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. “