Artist Rooms: Don McCullin

Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, until November 19

DON McCullin, whose work is the subject of an Artist Rooms exhibition in Gracefield Arts Centre, is one of Britain’s most celebrated photographers, best known for his harrowing images from conflict zones worldwide, and perhaps particularly his images of American soldiers in Vietnam. He once said he “used to chase wars like a drunk chases a can of lager”. Amongst the many areas he has documented since his first photograph was published in the Observer in 1959 – a shot of an East End gang in their Sunday Best – he has ranged from Cambodia to Northern Ireland, and yet the unifying thing he finds in all these conflict zones is the humanity in his subjects, faced with the vast and overwhelming inhumanity of war.

There are over 40 photographs in this exhibition, which is made up of a combination of works from Artist Rooms (the vast art collection jointly owned by the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland, donated to the nation by Antony D’Offay in 2008) and the Tate’s own collection. Always black and white, there are images here from McCullin’s long experience as a war zone photographer – he recently went to Syria to document the conflict there, despite now being in his 80s. Here, too, are equally sobering images of poverty that McCullin shot in the industrial heartlands of the north of England in the 1960s and 1970’s and of the homeless in the East End, as well as more recent landscapes that the photographer has been working on near his Somerset home.