McCullin & Somerset Levels

One of the more famous residents of the flooded areas of the Somerset Levels, and someone who has for some years devoted himself largely to photographing that landscape is Don McCullin, and as I listened to the news some of his black and white landscapes came to mind. There is one at the bottom of an article from the National Gallery of Canada (you’ve just missed his show there) that seems particularly apposite, a deliberately dark and moodily printed image of flooded field and a silhouetted line of winter trees under a heavy sky, The Somerset Levels below Glastonbury, UK (1994).

McCullin hates being described as a war photographer, but many of his most famous images are war photographs but of course he has done so much more. There is a short video of him talking that is worth watching  mentioned recently on fStoppers, and an excellent and well-illustrated recent feature by Gerry Cordon, McCullin: a conscience with a camera.

This includes another of his images from the Levels, as well as a rather hillier Somerset landscape, and also tells the story of what McCullin describes as the only picture that he has ever staged.   Some of the same ground is covered in an article about his photography the McCullin himself wrote for The Guardian in 2012. For a slightly different perspective you may like to read My Husband Don McCullin, written by Catherine Fairweather of Harpers Bazaar where it was published in 2013.

I’m not quite sure what to make of a Canon advertising film, Inspiration, made in mid-2012 in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the South of France, when Canon sent him with a well-known wedding photographer Jeff Ascough as his guide to “discover more about shooting with Canon digital cameras.” It says “Don McCullin is still shooting with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR and a variety of Canon EF lenses” and good luck to him, though should I reach his age I think I might prefer something rather lighter. I think the best of these digital images by him are still in monochrome, and there are some nice pictures of him by Ascough.


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