That’s Sir Don McCullin: British Photojournalist Knighted on New Year’s Day

Posted by on Wednesday January 4, 2017 | Photojournalism

Don McCullin, seen on the cover of his autobiography. © Jonathan CapeDon McCullin, 81, the London-born war photographer who covered conflict in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and, most recently, Iraq, has been awarded a knighthood. McCullin was one of a handful British citizens who received the award as part of the New Year Honours list issued by the Queen of England.

McCullin told the BBC he felt “warmed” by the honor. “I’ve made this huge journey from the beginning of my life where it was very poor and impoverished. I’ve managed to get away from that and I’ve managed to educate myself by traveling with great journalists. So in a way, I’ve been duly rewarded before I even got this knighthood.” McCullin had previously been awarded an OBE (officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1993, becoming the first photojournalist to earn the honor.

Raised in North London, McCullin served in the Royal Air Force. He published a photo essay on an east London gang in the Observer in 1959, and went on to cover more than two dozen wars around the world for the Observer and the London Sunday Times. In 1973, he published some of his best known war images in the book Is Anyone Taking Notice? He titled his 1990 autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour.

McCullin has been candid about the trauma he experienced after witnessing suffering from violence and famine. In an interview with photographer Eugene Richards, published in PDN in 2011, McCullin said, “Everyone thinks oh, Don McCullin, he’s tough as shit, nothing bothers him. But it did bother me, and I hope it bothered me enough to show in my pictures.” He added, “To be honest about it, I would say 90 percent of the work I’ve done in my life was a waste. I say it failed because the moment one war was sorted out, another one started.”

In the 1980s, he moved to Somerset, and devoted his time to shooting landscapes and works of art. He published a book of his images of Roman ruins in 2010. In 2012, he photographed in Aleppo, Syria. In 2016, he traveled to Iraq to cover the fighting in Kurdistan and civilians fleeing from Mosul.

Other British citizens who were named to the knighthood on New Year’s day include tennis star Andy Murray, actor and Globe Theatre director Mark Rylance, Olympic runner Mo Farah and musician Ray Davies of The Kinks.

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