Don McCullin - PHOTOGRAPHS London Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Hamiltons Gallery, London

  • Literature

    Sleeping with Ghosts: A Life's Work in Photography, London: Jonathan Cape, 1994, p. 26; Don McCullin, London: Jonathan Cape, 2003, pp. 56-57

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I think that Don McCullin was peace-weary before he ever went to war" (John Le Carré, in his introduction to Don McCullin: Hearts of Darkness, 1980).
    When giving a eulogy of his friend and colleague, the Welsh photographer Philip Jones Griffiths who died in 2008, Don McCullin's gentle words were spoken in his characteristic whisper, revealing himself as the humble and self-doubting man he is known for being. Recently I heard someone say that McCullin wonders if his pictures have really achieved anything in photographic history. On hearing this, a great sadness and an overwhelming sense of disbelief swept over me, since I cannot think of many living greats whose work has moved and touched as his has done, both through image and the natural integrity they embody. If anyone qualifies as the 'Photographer's Photographer', then, for all those who make or simply appreciate photographs, it must be this self-effacing man.
    Yet he is also not just a witness to the trials undergone by the human race, but also a firm believer in people, so much that it is difficult not to imagine that he literally sleeps with ghosts some nights as the title from which this lot is taken from suggests.
    Perhaps with his own wounds wide open long before witnessing conflict, these days it is the "dark, dark, dark" of the landscape that he trawls with his lens, with his brooding gaze, seeing and communicating with the same journalistic eye for which he is acclaimed. He does not need war to be able to project intense feeling via an image - pushing pieces of himself out, as it were, through the chemicals by which photographs become visible. "Stamped", as he has said, with the legacy of the humble circumstances of his childhood, he nevertheless imbues a richness of vision into images such as the one shown here.
    The harshness of life for some, such as for his man walking to work early in the morning, was for McCullin transmuted into those men he later saw walking to their deaths in Cyprus, Vietnam, Biafra, and Ireland. McCullin himself continues to walk, with the same concern and sensibility that is now reflected in the English landscape around him. Long may he walk.


Early morning, West Hartlepool, County Durham

Gelatin silver print, printed 1989.
27 x 41.3 cm (10 5/8 x 16 1/4 in).
Signed, dated '15 Oct/ 89' and annotated 'printed by me' in pencil on the verso.

£2,500 - 3,500 ♠ †

Sold for £5,000


3 November 2010