Don McCullin, about the London homeless

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Bring me home, please

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Don McCullin, Aldermaston, Great Britain, early 1960's

A few months ago, I read there was an exhibition of photographs by Don McCullin at Tate Britain. I thought "That one can wait, it's going to for ages and everybody knows the work of the award-winning war photographer anyway." That was very presumptuous of me. I finally went to see the show and it is now clear that i had underestimated the impact his images would have on me. Especially his portrayal of the homeless living around London from the late 1960s to the '80s.

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Don McCullin, East End, London, 1973

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Don McCullin, Jean, Whitechapel, London, c 1980

While looking for images online, i discovered that in 1989 McCullin had made a documentary for BBC about the London's homeless, a sharply growing problem attributed to the failure of social policy: changes in the UK social security system, shortage of affordable housing, closing down of long stay hostels.. have thrown young people, the mentally ill, former soldiers, even entire families in the streets.

"I started seeing people sleeping in shop doorways and when I went to Third World countries people would refuse to believe there were poor people in England," McCullin explains in the video below. "But there were many, many untold truths about this country, we had poverty, we had unemployment, we had a class system that wasn't convenient, all kinds of things that people who lived outside of England wouldn't have understood, so when I started walking the streets of London and seeing people sleeping in shop doorways, even I was shocked."


TateShots: Don McCullin

The photos in the exhibition were mostly taken in the East side of London. The area is now attracting a different crowd .

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Don McCullin, Homeless Irishman, Spitalfields, London 1969

Also at Tate are spectacular b&w images that shows the toll that industrialization took on the countryside, images of Berlin during the construction of the Wall and the landscapes McCullin is now shooting to try and forget the horrors of the wars he has spent decades to document.

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Don McCullin, A lone anti-war protester confronts police in Whitehall during the Cuban Missile Crisis, London, 1962

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Don McCullin, Early morning, West Hartlepool, County Durham, U.K., 1963

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Don McCullin, Early morning, West Hartlepool, County Durham, 1963

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Don McCullin, Slum clearance, Liverpool, Great Britain, late 1960s

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Don McCullin, Girl and laundry, Bradford, Great Britain, early 1970s

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Don McCullin, US troops, West Berlin, West Germany, 1961

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Don McCullin, American soldiers on high alert monitor East German forces in Berlin, Germany, 1961

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Don McCullin, Berlin 1961

And if it's McCullin's war photos you're after, then head to the Imperial War Museum for Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin.

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The Nikon F camera saved Don McCullin's life, it stopped a bullet while he was covering war in Vietnam

Audio slideshow: 'Shaped by war'.

Don McCullin's work is at Tate Britain through March 4, 2012 and at the Imperial War Museum through April 15, 2012.

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