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 (in depth interview in 125 #10) . 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.’
The exhibition is accompanied by a book, Don McCullin: Shaped by War, published by Jonathan Cape in association with the Imperial War Museum.
Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin
7 October 2011 – 15 April 2012
Imperial War Museum London