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Matinee: 'Don McCullin: The Stillness of Life' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

18 January 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 237th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Don McCullin: The Stillness of Life.

In this eight-minute clip, Sir Don McCullin CBE discusses the images in his exhibition The Stillness of Life, which will open later this month at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

We did feature McCullin in a 2014 Canon production for our Saturday matinee. And while we don't like to repeat ourselves, this video brings us up-to-date on someone we profit from following. He has been, for example, knighted since then.

McCullin has spent the last six decades covering conflicts all over the world. The landscapes, which he photographs in black-and-white, are his "salvation," as he puts it.

He has nothing nice to say about war.

He walks us out onto a damp meadow early in the morning to show us what he means. And we get a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves that is not destructive but reviving.

Just when we think we've got him pegged as one of those black-and-white landscape photographers, he shows us a street scene from the 1970s. He calls it an "urban landscape." Landscape "isn't just something that's supplied to the countryside," he says. "There's a landscape and a tapestry in cities as well."

And just as you think he's going all street photographer on you, he shows you to stone streets of Palmyra after ISIS destroyed the ruins of what he calls the most beautiful Roman city in the world.

He thinks he was fortunate not to see the place before it was destroyed. The images he composed afterwards are "a bit of a cultural service," he says.

Well, that's the photojournalist talking.

We get a peak at his beloved Mamiya Universal press camera. "It's a really cumberson looking, ugly old thing," he admits, "but, boy, has it got quality."

That's just halfway through. Which is when he talks about his aesthetic.

He has nothing nice to say about war. Somerset, fortunately, is his spiritual home. But nothing stays the same, he says, even if you really love the place.

We don't live in a black-and-white world, he concedes. But his monochrome images of the world "will scream at you." You won't be able to walk by them. You'll come away wondering what about them has disturbed you. "What I don't want is for [you] to walk past my picture," he concludes.

No danger of that.


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