‘Don McCullin in Rome’: a major retrospective spans peace and pain

‘Don McCullin in Rome’ is showing until 28 January at Palazzo Esposizioni Roma, bringing together the photographer’s most radical experiences

Don McCullin still life from the exhibition Don McCullin in Rome at Palazzo Esposizioni Roma
Still life with mushrooms and horse statue, c.1989
(Image credit: © Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery)

British photographer Don McCullin’s work is characterised by a sweeping eclecticism, his unflinching eye translating everything from war scenes to emotive landscapes into images brutal in their honesty. Accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award at the London Design Medals 2022. Now, a new exhibition at Palazzo Esposizioni in Rome, curated by Simon Baker, who worked closely with McCullin and leading gallerist Tim Jefferies, pays tribute to a compelling career.

‘Don McCullin in Rome‘: from pain to peace

McCullin’s preoccupation with themes of pain and peace run throughout the show. Early images are informed by his childhood in Finsbury Park, north London, while his first foray abroad, to Berlin during the building of the wall, marked the beginning of an illustrious career as a photographer. Reporting from war zones including Cyprus, Congo, Vietnam, Biafra and Syria, his unfiltered imagery of trauma and death highlighted his compassion and signature empathy during times of great personal danger. Human strength and resilience are also apparent in his documentary photography, which features communities from countries such as India, Ethiopia and the UK.

Don McCullin photography

Still Life Plants Table

(Image credit: © Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery)

With this latest exhibition, accompanied by the monograph Life, Death and Everything in Between (Gost Books, £80, available at Amazon from 14 November), McCullin weaves together cultural and architectural threads in his documenting of the remains of the Roman Empire. In his landscapes, a series cultivated over 40 years, he eschews the romanticism of the pastoral paradise, capturing instead the waterlogged realities of the Somerset countryside he calls home, reflecting this darker side in bleak and dramatic scenes encompassing the exaltation of his surroundings. It is a sublime ecstasy that is also exquisitely captured in his still-life photographs, raw with emotional intensity. 

‘Don McCullin in Rome’ is showing until 28 January at Palazzo Esposizioni Roma, palazzoesposizioni.it. McCullin is represented by Hamiltons Gallery, donmccullin.com, hamiltonsgallery.com

This article appears in the December 2023 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print from 9 November, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.