I've played Russian roulette with my life: legendary war photographer Don McCullin

In the 20th century, wars are no longer fought just by neighbouring countries. Nations once separated by oceans have fought (and continue to fight) for ideological, as well as economic and territorial supremacy.

The atrocities of war are something no one wilfully wants to see, but history needs witnesses, and those who will fight to correct wrongs - and without documentation, there will never be either, and so journalists and historians join soldiers as an integral part of war, even if rarely from the same side.

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And it is here that a problem arises, because both historians and journalists rely almost entirely on words.

Words are great. But words are complex. Abstract even. They come loaded with connotations. They confuse, even distort situations, and do not always lend themselves to objectivity.

A photograph, on the other hand, can often give you the truest picture possible. Not true in absolute form, no, for the visual can also be selective, but true in that an honest photo can tell a piercing story that doesn't require language, or words, or literacy, or any special skill to understand.

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Credit: Don McCullin

A photograph, then, can be a vital tool of democracy and of the truth - and if we understand it as that, then Don McCullin is one of the greatest truth-tellers of the 20th century.

His gritty photographs, often from the frontlines of the world's horror zones, have made him one of the most iconic and revered war photographers of all time. His work, capturing through photo evidence some of mankind's darkest moments, from Biafra to Vietnam, serves as proof of the extent of human cruelty and suffering. The darker prints of his photographs, a reflection of the darker aspects of human nature that he has captured throughout an illustrious, if harrowing, career.

He is a man who has experienced life through the lens of the camera. Once, in Vietnam, he was even saved by his camera, when a bullet meant for him was stopped by his Nikon. Having observed so much of man's brutality against his fellow man, McCullin obviously has a wealth of experience and stories.

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Credit: Don McCullin

But while this man's gaze has shaped so much of our modern understanding about war, how was he, himself, shaped by what he lived and saw. What does Don McCullin the man think of the photographer and more importantly, what does Don MuCullin the photographer think of the man he is - father, husband, and human being.

In this intimate, almost lyrical interview with Catch's photo editor Kaushik Ramasawamy, the iconic photographer goes beyond his images and gives us a peek into his soul.

Text: Ranjan Crasta

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Credit: Don McCullin

Edited and produced by Andrew Clarence

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Kaushik Ramaswamy

Kaushik Ramaswamy @kaushikramaswa1