Category Archives: Exhibitions

Don McCullin – Exhibition Tate Britain

Visited 21st April 2019

This exhibition was hard hitting and very emotive.  Don McCullin has been a war photographer for many prominent papers, although he does not like to be recognized as only a war photographer.  He has spent many years highlighting the human plight and suffering of war, famine and poverty.  This is irrespective of whether they were a civilian, a member of the military or a gorilla fighter.

Many of his images make for uncomfortable viewing with their harrowing contents but there is a kind of beauty in their composition.  There is something of an uncomfortably voyeuristic experience, with no way of escaping the horrific truth in what he saw and experienced.

During his time as a photographer Don McCullin managed to stay unbiased, enabling him to highlight the human toll on both sides of war without pushing a political agenda/view.  He also captured everyday life running alongside war/civil uprising.

Within the exhibition Don McCullin emphasizes that he has ‘never played with the truth’ (McCullin D 2019). He admits that the only time in his career where he has arranged items in a photograph was when he captured the photograph A Young Dead North Vietnamese Soldier with His Possessions 1968

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/AR/AR01195_10.jpg

A Young Dead North Vietnamese Soldier with His Possessions 1968

Fig 1.

Don McCullin explains that he was disgusted when he saw two American soldiers looting and marring the young Vietnamese’s possessions.  As a result he hurriedly pushed the possessions together so that they were included in the photograph.  He goes on to explain that he felt that the young man ‘deserved a voice’ (McCullin D 2019). 

Although Don McCullin made an exception for this photograph. I feel that this was worthwhile, because he was documenting the human toll on both sides of the war.  The young man, just like the American Soldiers, had a family and loved ones who would grieve for their loss.

One image I found more distressing than others in the exhibition, was the Albino boy in Biafra taken in 1968.  My initial reaction was to look away.  Nobody likes the sight of a child suffering, but this is not the purpose of the image. Its purpose is to highlight the reality of starvation, with no exception, glamorization or ability to ignore.

The composition of the photograph focuses on the albino boy in the middle of the Image. Your attention is then drawn to another just behind him. Beyond that there are further boys that the frame cuts through. By using the edge of the frame to cut through the boys this draws your attention to the fact that there are many more malnourished children extending out and beyond the image, who are also victims of the famine.

The space left to the right and bottom of the frame, create a tension for me. With the boy’s frail body struggling to hold him up, any second he could collapse into the negative space in the frame.  The angle of the photograph creates a depth of field without using a high aperture allowing the younger boy in the background to also be in focus accentuating the scale of starvation.

The other part of the image that draws you in is the albino boys eyes.  They are bleak and full of suffering.

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/AR/AR01203_10.jpg

Biafra 1968

Fig 2.

Don McCullin wrote a narrative alongside this image, which serves to emphasize this little boys plight.

‘As I entered I saw a young albino boy.  To be a starving Biafran orphan was to be in a most pitiable situation, but to be a starving albino Biafran was to be in a position beyond description.  Dying of starvation, he was still among his peers an object of ostracism, ridicule and insult.  I saw this boy looking at me.  He was like a living skeleton.  There was a skeletal kind of whiteness about him.  He moved nearer and nearer to me.  He wore the remnants of an ill-fitting jumper and was clutching a corner of a corned beef tin, an empty corned beef time.’ (McCullin D 2019)

Not only was this little boy a victim of famine, he was also a victim of ridicule for being an albino.

Don McCullin has captured the emotions of his subject in the portraiture photographs, by focusing on the eye and keeping much of the detail within their expression.

His prints are dark with a strong contrast emphasizing the expressions on peoples faces.  Don McCullin highlighted in his exhibition that he prints his images with dark midtones.  This adds to the atmosphere and feeling to the images.  It also works well by bringing out the crisp detail.

You can see that Don McCullin has been affected by his years working in amongst human tragedy.  This is reflected in his landscape photographs taken most recently, which are very dark and carry that dark beauty that you get just before a storm comes over.

Despite the numerous images of war, famine and poverty, the overriding feeling that comes through throughout the exhibition is Don McCullins compassion for all, whilst managing to keep the authenticity of human emotion he was capturing. 

Bibliography

Bibliography

Baker S, Mavlin S and Mehrez A
(2019)
Don McCullin
London
Tate Britain

Fig. 1.
McCullin D
(1968)
A Young Dead North Vietnamese Soldier with His Possessions 1968
[Photograph]
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/AR/AR01195_10.jpg
(Accessed 22 April 2019)

Fig. 2.
McCullin D
(1968)
Biafra 1968
[Photograph]
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/AR/AR01203_10.jpg
(Accessed 22 April 2019)

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César Manrique Foundation and César Manrique Museum Lanzarote

Visited 28th March 2019 and 29th March 2019

Although Cesar Manrique is not a photographer he is a well known artist and architect and some of his influences were Picasso and Gaudi.

When visiting César Manrique’s Foundation and Museum, it was clear that the use of colour was very important to him in order to portray the scenery. The majority of his work was very sympathetic to the natural landscape around him and he strived to capture its beauty.

Because of Manriques approach he ensured Lanzarote’s beauty was captured and protected, resulting in him becoming a big influence on the island. His aesthetic was adopted throughout to protect the islands culture and promote its tourism.

Whilst visiting the Foundation and Museum, I learnt that he mainly used the colours, Red which represents lava from the volcano, White which represents the buildings on the island, Black which represents the lava rock, and Green which represents the Cacti. By restricting his palette of colours the paintings that he produced as a series all sit together cohesively.

Manrique was influenced by plastic arts, creating a 3D/2D effect raising the lines or points of interest within his paintings, drawing the eye along and helping the eye to explore the art work in front of you, much like you use leading lines within photography to draw the eye to the main focus point within the photograph and different apertures in order to create a depth of field.

His paintings evoke the feeling of being in amongst the almost lunar landscape of the volcano’s and lava fields and reminds you of the awesome power of nature.