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Unreasonable Behaviour: An Autobiography Paperback – 6 Jun 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437765
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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 Carré)

"If this was just a book of McCullin's war photographs it would be valuable enough. But it is much more." (Sunday Correspondent)

"From the opening...there is hardly a dull sentence: his prose is so lively and uninhibited... An excellent book." (Sunday Telegraph)

"If anyone is the living embodiment of the power of a photo, it is Don McCullin." (Christina Lamb Sunday Times)

"This is a great book not just for those with an interest in photography, but also for those with an interest in modern history." (Oliver Atwell Amateur Photographer)

Book Description

'McCullin is required reading if you want to know what real journalism is all about.' - Times Literary Supplement

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Don McCullin has been witness to more misery than any one man has a right to, and the impact this life had had upon him to the time this book was written is clearly evident not just from the realities about which he writes, but also from the tone he uses.
Like many photographers of his ilk, he set out hoping that the pictures he took might make a difference, might make people and governments think twice about the things they do. Perhaps more than anything else, the British Government's refusal to allow him to go to the Falklands - preferring instead to send three million Mars Bars - left him with the feeling that it doesn't make a lot of difference in the end, and that, perhaps, his life has marked him rather than the world he tried to educate through his pictures.
This book is a must for anyone contemplating a career along McCullin's lines, perhaps it will make them think twice before exposing themselves needlessly to danger. It is also a must for anyone who wants to see the man behind the images that documented so much of the late Twentieth Century's most significant events. His writing style is as compelling as his images, and this book is as a result moving, and difficult to put down.
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Don McCullin's frank and unsettling autobiography is as graphic and dark as many of his well-known photographs. Currently enjoying renewed interest in his work through recent exhibitions, he's at pains to explain that he wants to be known just as a photographer rather than the label "war photographer" - but of course, this is what he is most well-known for.

Unreasonable Behaviour charts McCullin's extraordinarily eventful life, and contains some harrowing and haunting images that have made his work famous around the world. Much of the time the book is descriptive, journalistic, impressionistic, and much of McCullin himself remains hidden. This is understandable, given the life he's led and the result it has had on him, but the private life and thoughts of the man are equally interesting - if not more so.

Interestingly for me, the story of McCullin's childhood and early adulthood in London was as powerful and compelling as any of the war zones he describes and after a while, it must be said - one chaotic and awful war zone begins to read and look just like another one. Some of the short, punchy chapters that characterise this book are better and more interesting than others, but overall it's one of the more powerful autobiographies of a media photographer that I've read. You cannot help but wonder how one man can pack so much into his life, and just what price has been paid for some of the images he has recorded. Worth a read even if you are not interested in photography? Absolutely.

NOTE ON THE UPDATED VERSION: Having just taken receipt of the updated hardback copy of the book that celebrates McCullin's 80th birthday, a couple of points that might be useful for prospective purchasers.
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A brilliantly written account of Don McCullin's experiences in every available 'hot war' across the 70s, 80s and early 90s.

On one hand, 'Unreasonable Behaviour' can be read almost as a boy's-own story of fearless derring-do, as McCullin plunges into situation after situation of almost unimaginable peril, with only a Nikon between him, an awful lot of hot metal and some really terrifying people, and with almost no regard for his personal safety. Heart enters mouth as early as the second chapter and rarely leaves thereafter.

On the other, it's one of the bleakest, most wretched books I have ever read, and not only because so much is concerned with brutality, atrocity and the very worst examples of human behaviour.

McCullin's bravery is initially astonishing - he reports very little fear even when faced with the worst danger, even when staring down a lens at its terrible consequences. Gradually it becomes evident, however, that what we are witnessing is less about heroism, more about an almost complete absence of self-worth and that the reason he can so recklessly put his life on the line is because he values it so very little. Not quite 'no sense, no feeling', for he is by no means a stupid or insensitive man, but something along those lines. There's something missing. As the book progresses towards an almost unbearably sad ending, the personal life moves increasingly centre stage and it becomes evident that the title isn't just about what McCullin has witnessed.

Note that this isn't really a book for camera geeks. McCullin is a photojournalist first and a photographer second. His interest is in getting close to the action, less about the technical quality of the snap - which, ironically, is what makes them so arresting. But you'll look in vain for anything on lenses, bodies or films, other than a useful tip on what camera works best when you have to change film under fire and flat on your back.
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Don McCullin has captured the very essence of war and the emotions that suffering evokes. His perceptions of war and the descriptions of the many conflicts he covered as a photojournalist are both fascinating and disturbing. This is a beautifully written autobiography, in which he also talks openly about himself and his emotions. The closing chapters of his book are especially poignant as he struggles to come to terms with work and family difficulties.
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