The camera never lies: Tony Chambers toasts photojournalist Sir Don McCullin

A black an white photo of photo journalist Sir Don McCullin, a white male with short grey hair, wearing a large jacket and holding an old professional camera.
Photojournalist Sir Don McCullin was recently knighted for his services to photography.
(Image credit: Tom Stoddart)

‘The camera never lies’. This overused phrase – dating back to the mid-19th century and the earliest days of photography – seems rather naïve today. Then, a photograph, especially when compared to the subjectivity of painting, was seen as the faithful representation of a scene. The image that fell on the photographic plate was precisely what the camera was pointing at. But even back then, darkroom manipulation could alter the mood and content of the original image significantly.

Today – with sophisticated computer retouching and all manner of digital doctoring – it’s hard to know what to trust. And in this post-truth era, trust is more important than ever. And that brings me to a man who has had a profound influence on me and, I would imagine, millions of others – the photojournalist Don McCullin. Or, I should say, Sir Don McCullin, as he was recently (rather belatedly in my opinion) knighted for his services to photography.

A double page spread of a magazine with a left column featuring a Heading "Driving Seat" and text below. The remaining three columns feature six photos of different desk chairs interchanging between red and grey.

(Image credit: TBC)

See more of our Design Directory special – out now

To celebrate this achievement, and his 60-year-long career, it was suggested by a colleague that I should arrange a dinner in his honour and bring together the great and the good of the photography and art world.

We chose Mark’s Club in Mayfair, as it had recently undergone a thoughtful overhaul. Under the leadership of a dynamic duo, the Birley Group’s executive director Guillaume Glipa and club director Darius Namdar, Mark’s has regained its footing as the favoured romping ground of London’s bold and beautiful.

Collaborators and admirers came out in full force to celebrate the Don, among them William Klein, David and Catherine Bailey, Sarah and David Burton, Martin Parr, Sølve Sundsbø, Mat Collishaw and Polly Morgan. Drinks on the covered terrace were followed by dinner in the Garden Room, during which Don revealed, serendipitously, that Mark’s Club is one of his all-time favourite restaurants. More importantly, it was just a couple of doors away from the building in which he printed his first published photograph, The Guvnors, which appeared in The Observer, 15 February 1959.

Pictured against a burgundy curtain, two males posing for a photo. Left male sat down wearing a black turtle neck and grey jacket. Right: Male standing with a double-breasted black suit and light blue tie.

The Birley Group’s executive director Guillaume Glipa (left) and Mark’s Club director Darius Namdar in the club’s Indian room. Read more about the club’s re-emergence as one of London’s most hallowed hotspots here.

(Image credit: Roger Dekker)

For bringing us images of such power  and veracity with unfeasible courage from war-torn Vietnam, Biafra, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Lebanon, Afghanistan and El Salvador, I think Don’s knighthood should also be for services to telling the truth.

Wallpaper’s front-line reporting calls for less in the way of raw valour, though some grace under pressure is required. And in this issue, our annual Design Directory precisely frames the best of this year’s Salone del Mobile. The truth is out there and we’ll always need people to bring it back.

As originally featured in the July 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*220)

A photo of three males sat next to each other, including Sir Don McCullin.

We hosted a dinner at the Mark’s Club in his honour. From left, Sir Don McCullin with photographer David Bailey and artist Mat Collishaw.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Side by side photographs. Left: Two males wearing smart clothing. Right: A female and male wearing smart clothing.

Left, photographer Sølve Sundsbø and Wallpaper* Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers. Right, Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton and Aidan Sullivan, founder and CEO of photography agency Verbatim.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Side by side photos both featuring a female and male. Left: A female with long brunette hair wearing a dark blazer, pink top and floral skirt with a red handbag. A male with no hair wearing a grey blazer, white open collar shirt and black trousers. Right: A female with long blonde hair wearing a red thrill sleeve top and black skirt standing next to a male with dark hair and a grey suit.

Left, Porter editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans and artist Jason Brooks. Right, Malin and Tim Jefferies, owner of Hamiltons Gallery.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Three people standing shoulder by shoulder. Left: Male with black suit and open collar grey shirt. Centre: Female with long brunette hair wearing a poker-dot top. Right: Male with beard wearing a black double-breasted jacket with pocket square and blues shirt and tie.

Photojournalist Tom Stoddart and wife Ailsa, with photographic agent Mark George (who also represents Sir Don McCullin).

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Tony Chambers (left) wearing a black suit with a bright red tie. Centre: Catherine Fairweather wearing a black dress and white dress: Right: Sir Don McCullin wearing a brown suit, with red tie holding a drink.

Tony Chambers, Porter travel director Catherine Fairweather, and Sir Don McCullin.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Side by side photos: Left: Three gentlemen sat together. Right: A male and female talking at a third person out of shot.

Left, Sir Don McCullin, David Bailey and Martin Parr. Photography: Chris Floyd. Right, Tate curator of photography Simon Baker and Wallpaper* creative director Sarah Douglas.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Side by side photos: Left: A female with long brunette hair wearing a black top and white blaze, standing next to an older male wearing a black suit. Right: A fair coloured female with white top and black blazer standing next to a male with a blue shirt and black blazer.

Left, Photo London co-directors Fariba Farshad and Michael Benson. Right, artists Polly Morgan and Dan Holdsworth.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Side by side photos. Left: Catherine Bailey wearing a black suit. Right: A male wearing a black suit with an orange and black stripe tie, standing next to a female with long fair hair wearing a black suit.

Left, Catherine Bailey. Right, Wallpaper* commissioning editor TF Chan and photographer and curator Emma Blau.

(Image credit: Dave Bennett)

Tony Chambers, William Kleine and Sir Don McCullin sat next to each other. Tony, left, is presenting William with a copy of a Wallpaper magazine.

Tony Chambers, photographer William Klein with the limited-edition cover he created especially for our June 2017 issue, and Sir Don McCullin

(Image credit: TBC)


The July 2017 issue of Wallpaper* is out now. Subscribe here