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Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin at the Imperial War Museum in London
Don McCullin, A lone anti-war protester confronts police in Whitehall during the Cuban Missile Crisis, London, 1962. ©Don McCullin.

LONDON.- Shaped by War is the largest ever UK exhibition about the life and work of one of the world’s most acclaimed photographers Don McCullin. The exhibition, which features around 250 photographs, contact sheets, objects, magazines and personal memorabilia, opens in an updated form at Imperial War Museum London this October following a highly successful run at Imperial War Museum North last year.

Don McCullin has photographed war for more than 50 years and many of his iconic black and white images have come to shape our awareness of modern conflict and its consequences. Shaped by War brings together McCullin’s frontline work from conflicts all over the world including the confrontation between East and West Berlin, Vietnam and Cambodia, the conflicts of the Middle East and the intense human suffering in Biafra and Bangladesh. These are displayed alongside McCullin’s photographs of more recent conflicts such as the Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

A number of significant portraits, which have been rarely seen in public, have also been released by McCullin especially for the exhibition at Imperial War Museum London. These include several haunting images of anonymous victims of wars around the world plus two portraits of Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry whose series of brave actions in Iraq in 2004 saw him awarded a Victoria Cross. The stunning principal photograph captures the tattoo of a Victoria Cross which covers Beharry’s back, and was the first digital photograph by McCullin to ever go on public display. It was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 2010 for the opening of its Extraordinary Heroes exhibition in The Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

Shaped by War examines key moments in McCullin’s life including his early years during the Second World War when he experienced both evacuation and the Blitz. After completing his National Service in the RAF Photographic Unit McCullin discovered photojournalism and the exhibition studies his early commissions and reports from Berlin in 1961 and Cyprus in 1964. His seminal work for The Sunday Times Magazine goes on to provide a huge amount of material for the exhibition, while documents from the Museum’s archives tell the full story of his controversial exclusion from the 1982 Falklands Conflict. A newly commissioned video interview with Don McCullin provides the backbone of Shaped by War.

The exhibition also contemplates the moral dilemmas faced by McCullin as a witness to and photographer of conflict and its human cost, as well as McCullin’s approach to the changes seen in both photography and journalism throughout his career.

Don McCullin says: ‘I’ve had exhibitions all over the world but this is the biggest splash you will ever see. I’m pleased to have an exhibition in my home country, at Imperial War Museum London, because I’ve travelled so much and I like to show what I’ve seen. It’s particularly important to younger generations who will inherit tomorrow’s world.’

Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum, says: ‘Don McCullin is one of the greatest living photographers so we’re very pleased to be working with him to share even more of his exceptional war work at Imperial War Museum London. As a photojournalist documenting the major conflicts of the past 50 years, McCullin showed great courage and integrity to produce a vast number of images which, brought together for this exhibition, serve as a powerful reminder of the impact of war on ordinary people.’

The exhibition, which captures the relentlessness of war and its global effects in the twentieth century, is a unique collaboration between Don McCullin and the Imperial War Museum. Most of the black and white images have been handprinted by McCullin himself, while he has also allowed the Museum to display his images using lightboxes, large format prints and projections for the first time. The exhibition also includes newly commissioned footage by the Imperial War Museum featuring McCullin reappraising his career. A number of significant objects have also been loaned by the photographer including the US Issue Army Helmet he wore in Vietnam, which gives a sense of his uncompromising drive to document events from the frontline.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, Don McCullin: Shaped by War, published by Jonathan Cape in association with the Imperial War Museum.

Imperial War Museum | Don McCullin | photographs |

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