Cold Heaven: Don McCullin on Aids in Africa, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 25 May – 10 June 2001.
Don McCullin one of the world’s leading photojournalists, has documented the major conflicts of the second half of the last century: Cryprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iraq. Since 1991, based in Somerset, he has concentrated on still life and landscape photography.
In his first overseas project in over a decade, Don McCullin travelled to Africa with Christian Aid to investigate the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Cold Heaven: Don McCullin on AIDS in Africa is the result of his visit, a powerful portrait of communities and people living through the humanitarian disaster haunting the new millenium.
“I sat in England and I thought - what is the purpose of my life? I’ve been reading a lot about AIDS in Africa… I thought, I don’t want to sit in England looking at the beautiful landscape. I should be doing something. When I got to Africa, I found that it’s not a story just about AIDS. It’s a story about poverty. In a way, poverty is a war. It’s a disgrace; it’s abominable. To find people sleeping in darkened rooms, lying on the floor … finding people who have no medication whatsoever, no food, nothing, living in these intolerable conditions. It’s just unacceptable in terms of humanity” said Don McCullin
“As Don found in war it is difficult to photograph people who are dying without violating their dignity. But with a unique sensibility, he brings to his work among people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa a depth of experience and ethical standards built up over years of working as a photographer amidst the most heart-rending and raw situations. Every film that he exposes is from the heart” said John Swain, Foreign Correspondent, Sunday Times.
Cold Heaven was launched at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London's East End on 24 May 2001. Guests included key people from the health/medical sector, HIV/AIDS specialists, journalists, photographers, artists, and actors including: Alan Rickman, Joseph Fiennes, Jonny Lee Miller and Sean Pertwee, and co-owner of Hamilton's Gallery, Tim Jefferies.
To coincide with the UN's special session on AIDS, Don McCullin's portraits of the pandemic in Africa were shown at the UN General Assembly in New York in August 2001. The exhibition then toured the UK and Europe.
A book of the exhibition, “Cold Heaven”, is published by Christian Aid.