Don McCullin – heart-felt images of war and poverty



Veteran war photographer Don McCullin has been awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours list. Described as one of our greatest living photographers and a photojournalist without equal, he spent 60 years documenting the poverty of London’s East End, and the horrors of wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Congo, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iran. Last month, aged 81, he travelled to Iraq to photograph the Battle of Mosul and took another trip to Palmyra in Syria in early 2016. He has vowed to continue with his work until he “can’t press that button any more”.

Born 9 October 1935 in London he had a tough upbringing with a violent mother, a sick father, evacuation during the war, frequent truancy and a youth of street fighting and local gangs. He described Finsbury Park in north London where he grew up as a place of ignorance, bigotry, poverty and violence. During his National Service he became a cameraman but couldn’t pass the theory exams (he’s dyslexic). A commission from the Observer picture editor when he was 23 got him started on his long and distinguished career more by accident than design. He covered wars in Vietnam, Biafra, Cyprus and Northern Ireland but focused on its terrible effects on people rather than on the fighting.

He says: “Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Actor Tom Hardy will reportedly play him in a film, based on McCullin’s autobiography, Unreasonable Behavior.

He’s a Sun Libra sextile Mars in adventurous Sagittarius; with a confident Jupiter in Scorpio trine Pluto in Cancer; and a Mystic Rectangle of Venus in Virgo opposition Saturn (Moon) in Pisces which is trine/sextile Uranus opposition Mercury in Scorpio. His Neptune is in a publicity-seeking square to Mars. Mercury in Scorpio is often found in research journalist’s charts and has the ability to dig deep and see below the surface.

His chart is replete with creative quintiles and septiles. His get-it-together 5th Harmonic is focussed on Mercury and the war-signature Saturn Pluto. His 7th Harmonic is pulled to military/situations of cruelty, with Mars Saturn prominent focussing onto filmic Neptune. His enduring, endless-struggle 8th Harmonic is enormously strong; as is his ‘breakthrough’, genius 13H.

From unlikely beginnings he pulled himself away from his roots with a world-class talent and a mix of determination and luck. Though admittedly Jupiter Pluto has a reputation for creating its own good fortune.

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