On Don McCullen

HND Design Photography
I intend in this following essay to show how much of Don McCullins work, throughout his career, represents pictures of people rather than pictures of war, as Edward Steichen said, ” the real mission of photography is explaining man to himself “. I feel that a lot of McCullins work is more often about the social circumstances of people, with war and suffering, often, simply a background to the subject of people making the most of things, even though the lions share of these social situations do happen amongst the wars and famines that have blighted the twentieth century.
1 – Thefirst shot I intend to look at is called'The Guvnors', a striking picture of post-war youth. This picture started McCullins photographic career.
Atfirst glance the picture seems instantly recognisable, Gangsters, catching that rugged style of 50's London that film has often tried to recreate.
Although the "Guvnors" themselves are posed, you instantly see that this is real, sensing that these people are real gangsters. The fact that these young men are pictured not in a nightclub or in the back of a big black jaguar, as is the common stereotype, but in the remains of a bombed out building, with its fallen timber and burnt mattresses, completely stripped of all metals or indeed anything else of any worth, shows a gritty reality which isn't often associated with this kind of person at this time.
However, on researching this photo you will find that it is perhaps more significant due to the events surrounding the photo. Don McCullin although not involved in gang life, was friendly with most of the local lads who were. This picture was taken just before a murder in a London nightclub, as it turned out the men in the picture weren't directly involved in the murder, but it was published in the Observer anyway. This picture is to me is a pic…

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