Monday, 26 March 2012

Don McCullin, Shaped by War

I managed to fit in a trip to the Imperial War Museum in London last week. The purpose of the visit was to take a look at the Don McCullin exhibition ‘Shaped by war’ before it closes in mid April of this year.

The exhibition is somewhat chronological and begins with early work consisting of local gangs in Finsbury Park. It then moves on to more political photojournalism including the setting up of the Berlin wall and events in Northern Ireland. The images are mainly in Black and White which drives the gritty subject matter home.

The exhibition then continues with areas of conflict and finishes with some of Don’s non conflict and later work. A nice touch is how the background walls change colour from dark, as they are in the conflict areas, to light for the other works.

In several places it is mentioned that Don does not call himself a war photographer, concentrating more on the effects of war on the victims. This is evident in many of the images and indeed gained Don  ‘World Press photo of the year’ (1964) with "A Turkish woman mourns her dead husband, a victim of the Greek-Turkish civil war".

Also of particular interest are the post-it notes plastered over the iconic image ‘Shell-shocked US marine, Hue, Vietnam, February 1968’  with instructions on how to print the photograph. Various items of equipment used on some of the assignments and of course Don’s shot up Nikon camera are also on display.

The imagery is interesting, captivating and in some places shocking.

As an aside there is also a second exhibition running at the IWM. This is work by photographer Ori Gersht  (born 1967, Tel Aviv), the exhibition being entitled ‘This Storm Is What We Call Progress’. The imagery deals with conflict, history and geographical place (IWM).

In this series of images Gersht experiments with digital noise, a subject particularly relevant to this part of the course.