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15 May 2017

Don McCullin, Rencontres d’Arles 2016

LOOKING BEYOND THE EDGE

Don McCullin is known primarily as one of the most highly regarded conflict photographers of the late twentieth century, having produced some of the most iconic and defining images of war in Cyprus, Central Africa, Vietnam, and Lebanon. Looking Beyond the Edge takes a new perspective on McCullin’s work, presenting the wealth and depth of his practice as a photographer beyond the limits of conflict, both in relation to his long standing practice as a documentary photographer and with regard to his commitment to photographing the landscape.

From his first images of working class life in his hometown of London, McCullin has been a frank and unflinching observer of poverty and underprivilege. Brought together for this exhibition are many rarely seen examples of his powerful and heartfelt documentary work of the late sixties and seventies; from his work in the north of England, notably Bradford and West Hartlepool, through to his iconic portraits of the homeless in East London, anticipating the highpoint of British social documentary practice. In addition to material from his first foreign assignment, recording daily life during the construction of the Berlin Wall, Looking Beyond the Edge also brings together a comprehensive selection of McCullin’s intense and poetic landscapes, at sites to which he has returned again and again: from Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland, to the countryside around his home in Somerset, and his ongoing interest in the ancient archaeological sites of Palmyra and Aleppo, many of which have not survived the current conflict in Syria.

Even outside the frame of war, the exhibition highlights how McCullin’s work reflects on the most pressing social issues of our time. Perhaps his greatest talent, however, has been the way that he measures everything through the same lens. From his local surroundings in London, to foreign conflicts and tragedies, or returning to the peaceful landscape of the Somerset levels, there is a universal way in which McCullin reveals the world around us as it really is. As McCullin himself puts it: ‘I don’t believe you can see what’s beyond the edge unless you put your head over it. I’ve many times been right up to the precipice.’
Simon Baker et Shoair Mavlian


With support from Hamiltons Gallery, London, and John Jones, London.
Framing by John Jones, London.
Exhibiton venue: Église Sainte-Anne.