Home > don mccullin, james nachtwey, photojournalism, war photographers > “I don’t want to be remembered as a war photographer”

“I don’t want to be remembered as a war photographer”

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Don McCullin is one of the most interesting of war photographers, for the thinking behind (and beyond) his photography. Unlike James Nachtwey, for example, who seems to have found a way to see his work as humane and necessary, McCullin never seems to be at ease with his own legacy.

McCullin himself offers thoughts on the subject in a BBC audio slideshow, which is worth checking out. Should he feel guilty towards his subjects? Is his work merely exploitation?

McCullin says that he doesn’t even like his own work, that he feels guilt over it … yet also that “I like the idea of showing damage, because war is not a creative situation; it is about damaging other people’s lives.” Even as he sets out to show this to us, he is aware that his photography, also, can damage people’s lives.

Nachtwey discussed his feelings on similar questions in Christian Frei’s film, War Photographer, and particularly in this excerpt:

At times, Nachtwey’s commitment, his insistence that his work can have value, seems almost too pat — although, of course, this involves assumptions that are unfair to Nachtwey. But McCullin’s view of his work and ethics is so candid, and so conflicted, that he remains endlessly fascinating.

  1. February 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Brilliant people. They never present these images as the pornography of violence, which is what the same scenes get converted into in the instant media blender. But I worry that the only cure for the level of overload people endure today is something so unfiltered that its existence becomes the open secret, that which we all know about but refuse to acknowledge. Viewing the raw feed on the AP site gives one some sense of the vastness of violence. But the violence-porn of CNN and the BBC almost heads that off yet again. We are in even more desperate need of war photography that has impact, and a form of impact that doesn’t just lead to people becoming inured.

  2. February 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    A form of impact that doesn’t just lead to people becoming inured … that, indeed, is the problem. And a tricky problem it is.

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