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The enthralling charm of McCullin works on intertwined levels, gently documenting the vibrancy of ‘60s print media, the reflections of Don McCullin on his life in the industry, and the sad decline of his style of photo-journalism. Working with James Gay-Rees (producer of Senna and Amy), Jacqui and David Morris’ BAFTA-nominated documentary tells the life story of the man behind some of the 20th century’s defining images.
Through candid interviews with McCullin himself, we are taken on a journey that begins in the deprived boroughs of 1950’s London. His ascent to fame and prominence may show all the elements of a traditional “rags-to-riches” story, but the photographer would be hesitant to label it as such; while the ever-humble McCullin denies being a poetic man, his musings on his life’s work are as beautifully composed and genuinely heartfelt as his pictures. McCullin’s honest narration guides us through his stunning photographs, contextualised by archive footage of the time.
From Cambodia and Vietnam (an arena of war that McCullin visited over 15 times) through to Biafra and the Congo, his work displays human emotion at its very rawest. Referred to by his former editor as “a conscience with a camera”, McCullin recognised the power of the still image, using it to display the senselessness of war and the heartbreak of conflict.
Alongside his most renowned pieces, we also see McCullin’s work from calmer assignments in-between trips to combat zones. Intimately capturing the people of America’s Southern heartland or London’s hidden underworld, it is these studies that cement McCullin’s well-deserved prestige as a pre-eminent photojournalist.
With all the integrity and dignity of its subject, Jacqui and David Morris have crafted a documentary that is an absolute must-see; an impactful portrait of a legendary figure and life through his lens.
McCullin is available to stream on Netflix in the UK & USA.