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The Work of Don McCullin

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This weekend I was delighted to welcome Don McCullin to the Marrakech Museum of Photography and Visual Arts.

Don McCullin has long been considered a pioneer in the art of photojournalism, and has been uncompromising in his depiction of landmark events and figures that have shaped the modern world. This exhibition is a collection of photographs from different periods of Don's incredible history of work. From his more famous war photography covering Palestine, Vietnam and Northern Ireland to a series of incredible pieces featuring the UK's hidden homeless in the 1970's as well as his stunning landscapes of his home in Somerset.

The show is absolutely outstanding and if you happen to be in Marrakech I urge you to stop in at the Badi Palace and take a look, as each and every picture has such a force and a presence. The photographer and his camera have been at the heart of many seminal moments of modern history during his career.

When I met Don McCullin at the weekend there was no sense of "been there done that" with him. Although he has shown his work all over the world, he was as proud of his work today as ever. An ordinary man, with an extraordinary talent for documenting history. He is one of the few photographers still using film, still printing his own photographs in his own dark room. He has kept such a freshness in his attitude and was so open and always engaging with everyone he met and is still very involved in the debate about the world today. Don told me how he recently travelled to Syria; he still really loves the dialogue with foreigners about his photographs, but also about the world today and his desire to witness and to capture the truth on the ground is very much intact. Indeed he has never created a "mise en scene" - every shot was as it was at the time. He explained how once he tried to recreate a scene with a solider, placing his souvenirs next to him. but he never tried again - he felt he wasn't doing his job by rendering "the truth" - he had to let the truth be itself.

Don is a story-teller and as he talked us through each of the photographs it was amazing to watch him remember and bring back to life the exact moment in time; the violence, the drama and often the misery that was surrounding him. Each picture was a story by itself. We were all like children, listening to him. There is a picture I love, where you see soldiers sitting around and far away you can see this smart, sophisticated lady walking in the street, coming forward towards us all - the soldiers and us the viewer. I asked Don about this - he said it was a total coincidence! He truly believes in the spontaneity of photography.

I popped down to watch Don give a talk to a group of young people about his work. The room was packed full of young arts and photography students, all thirsty for knowledge. It is so great to see that the museum is proving to be a new and exciting educational channel for the larger arts scene in Morocco - something we really hoped it would be when we first came up with the concept of MMPVA. The students were mesmerized by the openness and accessibility of Don who told them they had it in their power to create history, and that they should do it now, and take photographs of their world today. He told them it is important for their generation, for their society, and their country as a whole that they are out there documenting what is happening. He really tried to ignite in them the spark of creation, the desire to dare to do something that will challenge.

Even though he is nearly 80, Don has remained such a young spirit. He is ready to discover more about his art every day. He told me that he is starting a new piece of work on nudes and there is still, in his eyes, a complete sense of wonder, questioning the world at every turn and at no moment did I feel that this was a man coming to the end of his career, he was just turning another page in the book.

www.mmpva.org

Karen Ruimy's new show ZIK'R will be at Sadler's Wells on June 18. For tickets and further information please visit www.karenruimy.com or telephone the ticket office: 0844 412 4300.