“At the front line, a group of rebels took turns to fire through holes in the wall as McCullin photographed them. Then a handful of young hotheads, unable to contain their exuberance, sprinted forward to lob a grenade into the regime’s position. McCullin planted himself to photograph the scene, feet widely apart, in a space totally devoid of cover. The youths fell back laughing as the Syrian troops blazed retaliatory fire in their direction. “See that, they are happy now,” McCullin said, hooking a thumb towards the rebels as fire cracked over the walls. “So am I. I love this. This noise never bothers me. I feel at home.”

I found it a profoundly sad remark to make. His helmet was askew and he was puffing hard beneath the weight of his body armour, but he was smiling fixedly at the sound of the shooting. Was this really what he was after, I wondered humourlessly. A last hit off the action amid the misery of Syria? Was this what awaited me, too? The anger lasted with me throughout the night, and I was haunted by memories of an old Yugoslav who had described to me how Tito, wheelchair-bound and barely coherent, had been trundled to a forest clearing by his cronies to shoot his last bear. It was tethered to the ground by chains.

 I was wrong. He was no Tito. There was something much more dignified at stake with McCullin’s presence in Syria than the desire for a final shot, just one more composition of someone else’s nightmare. He was more complex and introverted than I had imagined, and whatever questions I may have had concerning his reasons for returning to war, his own questions hunted harder. If he could not articulate it, that was simply because he hadn’t known the answer when he arrived in Aleppo: he had gone there to ask himself the question “What am I doing here?”. It took a few days before the shape formed. It did so in the crump of artillery in a street in the city’s north.”

–          Anthony Loyd

KP has pointed to McCullin a few times. A number of his tomes sit on the little rotting shelf in the corner and they are quietly brought down on occasion and slowly leafed through.

So the life of this famous/infamous reference point for any number of photographers, activists, journalists and snappers continues right out into his late 70’s; he ended up in Syria recently alongside Anthony Loyd to make new pictures. A ‘return’ to conflict many moons after leaving it.

Loyd was quite candid in his written piece that has been doing the rounds. He does not hold back from questioning intent (nothing new but fascinating all the same for any number of reasons!) nor removing the superhero costume from McCullin and reporting on his questionable comments, statements and behaviour.

The piece swings from side to side, a course that is true to a general compass heading but allows you to peek around in the little gullies that border the route. It is well worth the read and I encourage all to go ahead and have a look.

It is no surprise that this oft praised man (McCullin) is… but a man. And thank fuck for that… and it is a solid and intelligent writer who can be frank, direct and angry while retaining a sense of kindness, respect and gentle enquiry. Hats off to Anthony Loyd.

The piece can be found in a number of spots… one being here

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