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DON MCCULLIN
[b. 1935] British photojournalist, recognized for his war photography
Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. - Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts : A Life's Work in Photography by Don McCullin (Photographer), Mark Haworth-Booth (Introduction), Donald McCullin , ISBN: 0893816590 , Page: 96
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I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job. - Don McCullin - Caption to a photograph., The Destruction Business by Don McCullin , ISBN: 0333130227 , Page: 91
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I am sometimes accused by my peers of printing my pictures too dark. All I can say is that it goes with the mood of melancholy that is induced by witnessing at close quarters such intractable situations of conflict and joylessness. - Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts : A Life's Work in Photography by Don McCullin (Photographer), Mark Haworth-Booth (Introduction), Donald McCullin , ISBN: 0893816590 , Page: 104
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Although I take my work seriousily I cannot take myself seriously. When you think of it, everything has happened by accident. I have always believed that I don't own my photography, rather that it owns me. It gave me a life, an extraordinary life which could never be repeated. I feel as if the gift of seeing what is really going on in the world is mine only so long as I put it to proper use. There is nothing to be claimed and nothing to regret, except that we go on treating our fellow human beings so badly. - Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts : A Life's Work in Photography by Don McCullin (Photographer), Mark Haworth-Booth (Introduction), Donald McCullin , ISBN: 0893816590 , Page: 198
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I realized that you could shoot photographs until the cows came home but they have nothing to do with real humanity, real memories, real feelings. - Don McCullin

It's not important that I record every tragedy that goes on in the world. But I decided to try a couple of shots. And I did something despicable. I wound the car window down and took the photographs from inside. Then I hated myself for not having the decency and courage to at least get out and do something... - Don McCullin, Camera Culture by Halla Beloff , ISBN: 0631139893 , Page: 222
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Our once great newspapers, which told us what went on in the world even when we couldn't affect it, have become instruments of a promotional culture, little more than catalogues advising us what to consume. This is not a great age in which to be a photojournalist. - Don McCullin - 10 September 1997, British Journal of Photography

You can't go around kidding yourself that your photographs in a few papers will change the world. They can't and they haven't. I dispair about the human race. The press only shows the bums, the killers and the arms dealers and people like that. Good news never sold a newspaper. - Don McCullin

Seeing, looking at what others cannot bear to see is what my life is all about. - Don McCullin

I don’t believe you can see what’s beyond the edge unless you put your head over it; I’ve many times been right up to the precipice, not even a foot or an inch away. That’s the only place to be if you’re going to see and show what suffering really means... I've spent fourteen years getting on and off aeroplanes and photographing other people's conflicts. I will never get on another aeroplane and go photograph another country's war. - Don McCullin, 1000 Photo Icons by Anthony Bannon (Foreword), George Eastman House , ISBN: 3822820970 , Page: 677
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Soldiers firing rifles in war make ordinary pictures because without the action, the smell and the noise, you have no truth... - Don McCullin, The Destruction Business by Don McCullin , ISBN: 0333130227 , Page: 68
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You can only demand respect from the energies around us if you practice respect yourself. - Don McCullin

Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. - Don McCullin

It is the photographer’s job to show some of [the horror of war], to say: this is what it’s like on the ground, this is what war does to you. - Don McCullin - Source: Amateur Photographer of 27 February 2010, p. 28

I’m not an artist. I’ve been struggling against that word all my life. The American photographers all want to be called artists. I’m a photographer and I stand by it. - Don McCullin

A lot of people write to me, "I want to be a war photographer," and it sickens me in a way. The desire to view death and suffering as a spectacle or adventurous career opportunity is perverse, especially when photographers only train their lenses on the problems of others. O.K., if you want to be a war photographer you don’t have to get in a plane and go to somebody else’s country. There’s a lot of poverty and misery and suffering in your own. I’ve been there. - Don McCullin

Somebody may have been killed by the wayside and his body is rotting away and nobody cares that it was a human being and it was a person— a living person. I care, and I am going to photograph it— as horrible as it looks, I'm going to photograph it. - Don McCullin

I don’t want to die for a few pictures. I want to live for every sunrise I can clap my eyes on; I want to see my family get older; I want to see the world try and get a bit more peaceful and understanding, which unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever see. - Don McCullin

Sometimes it felt like I was carrying pieces of human flesh back home with me, not negatives. It’s as if you are carrying the suffering of the people you have photographed. - Don McCullin

I feel shabby—because I’ve made a name, quite a good name, out of photography. And I still find myself asking the same questions: Who am I? What am I supposed to be? What have I done? - Don McCullin

You cannot walk on the water of hunger, misery, and death. You have to wade through to record them. - Don McCullin

Photography isn’t about just pushing that button. It’s about the experience of being there. - Don McCullin

Photography has been very, very generous to me, but at the same time has damaged me. - Don McCullin

Photography’s a case of keeping all the pores of the skin open, as well as the eyes. A lot of photographers today think that by putting on the uniform, the fishing vest, and all the Nikons, that that makes them a photographer. But it doesn’t. It’s not just seeing. It’s feeling. - Don McCullin

I felt I had seen so much horror that it was likely to destroy me…. Yet… I cannot do without the head-on collision with life I have when I am working. - Don McCullin

There is no doubt that my photographs have a very strong religious overtone, they are like twentieth century icons. When human beings are suffering, they tend to look up, as if hoping for salvation. And that’s when I press the button. - Don McCullin

...there is guilt in every direction: guilt because I don’t practice religion, guilt because I was able to walk away, while this man was dying of starvation or being murdered by another man with a gun. And I am tired of guilt, tired of saying to myself: “I didn’t kill that man on that photograph, I didn’t starve that child.” That’s why I want to photograph landscapes and flowers. I am sentencing myself to peace. - Don McCullin

You could easily cut yourself on me if you ran your hands down the edge of me. - Don McCullin

I don’t make any protest other than to take photographs and show how bad it is. - Don McCullin

The colleges are turning out photographers like strings of sausages. - Don McCullin

Photography will screw you every time it gets a chance to screw you, every time you put a roll into the camera... Sometimes I come back and find that the film has been damaged or that the camera’s back has been leaking. I don’t get angry, I don’t smash the camera, I just laugh and think: “It didn’t respect me, I wasn’t meant to have it.” - Don McCullin

Who needs great pictures when somebody’s dying and he’s only five years old? - Don McCullin - On his own photographs of starvation in Biafra.

I don’t want to be called an artist, I don’t have the right to practice creativity at the expense of human suffering. Nevertheless I shoot my pictures to the best of my ability. - Don McCullin

I’m like an old junkie, in a way. You don’t stick syringes in your arm—you go straight for the most important part of your body, the brain. You are destroying it the moment you go to your first war. - Don McCullin

Someone may have been killed by the wayside and his body is rotting away and nobody cares that it was a human being and it was a person—a living person. I care, and I’m going to photograph it—as horrible as it looks, I’m going to photograph it. - Don McCullin

I like photographing the English landscape in the winter, because it’s naked and it’s cold and it’s lonely, and I feel lonely doing it—and yes, I feel as happy as anything. There’s no politics, there’s no one saying: “get off my land!” No one’s pointing a gun at me. It’s almost as if I’m drinking from the flower, as if I’m drinking the pure nectar of freedom. - Don McCullin

It wasn’t my fault if in Sabra and Shatila the light was almost biblical, if what happened in front of my eyes was like a scene out of Goya. - Don McCullin

The camera was a key to open up my life. It was like opening a huge window to the world. It gave me education, it gave me hope, it gave me travel, and in the end, after giving me all those things, it started taking things away from me. It took my mind away from me, it took things back from me. You don’t own those things in the beginning. You don’t own yourself in the beginning, you’re just dumped on this earth and you have to stand up and try to walk and try to get through it. - Don McCullin

The darkroom can be cruel. You have to talk your way through your printing, alone, sometimes you turn the radio on and listen to trash music. When I finish, I wash everything meticulously, I dust everything, it’s like paying a homage to the spiritual power that could destroy me. And I won’t let it. Something else will destroy me—but it won’t be the darkroom, it won’t be photography. I am very strong, nearly ninety nine percent of me is strong and fortified all around. But I am sure there is a crack, somewhere behind me, in my make-up, where the damage will get in and destroy me. - Don McCullin

The real struggle now takes place in my darkroom where I try to resist the temptation of printing my pictures too dark. - Don McCullin

The photographer must be a patient and humble creature, ready to move forward or disappear into thin air. If I am alone and witness to happiness or shame, or even death, and no one is near, I may have had choices, one to be the photographer, the other the man; but what I try to be is human. - Don McCullin

People have always said that the darkroom is my womb, and I suppose that’s true. I like the consistency of the dark. It keeps me safe. - Don McCullin

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