The updated retrospective published for McCullin's 80th birthday.
Contains 40 new unpublished photographs and a new introduction — the definitive edition.
McCullin’s reputation has long been established as one of the greatest photographers of conflict in the last century. In the fourteen years since the first publication of the book, McCullin has shed the role of war photographer and become a great landscape artist. He has also travelled widely through Africa, India, the Middle East and among the tribes living in Stone Age conditions in Indonesia. His journey from the back streets of north London to his rural retreat in the depths of Somerset is unparalleled. It includes a passage through the most terrible scenes of recent history, for which his stark views of the West Country offer him some redemption.
We didn't know where it was all going. We just didn't know.
One day in 1968 Don McCullin, then regarded as the world's most accomplished war photographer, received a commission from the Apple Corporation to spend a day photographing the Beatles. McCullin had just returned from covering the bitter fighting during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and was the most hardened photojournalist in the field. He was astonished by the invitation. On Sunday 28 September he met the Beatles at the Sunday Times studio and began to photograph them in colour for a Life magazine cover. The day that followed has become known in Beatles lore as 'The Mad Day Out'. McCullin shot twenty rolls of black-and-white film in various locations across London, from the banks of the Thames to Paul McCartney's garden. Apart from the cover photograph and two pictures in McCullin's recent book In England, we believe the work to be otherwise unpublished.
The timing of this day was significant. At the height of their international fame following the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles were in the middle of recording the White Album. The war was raging in Vietnam and riots had spread through capital cities worldwide. It was the very moment of a generational divide, and the Beatles were the iconic figureheads of the youth movement. One of the most poignant photographs taken that day was of John Lennon posing as dead, surrounded by the other three, in an image that he himself had carefully choreographed. What was an intentional pose in protest is now seen as tragic and prophetic. These pictures are of four inspired musicians on the cusp of the change. They mark the passing of an era in which we can glimpse our own lost youth.
Don McCullin's reputation as the greatest photographer of conflict has been replaced in recent years with an image of McCullin as the great traveller. He is now as familiar with the remoter parts of the globe as he was once accustomed to life in the war zone. His most ambitious journey has been to explore the fringes of the Roman empire.
Southern Frontiers is divided into two parts. The first, The Levant, includes the ruins of Baalbek in the Lebanon, Palmyra in Syria and Jirash in Jordan. The second par , The Moghreb, covers a sweeping journey through the North African coastal countries Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, where he has photographed the great ruins of Leptus Magna. McCullin's photographs, taken on a large format camera, are evocative of the views of distinguished nineteenth-century predecessors who came with sketchbooks and paints. The book is produced in an appropriate large album format.
Texts on each of the sites have been written by Barnaby Rogerson, an authority on the Roman empire. The book will include an introduction by McCullin himself.
No other photographer in modern times has recorded war and its aftermath as widely and unsparingly as Don McCullin. After a childhood in London during the Blitz, and after the hardships of evacuation, McCullin feels his life has indeed been shaped by war.
From the building of the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War to El Salvador and Kurdistan, McCullin has covered the major conflicts of the last fifty years, with the notable exception of the Falklands, for which he was denied access. His pictures from the Citadel in Hue and in the ruins of Beirut are among the most unflinching records of modern war. The publication of many of his greatest stories in the Sunday Times magazine did much to raise the consciousness of a generation, even if he himself now fears that photographs cannot prevent history from repeating itself. The brutality of conflict returns over and over again. McCullin here voices his despair.
McCullin recounts the course of his professional life in a series of devastating texts on war, the events and the power of photography. The conclusion of the book marks McCullin’s retreat to the Somerset landscape surrounding his home, where the dark skies over England remind him yet again of images of war. Despite the sense of belonging and even contentment, for him there is no final escape.
Don McCullin's view of England is rooted in his wartime childhood and growing up around Finsbury Park in the fifties. His first published photograph was a picture of a gang from his neighbourhood, which appeared in a newspaper after a local murder; McCullin always balanced his anger at the unacceptable face of the nation with tenderness or compassion.
In England combines some of his greatest work with an entirely new body of photographs. McCullin sees his home country with its perpetual social gulf between the affluent and the desperate in mind. He continues in the same black and white tradition as he did between foreign assignments for the Sunday Times in the sixties and seventies, when his view of a deprived Britain seemed as dark as the conflict zones from which he'd just escaped.
This book marks his return to the cities and landscape he knew as a young photographer. At a time when we might believe the world has changed beyond our imagination, McCullin shows us a view of England where the line between the wealthy and the deprived is as defined as ever. This time he adds wry humour to his lyricism, as if the nation is as absurd as it is tragic.
Don McCullin's reputation stands as one of the greatest war photographers of our times. In recent years he has photographed the landscape surrounding his home in Somerset, but his later travels have taken him to some of the most remote regions in the world. His skill in photographing people in extreme situations has enabled him to mix with tribes on the edges of civilisation.
His work among the people of Irian Jaya, including cannibals, appeared in his last book, Don McCullin. McCullin's new work in Africa reaches one of the last corners of the earth where signs of outside influence are few, though they appear ominously significant. Over the last two years Don McCullin has travelled south from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to the valley of the Omo River leading down to the border with Sudan. There he has entered the tribal lands of the Surma, the Gheleb, the Bume, the Erbore, the Bene, the Bodi, the Karo, the Hamar and the Mursi. Extraordinary body paints decorate many of their bodies. Metalwork adorns their limbs, and, in the case of the Mursi, huge circular plates extend their lower lips and piercings open up large holes in their ear lobes. Ritualistic stick battles are enacted with ferocity. Rifles and machine guns are often cradled in the hands of warriors. The violence McCullin witnessed was staged but real dangers were close.
African tribespeople can present another face of the exotic to those of us in modern, developed cultures, especially if the photography recognises nothing of their dignity but all of their exoticism. McCullin knows too much to fall into that trap. McCullin's subjects retain their dignity and also become heroic. We, the viewers, can be amazed by their strength and beauty, and all the more so because McCullin's compassionate photography enables us to understand their vulnerability. McCullin's photographs will be prefaced by extracts from his diaries.
'He has known all forms of fear, he's an expert in it. He has come back from God knows how many brinks, all different. His experience in a Ugandan prison alone would be enough to unhinge another man - like myself, as a matter of fact - for good. He has been forfeit more times than he can remember, he says. But he is not bragging. Talking this way about death and risk, he seems to be implying quite consciously that by testing his luck each time, he is testing his Maker's indulgence' - John le Carre
'McCullin is required reading if you want to know what real journalism is all about' - The Times
'From the opening...there is hardly a dull sentence: his prose is so lively and uninhibited... An excellent book' - Sunday Telegraph
'Unsparing reminiscences that effectively combine the bittersweet life of a world-class photojournalist with a generous selection of his haunting lifework... A genuinely affecting memoir that reckons the cost and loss involved in making one's way on the cutting edge of conflict' - Kirkus Reviews
'If this was just a book of McCullin's war photographs it would be valuable enough. But it is much more' - Sunday Correspondent
Sir Don McCullin grew up in north London. He worked for the Sunday Times for eighteen years and covered every major conflict in his adult lifetime until the Falklands War. The finest British photojournalist of his generation, he has received many honours and awards including the CBE. He received a knighthood in the 2017 New Year honours list. He lives in Somerset.