- What’s On
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Don McCullin spoke about the book at The Oldie Literary Lunch, held on 17th October 2023 – listen to the podcast here…
‘Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures’ – Don McCullin
Journeys Across Roman Asia Minor is driven by an eye for beauty and an ear for history. It is an album of the most recent photographs taken by Don McCullin, informed by a life full of hard-won experience. Working the ineffable magic of a master-craftsman, he frames an ancient sanctuary known to Homer, then focuses on the broken face of an exhausted emperor, before turning his eye on the sensuous torso of a goddess.
While most of us were sheltering from Covid, Don explored the mountains, valleys and coast of western Turkey, hunting out the most poignant and powerful ruins of the Roman Empire. He has created a meditation on landscape, the effects of light on ancient stone, the way clouds animate the past, but it is also inescapably about past conflict. About conquest, about imperium, about power.
Journeys across Roman Asia Minor shows us a world still packed full of enchantment and wonder. He shows us pavements once trodden by Aristotle and Alexander the Great, Caesar and Sulla, St Paul and Hadrian. Through his lens we view ancient theatres cascading down the slopes of mountains, two-thousand-year-old bridges still used by hill farmers, and find spring water flowing into fountains still dominated by statues of the gods.
This book is the result of three journeys undertaken by Sir Donald McCullin and Barnaby Rogerson in 2019, 2021 and 2022. Each journey was recorded in in the pages of Cornucopia: The Road to Pergamon (No 61), Roman Roads (No 64) and Rome’s Eternal Legacy (No 65).
Don McCullin and Barnaby Rogerson are available for interview
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ON THE TRAIL OF ROMAN TURKEY WITH DON MCCULLIN
The great war photographer has now brought to life some of the finest ruins of the ancient world.
...Despite being one of the world’s most well-travelled men, Don had never explored Turkey, though he had chronicled many wars fought near its frontiers. I was able to reassure him that the country would equal what he had seen of Roman North Africa. I was also able to tell him that, despite exploring the ruins of Turkey for the past 30 years with what my family considers to be excessive zeal, there were a large number of ruins I was still keen to track down…
...The ‘Asia Minor’ in the title of our book is an important marker. The Roman province of Asia was only one of the seven Roman provinces within the modern frontiers of Turkey. But it is an elusive name. To us it meant the western province of Roman Turkey, but we later found out that it came into common use only through early Christian writers tracking the journeys of St Paul, and was never an official term during the classical age of the Empire. But we were reassured when a scholar informed us that the word Asia has always meant different things at different times: starting off as the Hittite homeland (Aswiya) in Anatolia before it grew and embraced all of their Bronze Age empire, which stretched across Turkey. Now it embraces a vast continent. So we have stuck to that romantic resonance of Roman Asia Minor, a literary province of the mind.
Read the Full Review…– Barnaby Rogerson, The Spectator, August 2023
MY TURKISH ODYSSEY
Don McCullin, 87, Britain’s greatest war photographer, turns his lens to the heavenly ruins of Asia Minor
I have been travelling the world for the past 65 years – so I can’t explain how Turkey evaded me until recently. A couple of years ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting the charming Turkish Ambassador to London at the time, Ümit Yalçın, and it was with his blessing, and alongside my dear friend, the author Barnaby Rogerson, that we embarked on a series of journeys to discover the remains of Roman Turkey.
These, I thought, have been somewhat overlooked in a country so full of other historical treasures. The Ambassador opened all the most important museum doors for us, which was marvellous, and I was lucky that Barnaby was a fount of knowledge on the history of these sites. I remember how I couldn’t get over the beauty of the exhibits at the Istanbul archaeological museums and didn’t know where to start. The museum in Antalya was equally eye-opening, with the most impressive display of huge Roman figures and some of the best and most creative lighting I have seen in any museum, thanks to the director, Dr Candemir Zoroğlu, who studied for two years at the British Museum.
I realised I would need a whole lifetime to document Roman Turkey, as there are simply hundreds of sites waiting to be discovered. Sadly, I am past the age where this is possible, without the strength to clamber over beautiful temples and amphitheatres. A misplaced foot, as I have found to my cost in the past, can be dangerous. I felt so rewarded by the warmth and welcome of the people.
Lured by a shared compulsion to explore the Roman world, the great war photographer Sir Don McCullin and I set out to make a book on Roman Turkey, writes Barnaby Rogerson. We drove 5,000 miles in the course of three years. Here we cover our final journey, and on page 88 we look back at the places we discovered on all three of our memorable expeditions. The result is Don McCullin in Turkey: Journeys Across Roman Asia Minor, a book of powerful black-and-white images, for which I have provided the commentary. It will be published in 2023.
Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Pergamon remain the three graces of any tour of Roman Turkey but, having visited them 30 years ago, I could admire how much is still being discovered, and how much has been patiently restored. We were both greatly moved by the Temple of Artemis at Sardis and Didyma’s shrine of Apollo, not to forget the aqueduct at Aspendos, the avenues of columns at Perge and the hilltop ruins of Sagalassos.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the curators who have turned the sculpture galleries of Istanbul, Selçuk, Burdur and Antalya into unsung wonders.
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