Don McCullin interviewed by Professional Photography

On the eve of his 80th birthday, he speaks about his career and current projects

Professional Photography is a new monthly print magazine from Future Publishing, the company behind techradar. The magazine is aimed at professional and enthusiast photographers and showcases world-leading professionals and their images through in-depth interviews and extensive photographic portfolios.

And they don't come much bigger than celebrated photographer Don McCullin, who speaks exclusively to Professional Photography about his life, his work and his thoughts on photography.

Don McCullin CBE was born in London in October 1935. After one of his pictures was published in The Observer newspaper in 1959 he went on to build an outstanding career as a photojournalist, mainly covering conflict, primarily for The Sunday Times Magazine, before moving on to shoot commercial, portrait, travel and landscape photos. Now shooting digitally, he lives in Somerset with his wife, Catherine, and youngest son, Max

Here are some of the things he had to say:

Do you have an emotional relationship with your photographs?

"Of course. I have more of a relationship with the subject than I do with my camera equipment. To me, camera equipment is like a tin of shoe polish and a brush – I use that as a tool, but my basic camera is my emotion and my eyes. It's not anything to do with the wonderful cameras I use. I couldn't do it without cameras, but nevertheless you can only rustle up the image or the impact of the image through your emotional attachment to the subject."

Why is black-and-white photography the best medium for you?

"The truth is because I still like working in the darkroom, and when you look at a black-and-white picture it's like a punch in the teeth, whereas a colour rendering... If you take the 'girl with the green eyes' picture Steve McCurry took, which was very, very successful, it's very pleasing and possibly those green eyes wouldn't interpret in black and white, would they? When I take a black-and-white portrait it's not particularly meant to please you. It's meant to talk to you; it's meant to shame you; it's meant to scream out at you and it has a message. The girl with the green eyes was a pleasant picture of a rather beautiful girl with extraordinary eyes. What I try to do is the opposite to what McCurry did. I try to make my portraits appeal to you in another way."

Do you have any regrets?

"None at all. I couldn't possibly have any regrets because I've been very lucky, I've been celebrated, and I've survived. I couldn't have one single regret. That would be absurd. I'm pleased to have got this far."

Professional Photographer Don McCullin interview

You can read the rest in issue 1 of Professional Photography, on sale from 15th October. Also in issue 1:

  • A look at Sebastiao Salgado's latest coffee-table book on... coffee
  • Interviews with Dougie Wallace, Danila Tkachenko, Pal Hansen, NK Guy and others
  • A report on what's hot in self-publishing, including an interview with the founder of Blurb
  • A round-table discussion on the future of photojournalism from this year's Perpignan festival Plus news, book reviews, exhibition previews and much much
  • ...and more

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