Don McCullin

Don McCullin

2016 Honoree: Achievement in Photojournalism


Don McCullin was born in Saint Pancras, London, UK, in 1935 and spent his childhood in the derelict area of Finsbury Park. After the death of his father, he left school at the age of 14 and worked at various odd jobs to support himself before being called up for two years of national service in the Royal Air Force as an assistant for aerial photography. His first reportage, on the “Guvnors”—a youth gang in his childhood neighborhood—was published in The Observer in February 1959. In 1961 he photographed in Berlin during the construction of the wall. He produced his first war assignment for The Observer in 1964, covering the civil war in Cyprus. In 1966 he began his 18-year affiliation with The Sunday Times Magazine, covering numerous conflicts and battlefields in the Congo, Biafra (Nigeria), Israel, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh, Lebanon, El Salvador, and Kurdistan, and becoming one of history’s greatest war photographers.

He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his acclaimed autobiography, Unreasonable Behaviour (1990, 2015), Sleeping With Ghosts (1996), and 2001’s retrospective Don McCullin recently re-edited (all by Jonathan Cape). In more recent years, in addition to his landscape work in Britain published as Open Skies in 1989, and along the Ganges, published as India in 1999, he has focused primarily on the African continent, documenting the AIDS crisis in South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia, and producing in 2005 a book on the “lost tribes” of Ethiopia, Don McCullin in Africa. In 2010 his five-year work on the ruins of the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean basin was published in Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire (all by Jonathan Cape). His most recent opus sums up his career: Irreconcilable Truths is a three-volume boxed set of a limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies (War & Reportage; Landscapes, Still Lifes & Travel; and Unreasonable Behaviour) published in 2016 by The English Group, UK.

Mr. McCullin is the winner of numerous awards, including two Premier Awards from the World Press Photo, in 1964 and 1977. In 1992 he became the only photojournalist to be made Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and received in 2006 the Cornell Capa Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography, New York.

His photographs are exhibited worldwide with constant acclaim such as the most recent retrospectives presented in Italy in 2012 (Palazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia); Shaped by War that toured in 2011–12 with the Imperial War Museum (Manchester, London); and in the summer 2016, Looking Beyond the Edge at the Rencontres d’Arles festival in France, showcasing his work in England and his landscape images. Mr. McCullin is based in Somerset, England. He has been associated with Contact Press Images since 1995.

Don McCullin – presented by David Friend, Vanity Fair