Donald McCullin, FRPS CBE (born 9 October 1935, Finsbury Park, London, England) is an internationally known British photojournalist, particularly recognised for his war photographyand images of urban strife. His career, which began in 1959, has specialised in examining the underside of society, and his photographs have depicted the unemployed, downtrodden and the impoverished.
McCullin’s period of National Service in the RAF saw him posted to the Canal Zone during the 1956 Suez Crisis, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant. He failed to pass the written theory paper necessary to become a photographer in the RAF, and so spent his service in the darkroom.
In 1959, a photograph he took of a local London gang was published in The Observer. Between 1966 and 1984, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the Sunday Times Magazine, recording ecological and man-made catastrophes such as war-zones, amongst them Biafra, in 1968 and victims of the African AIDS epidemic. His hard-hitting coverage of the Vietnam War and the Northern Ireland conflict is particularly highly regarded.
In 1982 the British Government refused to grant McCullin a press pass to cover the Falklands War. At the time he believed it was because the Thatcher government felt his images might be too disturbing politically. However, it recently emerged that he was a victim of bureaucracy: he had been turned away simply because the Royal Navy had used up its quota of press passes.
He is the author of a number of books, including The Palestinians (with Jonathan Dimbleby, 1980), Beirut: A City in Crisis (1983), and Don McCullin in Africa (2005). His book, Shaped by War (2010), was published to accompany a major retrospective exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North, Salford, England running from February to June 2010. The most recent title from McCullin is Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire, a poetic and contemplative study of selected Roman and pre-Roman ruins in North Africa and the Middle East.
McCullin received the World Press Photo Award in 1964 for his coverage of the war in Cyprus. In the same year he was awarded the Warsaw Gold Medal. In 1977, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, placing the letters ‘FRPS’ after his name. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford in 1993 and an honorary degree by theOpen University in 1994.
He was granted the CBE in 1993, the first photojournalist to receive the honour.
McCullin was awarded the Cornell Capa Award in 2006.
On 4 December 2008, McCullin was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Gloucestershire in recognition of his lifetime’s achievement in photojournalism.