Donald McCullin, CBE Hon FRPS (born 9 October 1935, Finsbury Park, London, England) is an internationally known British photojournalist, particularly recognized for his war photography and images of urban strife. His career, which began in 1959, has specialised in examining the underside of society, and his photographs have depicted the unemployed, downtrodden and the impoverished.
McCullin’s period of National Service in the RAF saw him posted to the Canal Zone during the 1956 Suez Crisis, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant. He failed to pass the written theory paper necessary to become a photographer in the RAF, and so spent his service in the darkroom.
In 1959, a photograph he took of a local London gang was published in The Observer. Between 1966 and 1984, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the Sunday Times Magazine, recording ecological and man-made catastrophes such as war-zones, amongst them Biafra, in 1968 and victims of the African AIDS epidemic. His hard-hitting coverage of the Vietnam War and the Northern Ireland conflict is particularly highly regarded.
He also took the photographs of Maryon Park in London which were used in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film blowup. In 1968, his Nikon camera stopped a bullet intended for him.
In 1982 the British Government refused to grant McCullin a press pass to cover the Falklands War. At the time he believed it was because the Thatcher government felt his images might be too disturbing politically. However, it recently emerged that he was a victim of bureaucracy: he had been turned away simply because the Royal Navy had used up its quota of press passes.
He is the author of a number of books, including The Palestinians (with Jonathan Dimbleby, 1980), Beirut: A City in Crisis (1983), and Don McCullin in Africa (2005). His book, Shaped by War (2010), was published to accompany a major retrospective exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North, Salford, England in 2010 and then at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and the Imperial War Museum, London. His most recent publication is Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire, a poetic and contemplative study of selected Roman and pre-Roman ruins in North Africa and the Middle East.
In later years, McCullin has turned to landscape and still-life works and taking commissioned portraits.
In 2012 a documentary film of his life, McCullin directed by David Morris and Jacqui Morris was released. The film was nominated for two BAFTA awards.