Don McCullin, Jane Bown

Victoria and Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery

It was equally pointless to hang Don McCullin’s photo journalism in a museum. Detached from their social and journalistic context, McCullin’s assorted characters of blight and death become objets d’art whose beauty is reprehensible. The subjects of his photographs become as titilating and pleasant to look at as the celebrities in the informal portraits by The Observer’s Jane Bown, who is the Jill Krementz of England. English photography has always been dominated by its social (and class) consciousness. This is what produces photography like McCullin’s, Kennard’s and even Bown’s. But in the long run the photographers who offer us the most valuable social commentary are the ones like Henderson or Boyd and Evans who simply go out with their cameras to see what they can see.

Colin Westerbeck