Don McCullin is a British photojournalist who specialises in war photography, as well as documenting the ‘Underside of Society’, which includes photographs of poverty and social inequality.
McCullin’s photographic career started when he was called up for National Service and was posted to the Suez Canal during the 1956 Suez Crisis. He failed his examination to become an RAF photographer and subsequently spent his time working as a photographic lab assistant.
His rise to fame began in 1959 when a photograph that he captured of a gang in London was published in The Observer, a British Sunday newspaper. For 18 years, McCullin worked as an overseas correspondent for the Sunday Times Magazine. He was responsible for accounting the effects and aftermath of many disasters, including in 1968, when he published photographs of the war-zones in Biafra. He also documented the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He is possibly best known for his coverage of of the Vietnam War and the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the IRA.
Whilst documenting a war zone in 1968, a soldier fired his gun towards McCullin, however, the Nikon camera that he was using managed to shield him from the bullet, which would have otherwise hit him, and possibly mortally wound him.
In the later years of his life, Don has focussed on photographing nature, landscapes and specially commissioned portraits.
Most of McCullin’s most notable works are that that depict conflict in foreign countries during times of unrest, such as cross-country wars, and civil-wars. One of his more recognisable works was during a war in Cyprus where he would document the action of war, as well as the victims and aftermath. In an interview he told the interviewer –
“A shepherd had been murdered and I walked into this house and I photographed a boy brushing flies off of his dead father’s face…and I remember the smell of the coffin and the candle burning in the room.”.
Each situation that he was places him, left him with emotional and sometimes physical scars. He is known to be able to recount the exact aperture and shutter speed of every photograph that he took. In the Congo, McCullin ignored orders by the Congolese government to not leave the capital city. Don was captured and beaten, and escaped only through an intervention by mercenary leader ‘Mad’ Mike Hoare. In Uganda he was captured by Idi Amin, imprisoned and beaten, and eventually expelled from the country. Being in war zones had led to McCullin being left in some very dangerous situations, during which he escaped death multiple times, but was severely injured in many different countries, including having shrapnel blown into his leg and crotch in Cambodia, and having to make his way across rooftops in Salvador to escape conflict, during which he fell and shattered his arm.
Arguably, McCullins most renowned work was captured in 1968 during the Vietnam war, which took place between the United States and The VietCong. The photograph in entitles “Shell-shocked Soldier, Hue”. This photograph was published in McCullin’s book ‘Shaped By War’. The book contains the raw, unedited, original photo’s captured by Don during conflicts in The Belgian Congo, Cyprus and Cambodia to El Salvador, Northern Ireland and Lebanon, as well as his most famous photographs from Vietnam.
In 1993 he was the first photojournalist to be awarded a CBE
McCullin’s was the subject of a 2012 film, aptly titled “McCullin” in which, for the first time, McCullin speaks candidly about his three-decade career covering wars and humanitarian disasters on virtually every continent and the photographs that often defined historic moments.
Sebastiao Salgado is a Brazilian photojournalist who has travelled to over 120 different countries and was named Master of Photography by Photo London. From war zones to famine, genocide to exodus, Salgado has documented many of the world’s major events of the last 40 years simple black and white photographs.
After earning a Masters in economics from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, he decided that he no longer wanted to be an economist, but instead wanted to become a photographer. He started his career as a news photographer before making his way towards becoming a documentary-style photographer. He signed with numerous, well renowned photographic agencies in Brazil and Paris before he and his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado formed their own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris, to represent his work.
For 7 years in the early years of the 21st century, Salgado compiled a collection of his work that he titled “Genesis”, which is the result of eight years of travelling the world. The exhibition draws together more than 200 black and white photographs of wildlife, landscapes, seascapes, and indigenous peoples. By doing this he was able to heighten public awareness about the pressing issues of environment and climate change. Salgado’s wife spoke about the collection of work, saying –
“Genesis is a quest for the world as it was, as it was formed, as it evolved, as it existed for millennia before modern life accelerated and began distancing us from the very essence of our being. It is testimony that our planet still harbors vast and remote regions where nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty.”
Some of Salgado’s most well known works are based around the differing in humanity throughout the world. A lot of his photographs depict tribes, and other groups of people who live in a way that is far outstretched from the way that we live in western society. These photographs were published in a book entitled ‘Africa’. The collection includes shots from Angola and Mozambique in 1974/75, when civil wars plagued these countries; followed by pictures of tobacco plantations from Rhodesia. Mozambican refugees in Malawi at a religious ceremony at which Mozambican widows exorcise the ghosts of their husbands, who were killed in war. The distribution of food to former FRELIMO fighters. A woman who had just given birth to triplets in a hospital. This managed to achieve worldwide acknowledgement, as people were finally able to take a non-intrusive look into the people of the world.
Like Don McCullin, Salgado was subject to a film titles ‘The Salt of the Earth’. This film follows the life and career of Salgado. It was nominated for an Oscar, as well as winning the Special Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It won the 2014 Audience Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the 2015 Audience Award at the Tromsø International Film Festival. It also won the César Award for Best Documentary Film at the 40th César Awards.