I was born into a black and grey world; the grass must have been green but that is not the way I remember it. Manchester in the 1950s was smog-filled and populated with buildings blackened by coal fires, steam trains and the heavy industry of nearby Trafford Park. Many of these buildings were still eyeless and empty, the ruins from the Blitz of 1940; war was always in monochrome.
It wasn’t just sex that was invented in 1963 (Philip Larkin 1922-1985 – from his poem, Annus Mirabilis), so was colour. But even the Kodachrome supplements that arrived with the traditional newsprint of the 1960s continued to report the horrors of Vietnam with the stark black and white images of Don McCullin.
This art installation outside the National Museum of Carthage is the painted ruins of wrecked cars that commemorate the Tunisian revolution of 14th January 2011; war and revolution now arrive in primary colours.
Inside the National Museum the ruins date from Phoenician Carthage, destroyed in 814 BC and Roman Carthage destroyed in AD 692. History teaches us that nothing is permanent; it teaches us other things too, if we care to listen:
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We recently crossed to Mull on the Oban to Craignure ferry, a short journey on the waters of the Firth of Lorne and the southern reaches of the Sound of Mull. As the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry leaves Oban, it passes between Alexander Carrick’s War Memorial on the mainland to the east and the Isle of Kerrara to the west. The Brothers in Arms sculpture, erected in 1923, is considered Carrick’s masterpiece and depicts a wounded soldier supported on each arm by his comrades; in turn their arms support his legs to form a cupped circle. Perhaps the circular composition symbolises the passing of time and how we are locked into an endless cycle of catastrophic repetition. It is reminiscent of Don McCullin’s 1968 picture of an American marine supported by his brothers in arms, having been shot in both legs during the Têt offensive at Hué. Both sculpture and image have been compared to the crucifixion.
Years later I went back to Hué…..It seemed so inconsequential, the whole thing…..those men who died, and those men who were maimed for life, went through all that, and it was totally futile, as all wars are known to be. Without profit, without horizons, without joy. I remember there was a street in Da Nang called Street without Joy. They could have called the whole country after that street – Don McCullin – Unreasonable Behaviour.
(click on image to enlarge)