Being in London has given me so many opportunities to visit many galleries. It must be wonderful to live in a city so big that around every corner is another gallery of some kind. I wasn’t sure if I would have the time or if I even wanted to see the exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. I’ve been there before to see the planes, tanks, Enigma machine and the Holocaust memorial. I was walking around London the other day and realized how close the museum was to where I was and so walked on over Lambeth Bridge, past the Garden History Museum and Lambeth Palace to the Museum.
I’m so glad I did. There were more than 250 of Don McCullin’s photos taken from periods of British conflict, through the Vietnam War and beyond. Also on display were his Army boots and helmet given to him by the US Army, his passport, magazine articles and covers, and his Nikon camera with the hole made by an AK47 shell. The camera was held up to his face when it took the hit.
The photos are disturbing and yet engaging. Every day he put his life on the line to get the pictures. He finally got wounded in Cambodia and that was the beginning of the end for him as a war photographer. In a 30-minute taped interview he admits that he must have gone a bit crazy. Now he lives in Somerset and photographs landscapes and sill-lifes. He says he’s done with wars especially after Vietnam when governments cracked down on access to the front lines by photo journalists.
There is a book, Shaped by War, that accompanies the exhibit. The exhibit is well worth the trek to the museum, but don’t stop there. There is a lot more to see at this museum.
There is a fragment on loan from NYC from one of the twin towers, twisted and melted. In a corner of the museum are photographs of more fragments. I couldn’t get myself to look at those photos. I guess it’s just too soon.
All these memories from past wars and conflicts made for a sad day. It gives one pause and makes you think about what people have given up. But because so many people have given their lives, the rest of us can enjoy free speech in a free country: