By Sky Golding
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2734

Don McCullin photos show reality of war and poverty

This article is over 3 years, 6 months old
Issue 2734

Capturing Liverpool in 1970

It is not often that when critiquing war we can look straight into the eyes of those most affected. 

This is what the Tate Liverpool’s exhibition cataloguing Don McCullin’s work from 1958 to the present day has to offer. 

It highlights the true impact on the lives of those fighting in or living through conflict internationally or even in British streets and council estates.

The Tate’s exhibition displays over 200 photographs hand printed in McCullin’s darkroom. 

They show everything from London gangs to his most recent landscape photographs taken during his retirement. 

Each room depicts a different location of McCullin’s photography, the first covers his early work in London, the next the formation of the Berlin Wall.


It moves into the civil war in Cyprus and further rooms looks at conflict in Northern Ireland and the Vietnam War. 

Some of the most powerful images come from his time spent in the north of England, including in Liverpool. 

The shift in focus moves from the brutality of war to showing the brutality of modern poverty. 

Seeing these images, it could have been in a war-stricken country and not the city where the exhibition is shown. 

And the horrific poverty these people were living in gives the same emotional response as seeing the effects of war.

One of his most famous photographs is of a US soldier in Vietnam who is clearly experiencing “shell shock”, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The image stares at you from across the room and brought me to tears on first viewing.

At Tate Liverpool, Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4BB, until 9 May 2021

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance