS (9 October 1935) is a British photojournalist, particularly recognized for his war photography and images of urban strife. His career, which began in 1959, has specialised in examining the underside of society, and his photographs have depicted the unemployed, downtrodden and the impoverished.


Early life

McCullin grew up in Finsbury Park, North London, but he was evacuated to a farm in Somerset during the Blitz.[1] He is dyslexic[2][3] but displayed a talent for drawing at the Secondary Modern School he attended. He won a scholarship to Hammersmith School of Arts and Crafts[3] but, following the death of his father, he left school at the age of 15, without qualifications, for a catering job on the railways.[2][3] He was then called up for National Service with the Royal Air Force.


During McCullin's period of National Service in the RAF he was posted to the Canal Zone during the 1956 Suez Crisis, where he worked as a photographer's assistant. He failed to pass the written theory paper necessary to become a photographer in the RAF, and so spent his service in the darkroom.[4][5] During this period McCullin bought his first camera, a Rolleicord. On return to Britain shortage of funds led to his pawning the camera. His mother used her own money to redeem the pledge.[6]

In 1959, a photograph he took of a local London gang was published in The Observer.[7] Between 1966 and 1984, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the Sunday Times Magazine, recording ecological and man-made catastrophes such as war-zones, amongst them Biafra, in 1968, and victims of the African AIDS epidemic.[5] His hard-hitting coverage of the Vietnam War and the Northern Ireland conflict is particularly highly regarded.

He also took the photographs of Maryon Park in London which were used in Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup.[8]

In 1968, his Nikon camera stopped a bullet intended for him.[9]

Also in 1968, on July 28, he was invited to photograph the Beatles, then at the height of their fame and in the midst of recording The White Album. These sessions, made at several London locations, have become known as The Mad Day Out. They contain many well known images of the band, including the gatefold sleeve picture from the Red and Blue compilations where the Beatles mingled with the crowd seen through railings. The photographs from this day were published in the 2010 book A Day in the Life of the Beatles.

In 1982 the British Government refused to grant McCullin a press pass to cover the Falklands War,[10][11][12][13] claiming the boat was full.[14] At the time he believed it was because the Thatcher government felt his images might be too disturbing politically.

He is the author of a number of books, including The Palestinians (with Jonathan Dimbleby, 1980), Beirut: A City in Crisis (1983), and Don McCullin in Africa (2005).

His book, Shaped by War (2010), was published to accompany a major retrospective exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North, Salford, England in 2010 and then at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and the Imperial War Museum, London. His most recent publication is Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire, a poetic and contemplative study of selected Roman and pre-Roman ruins in North Africa and the Middle East.

In 2012, a documentary film of his life titled McCullin and directed by David Morris and Jacqui Morris was released. The film was nominated for two BAFTA awards.

In later years, McCullin has turned to landscape and still-life works and taking commissioned portraits.

In November 2015 McCullin was named the Photo London Master of Photography for 2016, at the launch of Photo London, an art fair due to open at Somerset House in May 2016. A special exhibition dedicated to his work is to be commissioned. When asked about the rise of digital photography, he said: “Digital photography can be a totally lying experience - you can move what you want, the whole thing can’t be trusted really."[15]

Family life

Currently living in Somerset, he is married and has five children from his current and earlier marriages.[5]

Selected works

Émile Béchard, Femme du Luxor from McCullin's personal selection of photographs from the National Media Museum's collection, 2009.

Selected awards

McCullin receiving the World Press Photo Award in 1964

Selected exhibitions



  1. Don McCullin at SundaySalon. Retrieved 22 March 2014
  2. 1 2 Don McCullin interview in The Guardian 22 December 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2014
  3. 1 2 3 ftweekend Don Mcullin interview Retrieved 22 March 2014
  4. Leo Benedictus "Don McCullin's best shot", The Guardian (London), 29 March 2007. A shortened version of this interview, omitting this material, appears here .
  5. 1 2 3 Edemariam, Aida (25 August 2005). "The human factor (interview)". The Observer.
  6. McCullin, Donald; Lewis Chester (2002). Unreasonable Behaviour, An Autobiography. Vintage Books. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-09-943776-5.
  7. Peres, Michael R.; Osterman, Mark; Romer, Grant B.; Lopez, J. Tomas (2008). The Concise Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-80998-X.
  8. Philippe Garner, David Alan Miller, Blow Up (Steidl, 2011).
  9. McCullin, Donald; Lewis Chester (2002). Unreasonable Behaviour, An Autobiography. Vintage Books. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-0-09-943776-5.
  10. Morris, Roderick (1997-10-30). "Don McCullin's Harrowing Images of War". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009.
  11. "Don McCullin". Exploring Photography. Victoria and Albert Museum. Archived from the original on 10 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  12. Das, P (January 2005), "Life interrupted—a photographic exhibition of HIV/AIDS in Africa by Don McCullin", The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 5 (1): 15, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(04)01248-4, ISSN 1473-3099, PMID 15620555
  13. Hodgson, Francis (19 October 2011). "Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin, Imperial War Museum, London". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  14. Calkin, Jessamy. "Bleak Beauty". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  15. "Don McCullin biography". Under Fire: Images from Vietnam. Piece Unique Gallery. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  16. Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Accessed 13 August 2012
  17. "Cornell Capa Award". Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  18. Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award
  19. "Honorary Awards Announced". University of Gloucestershire. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  20. "Annual Report 2012 (p11)" (PDF). Creative Space. Hereford College of Arts. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  21. "Honorary graduates", University of Bath. Accessed 14 January 2012. (A list of honorary graduates of 2011.)
  22. Susan Hallett (4 February 2013). "Don McCullin's Post-Empire England | Literary & Visual Arts | Arts & Entertainment". Epoch Times. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  23. 1 2 3 "Entre Vues : Frank Horvat - Don McCullin (London, August 1987)". Frank Horvat Photography. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  24. "BBC Radio 3 - Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Don McCullin". Retrieved 25 November 2013.
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