An exhibition of the works of legendary photographer Don McCullin opened on Saturday in two venues – Shetland Museum and in Bonhoga Gallery.
Best known as a war photographer, McCullin has many harrowing images of conflict among the 44 that have been brought up to Shetland in a joint initiative between the museum and Shetland Arts. But there are also some that depict what he called the “untold truths” of homeless people in London and the hardship of life in bleak northern English cities.
However the exhibition, all in black and white and with the title Fallen, mainly features shocking images exposing the depravity and futility of war.
McCullin shot to fame in the Vietnam era. And photos of US marines capturing Vietnamese fighters, or being in a deserted local house with a wedding photo still in evidence, or seeing the body of a dead Vietnamnese with his bag of bullets and family photos around him are moving in the extreme.
There are photos of conflicts in Cyprus and Beirut, where the magnificent Holiday Inn has been reduced to a battleground, and many of Northern Ireland. In all his work he captured a moment of grief or anger, and although sometimes it felt, he said, like a “massive intrusion”, it told an important story.
Fallen has been more than a year in the planning and it was important for funders Artists Rooms on Tour, which loaned the pictures, that it should inspire creativity in young people.
Thus a group of 13 to 25-year-olds embarked on film-making, photography or music projects, helped by mentors, telling a story about Shetland and its people, in the way McCullin managed to do in various places.
Known as the Northern Lights Young Ambassadors, the young people have just returned from a trip to London where they met McCullin and had a preview of his latest exhibition.
And a flood of productivity has been unleashed. Anderson High School pupils Jenny Brown, Cara Leask and Iona Leask worked on the film project, and all “definitely” want to go on to do more about “capturing people’s stories”. Their film was about the urban sport of parkour and its people.
The photography strand was mentored by Shetland-based freelance Calum Toogood, whose work on the conflict in Palestine is on show at Bonhoga. Heavily influenced by McCullin, he braved tear gas and rock-throwing to get his powerful images.
Again the photographs are moving and disturbing – a Palestininan funeral with 3,000 people, or a mother by her shot 12-year-old’s hospital bed.
Photographs from the Young Ambassadors are on show at the museum.
The music strand was done by Lewie Peterson, and original music has been produced as part of the venture.