Transcript Of Don McCullin being interviewed on ‘Sunday Morning Live’
BBC1, 10am, November 15th, 2015
Introduction by Sian Williams
Now, he is one of the greatest war photographers in history. Don McCullin risked his life to take pictures in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, the Congo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and he’s covered disaster and famine around the world. His latest role, though, saw him directing his gaze towards spirituality as a judge in an amateur photographic competition called Faith Through a Lens. Don told Assad Ahmed why the competition was so important.
The idea of encouraging people to understand the love of religion, and the devotion of religion, is much more important than trying to bully people into believing in a certain religion. So this competition, in a way, is a kind of broad competition – it gives voice to all religions. What comes out of it is different points of view and – visually – and so you don’t need a statement – a photograph can really tell you a thousand words sometimes.
When it came to picking out the winners – a tough job, I’m sure – what were you looking at to pick out the runners up, and the winner that you did?
(To view the winning pictures described by Don; please use the link to the BBC1 News web-page, shown in the ‘Faith Through a Lens’ menu)
Once you see the winning picture, unanimously you all know it’s got to be this picture. And in this particular case it’s a picture of an old black lady who’s obviously very close to death and she’s being comforted by some religious person. It’s in black and white and the atmosphere of it absolutely kind of claws your imagination. This picture is full of touching love and tenderness, and you know right away this has got to be the winning picture.
If we look at the other finalists, we see a man teaching a young girl to read the Quran. What made you like that so much?
There’s a perfect combination of teaching and trust and love. That’s the way, as an Englishman, I want to see the Quran understood. I’ve never seen a picture like that where men are teaching girls. Normally it’s women who are teaching young girls. But normally, you see, in Islamic teachers, mostly you see young boys being taught by teachers. So that’s what’s unusual about this picture as well. But it’s a lovely, beautiful picture – that’s why we liked it. It gave us comfort and warmth to look at it.
And another finalist, a place you’re familiar with, the golden temple in Amritsar, a man bathing himself there. What did you like about that?
And do you think the photographs that have made it into the final ten, and the winner, it can help to change the way people think about those particular religions, religion in general?
I thought religion was about devotion and respect, and love, and all I’ve seen is the kind of cruelty that sometimes religion, when it goes wrong – it doesn’t go wrong, it’s the people who observe it who go wrong: they go too far. So this competition, in a way, is meant to probably cut out the political side of things and just concentrate on the love. The idea of seeing various religions living in harmony in this country and showing you images of the best side of it, really, can only increase the chances of understanding.