Seeking the light – the essence of photography through the eyes of a war photographer

Don McCullin - Seeking The Light

Don McCullin – Seeking The Light • Video

Great equipment does not create great images.

Photographic insight is not in the equipment but the vision of the photographer. This is never more true than can be seen in this video. Don McCullin was a war photographer for more than 30 years. He saw some of the most appalling atrocities and covered some of the worlds most horrific wars – conflicts that would sear the sole. Yet in all that time he has retained a human and gentle perspective that provides a delicate insight but which also covers a dark vision too.


In this video Don McCullin is confronted, in his 70’s, with using a brand new digital camera for the first time. After more than 50 years of film and darkroom work as a professional photographer he abruptly makes the transition to digital. This film charts the progress of his first week. It is a transition which anyone who has started to learn digital photography has gone through. For Don it is a shock and revelation as well as a considerable learning curve. Many of you will empathise with his self-questioning and re-evaluation of his own skills and knowledge.

Canon CPS | Don McCullin Feature “Seeking the light”

Frank Algermissen


Despite his gentle and unassuming approach in the video Don McCullin has demonstrated an amazingly insightful photographic vision. His war photography, and his street photography is eye-catching and beautiful. His control of dark tones and wide variations in light is his signature – one that made his war photography iconic.

In a previous article I covered a BBC programme Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?  External link - opens new tab/page in the Series “imagine – Summer 2013”. There is now also a wonderful programme on Don McCullin. You can see the recently broadcast BBC programme on the BBC iPlayer if you have access. The programme has some upsetting images and some extraordinary photography covering the ugly truth of war photography in the face of grave personal, life threatening danger. It is an amazing film. “McCullin”  External link - opens new tab/page will be available for another few weeks (published 11/07/2013).

Insights into an extraordinary life

For an insight into a very dark path through war photography, as well as some of his amazing photographs, watch this interview on a Canadian television programme. Don McCullin tells of his extraordinary life, some of the horrific things he has seen and explains who he is today. Well worth watching.
The Agenda with Steve Paikin  External link - opens new tab/page

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

2 responses to “Seeking the light – the essence of photography through the eyes of a war photographer

  1. Jose A De Leon

    This was one of the most wonderful pieces I’ve seen in quite a while Damon. Nice work my friend! I still get chills down my spine seeing this man work. His humbleness overwhelms me being a giant as he is in his craft. How candidly he admits his fears of this new technology. I’m way younger than him (56) and yet I had those fears (still do) and still marvel on how technology has evolved and keeps getting better especially with ISO’s. I can understand how hard it is for him to make such a transition as we are all creatures of habit. I love the part where he’s looking at a boring shot he took and then the assistant adjusts it right before his eyes in seconds with Lightroom. Then he mentions the same procedure would have taken him a whole day in the traditional darkroom he worked in. What a wonderful person and I feel so glad that in his later years he can still enjoy his craft and still be alive to continue on with heightened sense of discovery and the joy that comes with new discovery. I really enjoyed this one Damon. Bring more articles like this. Thanks for this good feel moment.

    • Yes, I enjoyed this one too. He is such a gentle and unassuming man but he has obviously been deeply touched by the experiences of his life.
      Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed.