Don McCullin major retrospective reopens in Liverpool

Sir Don McCullin at Tate Britain
Image: Matt Greenwood/Tate Photography

A major retrospective of legendary British photographer Don McCullin has reopened opened at Tate Liverpool. The Tate Britain exhibition which was first shown in London in 2019, originally opened in Liverpool back in September, but was closed due to restrictions brought in by the government to restrict the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The major exhibition features over 250 photographs taken over a 60 year career – and which have all been printed by Sir Don McCullin himself in his home darkroom.

McCullin is best known as a war photographer – and has captured images of conflict from around the world including Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and Biafra. His early images were often taken at great personal risk (his Nikon camera once saved his life, taking the bullet that was aimed at him in Cambodia). 

Alongside his iconic documentary work, the exhibition will show his travel assignments and his long-term passion with landscape and still life which he has turned his camera to more frequently in the last 30 years. 

Now aged 84, McCullin began taking photographs in the 1950s, documenting his surroundings and local community in his native Finsbury Park, London. In 1958 his photograph The Guvnors, a portrait of a notorious local gang, was published in The Observer, launching his career as a photojournalist.  

Grenade Thrower, Hue, Vietnam 1968. Image: Don McCullin

Working first for The Observer and then The Sunday Times Magazine, McCullin went on to capture major conflicts around the world from Vietnam and the Congo to Cyprus and Beirut. The exhibition includes some of McCullin’s most iconic photographs including Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968, Starving Twenty Four Year Old Mother with Child, Biafra 1968 and Northern Ireland, The Bogside, Londonderry 1971. 

Seaside pier on south coast, Eastbourne, UK, 1970s. Image: Don McCullin

Sheep going to the slaughter house, early morning Caledonian Road, London, 1965. Image: Don McCullin

Woods near my house, Somerset, c1991. Image: Don McCullin

Protester, Cuban Missile Crisis, Whitehall, London, 1962. Image: Don McCullin

Homeless Irishman, Spitalfields, London, 1970. Image: Don McCullin

Alongside McCullin’s hand-printed silver gelatin prints, the exhibition also includes the photographer’s magazine spreads, contact sheets, his helmet, and that very Nikon camera which took a bullet for him in 1970.

The exhibition will now until 9 September 2021 at Tate Liverpool's Royal Albert Dock gallery. Admission is £13, or free for members. Gallery opening times are 10am to 5.50pm, seven days a week. 

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Chris George

Chris George has worked on Digital Camera World since its launch in 2017. He has been writing about photography, mobile phones, video making and technology for over 30 years – and has edited numerous magazines including PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Digital Camera, Video Camera, and Professional Photography. 

His first serious camera was the iconic Olympus OM10, with which he won the title of Young Photographer of the Year - long before the advent of autofocus and memory cards. Today he uses a Nikon D800, a Fujifilm X-T1, a Sony A7, and his iPhone 11 Pro.

He has written about technology for countless publications and websites including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, Dorling Kindersley, What Cellphone, T3 and Techradar.