10
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Don McCullin: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 14th April 2013

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“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”

“You do not go away from here without carrying a huge burden, if you are a decent human being and you have a conscience.”

“I photograph the humble, the anonymous, who are spontaneous and mirror all of us.”

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Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Canada for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Don McCullin. 'Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' 1971

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Don McCullin
Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
1971
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

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Don McCullin
US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus' 1964

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Don McCullin
Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don-McCullin-Protester,-Cuban-missile-crisis-WEB

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Don McCullin
Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin' August 1961

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Don McCullin
American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin
August 1961
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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“For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Canada is organising an monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary British photographer. Don McCullin: A Retrospective features a collection of 134 exceptional black-and-white photographs taken by McCullin, an unflinching photojournalist best known for his coverage of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. His photographs have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. McCullin has also created an important body of social documentary work and a series of lyrical landscapes in his native Britain. Several of these photographs are included in the exhibition, which will be on display until April 14, 2013 in the NGC’s Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries. “McCullin’s photographs belong in an art gallery because they consistently bring clarity and compositional grace to their compelling subject matter. These pictures are both hard to look at and hard not to.” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective highlights works from all of McCullin’s major series: portraits of the poor and the homeless in London and northern England (1950s to 1980s); the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961); war and famine in Cyprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland (1964-1982); peoples of Southeast Asia and Africa (1988-2004); and landscapes in Somerset, England, and northern France (1970-2011). In this exhibition, the artist’s journey from working class England to the killing fields and to the landscape of Arthurian myth reveals his searing outrage and profound compassion. Also included are magazines and newspapers relating to past assignments.

McCullin covered war zones on four continents, primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photographs from the battlefields belong to a tradition of war art practiced by Francisco de Goya, Otto Dix and photographer Robert Capa, artists who, like himself, sought to communicate in images the horrors of human conflict. Particularly compelling for their narrative depth, sombre lighting and powerful composition, McCullin’s photographs convey the intensity and intimacy of his human encounters. His landscapes, although also dark and brooding, speak to his desire to distance himself from the subject of human suffering.

Although, McCullin did travel to Syria recently for The Times on one final war assignment (these photographs are not included in the exhibition), his exposure to the worst human atrocities took such a toll on him that he more or less retreated from conflict zones beginning in the 1980s. McCullin does not like being called a war photographer. Nor does he think of himself as an artist, but rather as a photojournalist, or simply, a photographer. In her insightful essay in the exhibition catalogue, Sobey Curatorial Assistant Katherine Stauble writes of the war photographs: “Likely (these images) were not meant to hang on a gallery wall, but rather, to communicate information, to reveal truths and to mobilize action. Now that McCullin has escaped the battlefield and for the past twenty years has been focusing his lens on landscape and still life, one might expect the artist moniker to sit more comfortably with him.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website

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Don McCullin. 'The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London' 1958

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Don McCullin
The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'At a café in Finsbury Park, London' 1958

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Don McCullin
At a café in Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images
Photo © NGC

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Don McCullin. 'Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1984, printed c. 1985

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Don McCullin
Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London
1984, printed c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1970

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Don McCullin
Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

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Don McCullin
Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Dr  Ottawa
ON K1N 9N4, Canada
T: +1 613-990-1985

Opening hours:
Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm

National Gallery of Canada website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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