The full film is extraordinary. An amazing man, and an amazing life. The quiet power of it all – the photos, his commentary – is overwhelming.
Stills photography seems somehow old-fashioned. Today we have live footage streamed from mobile phones. But his work is so exquisite, so dreadful. Art as horror. McCullin himself refers to the Goya-esque nature of some of his work – those photos of people imploring whatever god they believe in to do something.
As his work is horribly fascinating, so is he. He gently presses the ethics of it all. Constantly questioning what he’s doing in war zones, but constantly driven to return. Hints of a disastrous family life. But the work. Always the work. He nearly has his legs blown off – so he takes up his camera to photograph the bodies of the men lying next to him. The man dying next to him.
Cyprus, Biafra, Congo, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, Cambodia.
“Look on these and think again,” says Harold Evans, his former editor at the Sunday Times. Then Murdoch took over, and McCullin was out. War photography doesn’t sell advertising space.