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McCurry and McCullin: Steve McCurry’s New Book and a Movie about Don McCullin

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Keith Dotson's Fine Art Photography Podcast

The Fine Art Photography Podcast Episode 35: Steve McCurry’s new book and a movie announcement about the life of Don McCullin

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In this episode: Two legendary Macs — Steve McCurry has a new book of never-seen-before photographs, and Anjolina Jolie commits to making a movie about the life of British war photographer Don McCullin

Hey everybody Keith Dotson here — welcome to the latest episode of the Fine Art Photography podcast. In this episode, we have a few hot topics to cover.

Before I get into the two Macs — McCurry and McCullin, I wanted to make sure you knew that as of December 1, Google’s Trusted Contacts service will be discontinued.

If you don’t know what it is — it’s a service where you can designate one or more people as designated contacts, and in the event you go missing (looking at you landscape and nature photogs who like to wander in the woods or desert) — they can have access to your location information.

What Google is saying is that you can accomplish the same thing by manually going into Google Maps and sharing your location. While this is true, it’s not automatic and I’m a little unclear if it’ll work in areas where your phone has no service — but my guess is that it won’t work without a signal. So, if you tend to be a photographer who goes out to the wilderness, you’ll need to go hardcore with a GPS phone or something like that, or at minimum, share your destinations and itinerary in advance.

Now – let’s go to our first Mc — Steve McCurry, the legendary American travel photographer and photo journalist is releasing a new book, In Search of Elsewhere: Unseen Images, which contains a collection of 102 images never seen publicly before. The book will be published on Nov 24, 2020 and is available for on Amazon — I’ll include a link in the description.

In Search of Elsewhere: Unseen Images is 208 pages, with 102 images.

In his 40-Plus year career, McCurry has created some of the iconic images in the history of photography. Is there anyone who hasn’t been captivated by the green eyes of Afghan Girl? I saw a large print of Afghan Girl on exhibition a few years ago and I’ll tell ya, it’s as stunning in person as it is in the pages of magazines. 

But this book contains previously unseen work. The promo images they have released ahead of the book look like classic McCurry — beautiful portraits of people in faraway lands, rendered in delicious rich color.

McCurry got into controversy in 2016 when it was discovered that some of his photographs had been extensively photoshopped. For an artist, the amount of manipulation you do to your images is a personal choice, but McCurry has been considered a photojournalist, so substantive changes to images is a big no-no.

Petapixel published an article about some of McCurry’s edited photographs wide side-by-side comparisons — link in the description. The edits are mostly things like correcting verticals and removing distracting elements. Minor things overall, but still not allowed in photojournalism.

McCurry says his work is now art more than photojournalism. I choose to give the guy some slack — he is still out there going to remote parts of the world and making stunning work and he has been for 40 years. If he is shooting for Nat Geo or NY Times, it would be different. My guess is that career is over thanks to the scandal.

McCurry’s book listing on Amazon says this about the book — and I’m quoting directly:

A unique collection of previously unseen images spanning Steve McCurry’s extraordinary career.

Steve McCurry is known for creating some of the most iconic images of recent times and in this new collection, he shares previously unseen photographs from his incredibly rich archive. In Search of Elsewhere takes us across the globe and offers new perspectives on many of the locations that the photographer has already made famous – from India, Myanmar and Cuba, to Kashmir and the white-washed temples of the Himalayas. Each image is reproduced at large format and in remarkable detail and this new compilation reveals the incredible depth of his work.”

Then there’s this nice quote from Steve —

“I compare photography to food, air, and sleep… this creative energy, this impulse, is what gives us purpose, pleasure, joy, happiness and love.”

I like that quote and I feel the same way about photography.

Anyways, from one maybe photojournalist to another photojournalist, we now switch gears to Don McCullin, the British war photographer who will be the subject of an upcoming movie made by Angelina Jolie and Tom Hardy… stay tuned.

Don McCullin is often called a war photographer, including in the press releases about the new movie being planned about his life. McCullin himself doesn’t like the title — on his website he said this —

“I had long been uncomfortable with my label of war photographer, which suggested an almost exclusive interest in the suffering of other people. I knew I was capable of another voice.”

It was announced this week that Anjolina Jolie would direct a new movie, starring British actor Tom Hardy, about the life of Don McCullin, based on his autobiography called Unreasonable Behavior. Jolie’s previous movies have taken place in times of conflict, so the McCullin movie fits a trend in her work.Jolie was quoted in The Guardian as saying this about why she chose to portray McCullin:

“I am humbled to have a chance to bring Don McCullin’s life to film,” said Jolie. “I was drawn to his unique combination of fearlessness and humanity – his absolute commitment to witnessing the truth of war, and his empathy and respect for those who suffer its consequences. We hope to make a film that is as uncompromising as Don’s photography, about the extraordinary people and events he witnessed, and the rise and fall of a unique era in journalism.”

This is not McCullin’s first brush with movies — he supplied photographs used in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blowup.

Like McCurry, McCullin, now 85 years old, has travelled the world to get his shots. Whereas as McCurry’s work is richly colorful, McCullin’s work is beautiful black and white. And like McCurry, McCullins work has found favor in the art community, and has been exhibited and collected by top tier museums including the Tate.

Again from his website, this quote:

“Following an impoverished north London childhood blighted by Hitler’s bombs and the early death of his father, McCullin was called up for National Service with the RAF. After postings to Egypt, Kenya and Cyprus he returned to London armed with a twin reflex Rolleicord camera and began photographing friends from a local gang named The Guv’nors. Persuaded to show them to the picture editor at the Observer in 1959, aged 23, he earned his first commission and began his long and distinguished career in photography more by accident than design.”

McCullin was shot in Cambodia, imprisoned in Uganda, expelled from Vietnam and had a bounty on his head in Lebanon. He famously had a bullet that would have hit him stopped by a Nikon camera in 1968.
In his words, compassion is at the heart of all his photography. He photographed AIDS victims in Africa. He worked in Ireland during the conflict.

But he also photographed the Beatles, and later in life he has focused on still lifes, landscapes, and he recently travelled to Syria to document the ruins at ancient Palmyra.

Production hasn’t yet begun on the new film so it’ll be awhile before we see this one released – -possibly 2022 at the earliest.

Well that’s all I’ve got for this episode, thanks for listening, everybody.
I’ll talk to you again real soon.

Links and Sources:

In Search of Elsewhere: Unseen Images by Steve McCurry, Nov. 2020

All Steve McCurry books on Amazon:

The Guardian

Peta Pixel, “More Photoshopped Photos Emerge in the Steve McCurry Scandal,” May 26, 2016,  Michael Zhang

Unreasonable Behavior: An Autobiography, by Don McCullin, June, 2017

Don McCullin’s website

Wikipedia, “Don McCullin”

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links: I may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.

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Keith Dotson

Keith Dotson is a professional fine art photographer who specializes in black and white landscapes, cityscapes, and abstractions from nature.

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