McCullin is a documentary by Jacqui and David Morris, released on DVD in February 2013. The documentary can be found on YouTube (2015).
A mix of film clips, still photographs, McCullin talks about his career and some of the events he photographed. Having read his autobiograph Unreasonable Behaviour this was a chance to hear the man talk about the events he’d witnessed and the feelings he’d expressed.
I’ve read a number of books containing McCullin’s work so it was fascinating to see images I’m familiar with alongside others that I wasn’t.
Time 100 Photos included the image of the albino child in Biafra amongst their selection of the most influential photos of all time. Hearing how it made Don McCullin feel and how he’d tried to avoid the child by going elsewhere, only to find the child had followed him when he felt a hand take hold of his, was fascinating. With only some boiled sweets on him McCullin gave the young boy one and he hurried off, stopping a distance away to lick it.
In the same way, the image of McCullin, Egomonsters (2013), carrying the old woman is expanded upon. Seeing the old woman being helped along a road by a British soldier, McCullin took a photograph of her. Unable to walk very quickly, even with the aid of two sticks there was a risk that she would be killed before she could reach safety. Putting his camera away McCullin scooped her up and carried her to safety. Another photographer captured his actions.
A lot of times photographers, McCullin included are simply viewers of events, there to document what is happening for both history but also so that other people can view the events from safety and distance (both in miles and days, months and years).
At times, as demonstrated in the above examples and the description from the documentary of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; where other photographers did “point and shoot” trips but McCullin immersed himself for two weeks in the thick of the action, photographers become part of events and aren’t able to just be onlookers.
In today’s world, where almost everyone carries a camera with them, it is easy to see how simple it is to be an onlooker. Social media is filled with videos showing events unfolding, the people capturing those events being just an onlooker. Viewing events from the other side of a screen.
McCullin, through his work and career, demonstrates that although as photographers our purpose is to capture images, we are also human beings and once the camera has stopped clicking become just another part of events happening around us.
- YouTube (2015) McCullin – a film by Jacqui Morris and David Morris Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-r0IjB44KY&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 3rd March 2018]
- Time 100 Photos Albino Boy, Biafra Available at: http://100photos.time.com/photos/don-mccullin-albino-boy-biafra#photograph [Accessed 3rd March 2018]
- Egomonsters (2013) Don McCullin: a Goya with a camera Available at: https://egomonsterblog.wordpress.com/photography/don-mccullin-a-goya-with-a-camera/ [Accessed 3rd March 2018]