22 thoughts on “Don McCullin “Looking For England”

  1. Eric de

    I realy like the guy, an inspiration for so many years. Funny to see him now with digital, even the great Don can’t resist chimping at the screen.

    1. Rob Campbell

      Yes, first saw this on tv. He’s a complex character who appears to suffer from a similar complex to mine: having spent a lot of time outwith the native land, despite best efforts, it never feels quite the same again. I suppose a benefit is that it produces a kind of objectivity that’s impossible if you never depart home and hearth. AFAIK Tim spent a lot of time in Paris; maybe he finds a similar effect back home?

      Chimping: I think this can have two reasons: dedicated film people may feel little confidence in digital camera exposures; there is ever the thought that famous people toting famous brands have connections that have to be honoured… yeah, cynical moi. Also, don’t forget this: he always used an exposure meter even under fire. Old habits…

      Keith: typos etc. are a plague of the Internet age; rest happy in knowing you know when one happens!


  2. StephenJ

    I went to the exhibition that related to the posted video here:

    I found the bloke to be an unreconstructed student lefty type. His photography is often gratuitous, definitely an early example of the genus known as “social justice warrior”. His daft and obvious attempts at allusions to (in his lofty view), other people’s poor moral compass is pretty cackhanded.

    No, what really marks him out though is his excellent ability in the darkroom, whatever his subject. I guess also he was probably pretty fearless in his war photography days, as one of the exhibits attests, his Nikon saved his life when it was hit with a stray bullet.

    As for some of the language being used and topics being rather clumsily handled, that’s the BBC agenda for you, almost a carbon copy of the one possessed by the Don himself.

    So anyway, like the parson’s egg really.

      1. StephenJ

        Yes, I am sure we did, but I also went to the National Gallery and saw the associated exhibition.

        I don’t know what your complex is Rob, but he seems to be weeping for an England that was never there. It is a problem for old people.

        Honestly you are, despite your regular whinges, better off on your adopted island than on this one, at least it is warm.

        So anyway, apart from the gratuitous nature of some of his work, which I am sure he thought was important, I think that he is a better artist than he is political commentator.

        Nothing much changes, things just look superficially different but we still identify as roundhead or cavalier.

        On the way out of the gallery, I stopped by to look at a few Turners.

        The sun is God!

  3. Dan Castelli

    Jeez, and here I am thinking there’s hope for me to be still shooting when I get to my 80’s after watching McCullim on this video. Then I’m thinking this guy is hauling a Mamiya RB67…that was heavy when I was in my 20’s…With my busted back walking with my Leica M4-P is painful, but Don handles the Mamiya like a football (USA) or rugby ball (UK.)
    It appears I missed the point of the video entirely. I guess I need to remove my rose-tinted Ray Bans and see the world in all it’s lefty, gratuitous hypocritical glory. Thanks Stephenj for opening my eyes.

    1. StephenJ

      Dan, you seem to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

      He’s OK, but there is more to him than a 30 minute BBC contrivance.

      Clearly my ability at opening some people’s eyes is faulty, you have seen something different in my actual comment… Just like our man in Mallorca.

      So Bruce Gilden takes pictures of ugly people and he gets torn to bits on this very site.

      The holy Don takes ugly pictures of people with holes in, or flies crawling over them, and that is sensitive and wonderful.

      Both make their living that way.

      1. Dan Castelli

        I was taken aback at your strident attack aimed at McCullim’s work. Here in the US, we’ve got a president who engages in spewing such venom. It’s trite, predictable and tiring.
        Can’t you just leave it at “I don’t like his work and please pass the hot sauce?”

        1. StephenJ

          That’s the point, I do like his work, but I was also adding, by way of making conversation, the opinion that he is a student lefty type, and that some of his pictures seem a bit gratuitous. The question of why most photographers seem to be left wing is one that I often reflect on, especially when one starts gushing leftyisms at me.

          You see, I went to the museum exhibition and saw about a 1000 pictures of Mr. McCullin’s.

          So many in fact Mr. Castella, I can even spell his name. 🙂

          What sometimes really pisses me off is that everyone seems to be allowed to air their opinion on this or that subject, as long it is “the right” one.

          Watch that video above and listen to the crap, it is all contrived and false, and his ridiculous pursuit of the crack slaves was nauseating. We had to have a laugh at people at the beach, we had to go to Glyndebourne and have a laugh at the toffs, and so on…

          … do not blame McCullin for that though, that is typical BBC, every joke has to be at the expense of those that we are meant to find a bit “gammony”, but he was a willing participant nevertheless. A bit like Rob’s hilarious joke below, as he rides the coat tails of Lady Nugent.

          But when you get to the method etc., you get the real thing.

          1. Dan Castelli

            I’m lying on my floor, wounded three times by stephenj!
            You so kindly point out a typo, then snidely remind me you can spell his name, then in true, immature fashion, misspell my name. Well done sir.
            You must be the most interesting person you know. A legend in your own mind. I am done with you.
            “I am trying to say something about the despised, the defeated, the alienated. About death & disaster, about the wounded, the crippled, the helpless, the rootless, the dislocated…about the finality. About the last ditch.” – Dorothea Lange
            That is why most photojournalists & documentary photographers are ‘lefties.’

  4. StephenJ

    From memory, you have a “Trotter’s Independent Traders” Reliant Robin somewhere around Puerto Pollensa if I remember?

    Apparently the ex-pat crowd like that sort of thing.

    1. Rob Campbell

      Better get the memory checked out: could be incipient Alzies creeping up on you.

      The expat lot I know prefers E-Types, well refurbished. Look cool beside the Sunseekers.


  5. Colin Templeton

    Tim – thanks so much for sharing that. I’ve just spent an hour I didn’t really have to spare, absorbed in Don’s worldview. What a lovely way he has with people. Wonderful stuff.

  6. Rob Campbell

    Dan, Dorothea was right then as she would be today. The sharp end of life removes the visual scales. And it works both ways: when unions get too powerful and call strikes that inconvenience thousands of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the issues those unions – and perhaps, sometimes, even their members – have, I go back and think to myself that all of those people should be exposed to a year or even six months of working for themselves; very soon they would get the point (I’d hope, but you never can tell) that the world owes you nothing.

    I admire McCullin for what he has endured and achieved; it don’t come easy, especially starting from his starting blocks.

    Yet, yet, I have always felt uneasy about people doing their Nat. Geog. and trogging off to distant lands to photograph the natives like one would collect butterflies. There’s another of his videos, shot for Canon, in India, where he does his street number with two Canons on his shoulder. Frequent shots of the logo do little to lessen the feeling that there goes a hero who has sold his soul. But hey, he has a nice country pad; maybe it costs one helluva lot to maintain. Now, before anyone lays a charge of hypocricy at my doorstep, I would do the same for Canon or anyone else – please? – but not in that genre.

    I feel even more depressed when I think of Martin Parr; he, in my humble opinion, has done a hatchet job on his own countrymen and women, not to mention kids. Making a mockery of the poor, badly educated and with little sense of the finer things in life is not cool, it’s cruel. I guess, again, both he and Magnum needed the money at the time. Money eventually overpowers the good it does and screws everything. McCullin, on the other hand, with his London poverty pictures, at least had the window of publication, and at a time when the public could ask questions such as how come, in our country? The same unanswered questions are valid today, but would the public exposure exist? However, the different ways in which you shoot and use the same subject matter makes a difference, often a very large one.

    This is terribly easy to write from the comfort of a sofa. Quite how I’d feel, behave and act today if my photographic life had exposed me to the hell of war, over and over again, instead of to women of the pretty kind, I have no idea. I remember from other interviews with Don that he can never get those images amd memories out of his head and his dreams. Oh what a price, one I’d hate to pay.

  7. Dan Castelli

    Rob, thanks for the link…
    I bought “The Last Resort” in 1987 and enjoyed the window into the beach life. Our Coney Island could have mirrored the shots in the book. Recently, I saw a copy of “Beach People” and Mr. Parr’s eye seems to have gone a bit bitter. I found the same with Elliott Erwitt – his early work was a joy to see, but recent publications show a sharper, nastier edge…
    Maybe McCullin is suffering from PTSD incurred during his years photographing war. I’m not in his head, so I don’t know. I do know I enjoyed looking at the video, watching a master photographer at work & in the darkroom @ 85. His comment were his, and if they offend some, they should remember such comments are not doctrine nor biblical passages, just one person’s musing.
    BTW, the shot of the car & British Food was just damn funny…

    1. StephenJ

      “… they should remember such comments are not doctrine nor biblical passages, just one person’s musing.”


      I won’t tell you what I thought of Martin Parr’s book on Oxford, you might take offence again.

    2. Rob Campbell

      You may have touched on something, Dan. Apart from the photographer input, as I age I see or believe that I see things differently: where once I saw great bravery in war pix, today I tend to see them as madness and egotripping beyond the sane. Also, the Parr material I have seen has never, even when I was young, struck me as anything but cruel, part of an agenda to make money out of misery. Of course, that can be countered by the thought that the people shot that way may think they are having a whale if a time.

      In the end, who’s to judge but ourselves?

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