McCullin, released last year, is a candid and often shocking documentary charting the life of legendary photographer Donald McCullin. It starts with his big break; photographing inner-city life, the rough parts of north London and his friends and relatives, and quickly describes his rise as a newspaper photographer starting in Germany at the rise of the Berlin Wall.
Some of the archive footage shown, as well as McCullin’s photographs, are a deeply shocking document on the human psyche. It’s amazing how peoples’ attitudes to war are warped when they get enveloped in strife. Everything becomes normal. In his own words, ‘he was learning about the price of humanity and its sufferings’, and relates this with his own experiences of not just being a voyeur of the suffering, but actively helping in situations when he could.
The perfect word to describe this documentary is morbid, as it really makes you contemplate the fragility of life. These images don’t get less shocking; the audience aren’t supposed to feel desensitised to the imagery, and McCullin’s voice over helps. He relates all of his tales to his emotions, which are all underscored by emotive music, resulting in some genuinely upsetting scenes. That said, the movie does have some light-hearted moments, but they are few and far between.
It is very interesting getting the photographers take on the horrific situations. He had no political affiliation, ideological stand point, he just wanted to document the madness and insanity of war. Nothing else. He put himself through not just physical danger, but the emotional stress of his job is obvious on a number of occasions in the runtime, and it’s quite upsetting.
McCullin is a very eye-opening documentary. It doesn’t have an agenda, a la Michael Moore. In fact is quite the opposite; it’s an honest, deep and haunting account of one man’s life, during which he took himself deep into the abyss just to try and show the truth.
Photography is the truth if it is being told by a truthful person.