Don McCullin at The Arts Club

Don McCullin in conversation with Mike Figgis at The Arts Club in London's Mayfair. November 2016During a year when I have had several exhibitions, a front cover in a photography magazine, a documentary made about me, Q&A sessions and collaborations with other artists, the highlight so far has to be seeing Don McCullin.

Once again Katrina Aleska of Predella House was instrumental in this.

Don McCullin was appearing in conversation with Mike Figgis at The Arts Club in Mayfair in London and Katrina had a plus one. Knowing how much it would mean to me, she asked if I wanted to be there.

Believe it or not I didn’t say yes immediately. I was working in Bath early the next day and had arranged to travel down that night. But it didn’t take long for me to find a way to make it work.

The event was everything I could have hoped for. Don was humble, intense, informative, honest, emotional and open about his work and personal feelings towards it.

While I would never even assume to understand what he has been through, I felt so much affinity towards him, the way he works and the demons he carries. His attitude towards photography, working with film and what it means to do your own prints rang so many bells for me. He spoke of his fears, not only towards taking the photographs themselves but towards – perhaps surprisingly to most listening – doing the printing.

This resonated so clearly to me.

To take that final step and finally bring your photographs to life – to release them into the world and create a reality out of a memory can be incredibly difficult. The will power required can lead to lethargy, fear and even a mild depression from that sense of failure that builds up every day you postpone doing it.

And to hear someone like Don McCullin speak of this lifted such a weight off my shoulders and psyche.

It was such a fantastic, enlightening and inspiring night.

Yes I was seeing and hearing one of my inspirations, but I was also hearing him talk of things that I had been struggling with for years. And if someone who has seen the atrocities he has seen and been on the psychological journey he has been on, was still aware of, and still feared the same things I feared when it came to working in the darkroom, then I wasn’t a failure, or an imposter or a fraud as a photographer.

And the icing on the cake?

I shook his hand and thanked him.

But more than that…

I shamelessly (and proudly) gave him one of my postcard boxes

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