The theatre of war

I just watched McCullin, the new documentary about the photojournalist and (though he hated the title) war reporter, Don McCullin. He talks about the absurdity of photographing people’s most tragic and terrible moments; about the struggle to reconcile a desire to follow the action – to the point of becoming a “war junkie” – with a deep humanitarian compassion; about the huge doubts as to whether all of it was worth it – did his pictures ever actually change anything?

McCullin also worked in Northern Ireland – and what struck me there was his comment on how absurd it was that he could fly to Belfast, drive up to Derry and check in to a hotel, and know that at a certain hour of the afternoon, things would kick off. It was like a “football match”, he says; or like a theatre where “you knew the plot”. Easy work for a photojournalist. What’s sad – among much sadness in this film – is that strands of this predictable violence have carried on till now, among some of NI’s youngest people.

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