Week 3 “Shellshock” McCullin

Last week I focused primarily on the photo and if it made headlines and if it did, what the public’s reaction was to the photo. After 2 weeks of turning up very little progress in the area of reception and making headlines. This week I went with an approach to research some of Don McCullin’s work pre and post Vietnam. What I found was extremely compelling, the photos during peacetime and of war have an undeniable talent behind them and a keen eye for catching those moments of dismay, suffering, pain, and horror that most of us immediately turn away from. As I mentioned last week my progress on the actual photo “Shellshock” has been a series of dead ends. Instead what I keep running into is the story of McCullin himself. The atrocities he witnessed firsthand and the photos he took of people seconds before they were killed by the opposing side in the series of conflicts and famine he covered as a photo journalist stick with him, and the literature on the matter of the effect it had on him and his personal life are in abundance. It hollowed him out much like the images of the soldiers and Marines he had taken. To be more clear, while I was looking through the many photos in McCullin’s “Sleeping with ghosts”, (a name I am sure McCullin named himself) I find that out of the hundreds that were in the book, not one other than “Shellshock” was as popular with the public. An irony, in seeing that McCullin’s struggles with PTSD and depression were from the same horrors echoing through the young Marines hollow eyes in his award winning photo. One could take from this that no man or woman, non combatant or combatant, comes out of war without injury.

And I think it is that fact, that we can see how the photo was received to the public when it was viewed. And the effect it had and what kind of reception it was given. It brought for the first time, war into the living rooms and magazines of the public, to see what goes on in war that people back home were not able to see prior to media and the technology. We see a huge increase after Vietnam in the ares of combat stress and the psychological effects of war. And this photo is one of the sparks that helped urge that research to take place.

McCullin, Don. Sleeping with Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography. New York: Aperture, 1996. Print.

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