Another of the sure signs of ageing that I wrote about last week is when you complain that there is nothing but rubbish on tv these days. Which is true of course, except that every now and then when a little gem is broadcast.
There was one such late on Tuesday night in the Imagine documentary on the work of photojournalist Don McCullin. It was strangely harrowing, uplifting and depressing all at once.
McCullin grew up in the tenements of Finsbury and began photographing the gangs he was a part of before taking himself off to Berlin at the time of the building of the wall.
His work was so good that he was recruited by the Sunday Times magazine and sent to all parts of the world covering conflicts in Cyprus, Congo, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Vietnam and Cambodia to name just the obvious hot spots.
What made McCullin’s work so good was the humanity he brought to the madness of war and that he was a self-confessed war junkie. The photo of the shell-shocked marine above was taken during the Battle of Huế in Vietnam when he spent two weeks with Delta Company of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marines.
He took five separate frames and each negative was exactly the same, not a blink of an eye.
Of course McCullin was fortunate to work for a Sunday Times owned by Roy Thomson who truly believed in a free press and had Harold Evans as a boss, perhaps the last of the truly great newspaper editors.
Things changed when Murdoch bought the Times and forced Evans out, bringing in Andrew Neill who didn’t want all that nasty war stuff frightening off the advertisers and so McCullin was out of a job.
Now aged 77 he is busy photographing the English countryside but I do recommend watching the programme if you can. It is on catch-up under Imagine, or try an image search.