Constellation Cafe Books : Don McCullin’s India

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.

The first time I saw Don McCullin’s work was about 3 years ago. Intense, brilliant and haunting, at first sight his work spoke and whispered at the same time. And whats most striking about him is his ability to make striking pictures so powerful that they’d make you fall of your chair. I had been looking for his book for about two years now and finally a friend found it hidden away in some Delhi bookstore.

Don McCullin’s India, the cover has a little more shine because of the plastic sheet covering it.

So where should I start. The book hits you like a punch in the chest as soon as you look at it. Black & white, the cover is a iconic Don McCullin. What I love about the image is that the black and white don’t stand against each other and create chaos visually but create tension and calmness at the same time. The book is hardbound and opens with a portrait of the photographer. Images are all printed on matt paper but I wish it was a little thicker and a little more rough.

Elephant Festival by Don McCullin

McCullin’s every picture creates a sense of approaching drama. The moment now is stable, its the calm before the storm. Its almost like the slow motion shot which makes you stand on the edge waiting for the jump. That is the magic of his work, it makes you want to breathe in and wait for the dive.

Morning Crowd in Calcutta

The tones of his images are printed so deep and dark that they are best viewed in daylight, frankly in direct sunlight. Its only then the light begins to permeate the black ink and details emerge slowly. Eyes in the shadows of hoods, the dark skin starts to glow and life appears.

Early Morning Calcutta

So should you have this book? Getting access to McCullin’s work is always an issue for me. His exhibitions will never come here and I don’t know when I’ll have the ability to be in US / UK to see them. Recently I worked with a fantastic photographer and cinematographer who used to assist Don McCullin for many years. Every evening we would go to the bar and he would tell us stories of McCullin in war zones, him shooting through his viewfinder as bullets flew around and rockets ripped apart whole buildings.

So yes, get the book. Its a book which not only makes you think but also makes you grip the camera harder, breathe and go on shooting.

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