Olli Thomson

Emotion, Voice, Life

Not one but two great photography articles this morning. In The Observer there is an interview with Don McCullin and Giles Duley. A retrospective of McCullin’s career opens at Tate Britain tomorrow (5 February), which I’ll be visiting next month, and he has been doing a few interviews in advance of that. This is the most interesting of them, partly because McCullin started his professional career at the Observer; mostly because the interview is a three way conversation between the interviewer and the two photographers. Duley is a triple amputee having stepped on an IED in Afghanistan yet despite his horrific injuries he was able to return to his photographic career, documenting the long term consequences of war.

It’s about the emotional – we’re not just photographers, we gather emotionally. A camera doesn’t mean a toss to me. I just put it in front of me and transfer the image through that piece of glass and that film. But I’m using my emotion more than I’m using that piece of equipment. Don McCullin

If I hadn’t been able to take a photograph again then I would rather have died in Afghanistan. Photography, it’s me. It’s my voice. Simple as that. Giles Duley

The second piece is from the Magnum Photos website on Chinese photographer Lu Nan. Lu Nan is probably best known for his photographs of patients in China’s psychiatric hospitals in the late 1980’s. He followed that with a project looking at the lives of Catholic believers and then a third project shot over a seven year period recording the lives of rural Tibetans. Photographs from the three projects were published as a book, Trilogy, in October of last year. Unfortunately the book does not come cheap – £100 or $150. That said it is a very substantial volume.

In the Magnum interview Lu Nan talks about the influences, visual and literary, on his work and describes the relationship between the three projects – suffering, purification and blessedness. The piece also has a good selection of images form all three projects and there are more at the Photography of China website.

Having read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life (about Van Gogh) and Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence (about Gauguin), I had a hankering for that kind of life. For me, photography was the only medium that could make that wish come true. Lu Nan

Comments (2):

  1. nataliesmartfilmphotography

    12 February, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    There is currently a documentary about Don McCullin revisiting places in Britain on BBC 4 which I watched yesterday and really enjoyed. I especially loved seeing the medium format cameras he uses and watching him at work in his darkroom

    • olli thomson

      12 February, 2019 at 6:48 pm

      Thanks for the tip. My VPN is a little hit or miss at getting past the BBC’s blockers so if I can get it running this evening I’ll watch it.


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