watch video : Don McCullin speaking in his home in 2009. Photographs are shown in the video as Don refers to events and pictures.
DON MCCULLIN: “The England that I grew up in no longer exists. We have had a massive influx of people from all over the world. It’s not just the usual old colonial places. They’ve come from Afghanistan, they’ve come from Iraq - countries we never ruled or stole in the old days. We live in a totally different society. We have totally different values.
“We are not as class conscious as we used to be but there is still that barrier there. It’s still there... I've slightly crossed over from my beginnings... because if you start being recognised in your field, whether you play football or you do this or that, you know. Luckily for me I don’t fall into that celebrity area which doesn’t apply to people like me. It only applies to glamour and football players and people like that. Luckily, I’ve managed to keep in my own little zone. But, you know, I’ve crossed all these barriers now and I don’t have any uncomfortableness about any of it. You can’t marginalise yourself because that cuts out the possibility of learning. If you say, I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to do that, well, okay, you lose. So I’ve crossed all these barriers and I don’t have any complexes any more. I did in the beginning. There was a thing about me in the beginning that was cautious about everything. I’m still cautious but I don’t feel uncomfortable any more.
“This country had a suffocating effect on you when you came from my background seventy odd years ago. Now it’s a much more open society. But I think it’s slightly more tricky in a way... It’s going to come down to what the Americans feel. Our currency of life will be money and that’s what worries me really. In America it’s the same. I lived in America, was married to an American once, and I never felt good when I was there. It’s nice to visit. But I don’t want England to be a nice to visit place for me because I live here. It’s a tricky place this country. But if you’re a photographer, you can exploit some of those unpleasant and tricky sides to it.
“I mean, just by my going to Royal Ascot for my book On England. Of course I was exploiting the people who were so pleased with themselves to be wearing top hat and tails. It was heaven for me. Having said that... I said, ‘May I photograph this lovely privileged day?’ and one of the ladies turned around and said to me, ‘Of course you may, why don’t you stay and have a bit of lunch’, because they were having this picnic out the back. So, sometimes these people you go to distrust and dislike suddenly can turn around and wipe the floor from under you by such a courteous gesture. You know, no-one has ever said that to me if I’m in the East End – ‘Come and have a bite to eat with us’. It’s tricky this country, but I like that really because it’s a challenge.”
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