This book is an illustrated autobiography of Don McCullin.
The book has photos of documents and personal mementos, covers of magazines as well as photos of conflicts covered by Don McCullin, which are the core of the illustrations. Many photos are in colour, an unusual thing to find in McCullin’s books.
This is not a photobook per se such as “Don McCullin”, the new definitive edition published by Jonathan Cape (Ransom House/Penguin) in 2015 (ISBN 978-1910702017), for example .
The photos of old magazines’ covers look just like that: Photos on old magazines. But the book also has several large plates and the quality, many times, look better to my eyes than photos in the definitive edition mentioned before as I prefer the sharpness and balanced light of the photos in this book to photos printed, on purpose, darker than the original negative. I understand that the darker printing seems to be a preference of the photographer but that doesn’t that mean that I have to like them better than other reproductions, printed in a different way, that I’ve seen.
The narrative is absorbing and I read the book in three days. Whenever I had the time I opened this book and went through its text and illustrations. I read “Unreasonable Behaviour” but that was over ten years ago and I don’t remember much of it apart from the general idea of seeing a young man going from a parochial view of the world to a cosmopolitan one. I do remember that “Unreasonable Behaviour”, unlike “Shaped by War” , had lots of references to the photographer’s personal life.
“Shaped by War”, apart from the first chapter, focus mainly on the photographer’s work whilst covering wars and other tragedies.
This is a really excellent book. The only hiccup, let’s say, in the book is that at some point the text goes half page about a photograph taken in West Hartlepool in 1963 and how the photograph was one of best pictures Don McCullin ever took but the photo is not on the book. I do have the photo in other books and you can easily find the photo on the internet.
I think that Don McCullin is the best photographer alive. I also have a great admiration for the man, his values, his attempt to seek some sort of personal redemption after all the horrors he witnessed. Don McCullin lives in Somerset, surrounded by nature.
He says at the end of this book that “ I don’t go fishing anymore…It’s fantastic to watch trout move from side to side across the river. It’s magical. It’s like a ballet. There’s no need to kill a trout that is too small for the plate. I don’t kill anything here. That’s why I bought the land on the other side of the river. Somebody wanted to buy it to stalk the deer. I won’t allow them to shoot on my land. I wake up in the morning and see the deer under my apple trees, about five hundred yards away, and I couldn’t be happier. “
on 8 February 2010
Superb book beautifully printed and designed. I have all of Don's other books, so it is great to see some of his less well-known pictures, especially the colour work. The text is obviously taken from extensive interviews and there are some great insights. It is also great to see the pictures shown in there published context with captions and a two page spread of contact sheets from the Battle of Hue. This is a perfect accompaniment to the Imperial War Museums superb traveling exhibition starting in Manchester, England.
A must for all students and practitioners of photojournalism.
on 12 February 2010
I thought by purchasing this book I would own a copy of some of the world's most iconic photographs. I wanted it to be slice of Don himself. I wanted punchy, gutsy, shocking images full of passion, desperation and raw emotion. I wanted to be transported into the world of the greatest photojournalist. This was to be a coffee table book to browse through too.
When I opened it and began reading I was more blown Away than some of the unlucky men Don captured!
I got far more than I'd bargained for and Don did not fail to deliver on my expectations.
The narrative accompanying the photographs bring them to life in a way that takes your breath away. Not only do I now have an amazing collection of superb journalistic images on my coffee table, I can also understand and appreciate what they're about and what Don was doing when the image presented itself to him. Knowing why he took a specfic photograph is more important than the photograph itself. I was so engrossed I read the entire book in one sitting and crept into bed in the early hours. My mind was racing that much I hardly slept. The narrative has not been constructed as I would have expected! It jumps backwards and forwards in time occasionally and is crafted from multiple interviews. The non-conformist way in which it has been written does not detract at all though. If anything, I find it pleasing and personal. It's written as though your sat with Don, and as we turn a page to see another photograph he tells you all about it. You get more than a slice of Don in this most memorable of books, you get a full-on one-to-one about each and every image.
There's little point in reviewing the photographs really. You're reading this because you're intriged to find out what people think of the book. Don's photographs speak for themselves and speak volumes. He's the best so what would you expect?
As an enthusiastic and completely amateur war photographer, I found the inclusion of his contact sheets complete with notes fascinating.
War is a great leveller and the more you witness the more you understand just how cruel and vulgar humans can be. This has taken it's toll on many of us that have witnessed it and none moreso than Don. He's very candid in his feelings of guilt and suffering but he should not punish himself or feel bad. He brought the world of war into ordinary folk's lives and etched their minds for life. Someone had to take the images and not intervene. That man was Don McCullin and we all owe him a great deal of gratitude.
That you for a splendid book Don and well done.
on 3 June 2010
An excellent introduction to the work of Don McCullin combined with an abridged autobigraphy. However, if you already own any or all of Don's earlier books then this will just be going over old ground.
As a stand-alone piece of work I've awarded this 5 stars - the printing is of excellent quality (Hardback edition) and the chosen images illustrate Don McCullin's catalogue of work very well. The writing is a very easy to read style, even if the content (and the accompanying images) can be somewhat harrowing.
If, taking into account the comments above, you choose to purchase this book then I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Don McCullin is my all time favorite Photographer, I have a collection of his hardback books now and they're all brilliant! This is no exception. I wont bother adding much more to the review as what needs to be said has been said by the other reviewers who have given in 5 stars!
If you admire Don McCullin, and admire brilliant reportage photography and photography in general - buy it!
McCullin hates being labelled as a war photographer - and indeed he is much more than this - but there is no escaping the fact he is known for capturing images of war so hauntingly.
This book accompanies the current Imperial War Museum exhibition of his war photography, and in many ways is an updated and larger format version of his memorable autobiography "Unreasonable Behaviour". The book is excellent in that it collects together many aspects of McCullin's work in the arena of war, often presenting the images as they appeared in publications of the time, such as The Sunday Times Magazine. There is also rare colour work contained here as well.
The accompanying text - placed in the context of McCullin's life, experiences and influences, never overpowers the images, and the book also contains one or two of his haunting landscapes, most notably from the Somerset levels and the Somme.
Production values are, as you'd expect, high, but the feel of the paper and sharpness of the prints is not quite up there with other volumes, such as "In England". Nevertheless, given the price of the book and the amount of images it contains, it's great value, and one to consider if you don't have earlier collections of the man's work. Engrossing and memorable.