Don McCullin: A Retrospective. First solo exhibition in Canada of world-renowned British photojournalist

Ottawa (ON) - January 30, 2013

Twitter: @gallerydotca

At the National Gallery of Canada from February 1 to April 14, 2013

For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) is organising an monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary British photographer. Don McCullin: A Retrospective features a collection of 134 exceptional black-and-white photographs taken by McCullin, an unflinching photojournalist best known for his coverage of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. His photographs have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. McCullin has also created an important body of social documentary work and a series of lyrical landscapes in his native Britain. Several of these photographs are included in the exhibition, which will be on display until April 14, 2013 in the NGC’s Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries. For more information, visit

“McCullin's photographs belong in an art gallery because they consistently bring clarity and compositional grace to their compelling subject matter. These pictures are both hard to look at and hard not to.” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective highlights works from all of McCullin’s major series: portraits of the poor and the homeless in London and northern England (1950s to 1980s); the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961); war and famine in Cyprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland (1964–1982); peoples of Southeast Asia and Africa (1988–2004); and landscapes in Somerset, England, and northern France (1970–2011). In this exhibition, the artist’s journey from working class England to the killing fields and to the landscape of Arthurian myth reveals his searing outrage and profound compassion. Also included are magazines and newspapers relating to past assignments.

McCullin covered war zones on four continents, primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photographs from the battlefields belong to a tradition of war art practiced by Francisco de Goya, Otto Dix and photographer Robert Capa, artists who, like himself, sought to communicate in images the horrors of human conflict. Particularly compelling for their narrative depth, sombre lighting and powerful composition, McCullin’s photographs convey the intensity and intimacy of his human encounters. His landscapes, although also dark and brooding, speak to his desire to distance himself from the subject of human suffering.

Although, McCullin did travel to Syria recently for The Times on one final war assignment (these photographs are not included in the exhibition), his exposure to the worst human atrocities took such a toll on him that he more or less retreated from conflict zones beginning in the 1980s. McCullin does not like being called a war photographer. Nor does he think of himself as an artist, but rather as a photojournalist, or simply, a photographer. In her insightful essay in the exhibition catalogue, Sobey Curatorial Assistant Katherine Stauble writes of the war photographs: “Likely (these images) were not meant to hang on a gallery wall, but rather, to communicate information, to reveal truths and to mobilize action. Now that McCullin has escaped the battlefield and for the past twenty years has been focusing his lens on landscape and still life, one might expect the artist moniker to sit more comfortably with him.”

About the curator
Ann Thomas is the curator of Don McCullin: A Retrospective. Curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, she has organized numerous exhibitions and installations in this capacity and is the author of several catalogues and publications such as Lisette Model (1990), No Man’s Land: Lynne Cohen Photographs (2001) Modernist Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada (2007). She is the editor of Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science (1996). She has also co-authored a number of publications.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue. The 120-page volume features a foreword by the Gallery Director, Marc Mayer, as well as an insightful essay by Katherine Stauble, Sobey Curatorial Assistant at the NGC. On sale at the NGC Bookstore for $25 and at, the Gallery's online boutique.  

Thursday, January 31 at 6 pm. Official opening of the exhibition with the director, the curator, Don McCullin, and special guests in the Great Hall. Free admission.

Meet the photojournalist: Don McCullin
Visit the exhibition with McCullin in attendance on February 1 at 12:15 p.m. In English with a bilingual question period.

Tickets on sale now. Adults: $9. Seniors and full-time students: $7 Youth (12-19): $4. Families (two adults and three youth): $18. Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection. To purchase tickets, call 613-998-8888 or 1-888-541-8888, or visit

The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, except February 18, March 5 and March 11.

About the National Gallery of Canada 
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information:

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National Gallery of Canada