Timeline

April 1968

British photojournalist Don McCullin arrives in Biafra; one of his most famous photographs of Biafra, entitled “Albino boy” was taken the following year, in 1969

McCullin was a British photojournalist known for his work in Congo, Cyprus, Vietnam, and Israel. (After the Nigeria-Biafra war, he would work in Northern Ireland, Cambodia, Beirut, Bangladesh, and Iraq, among other conflict zones.) He first traveled to Biafra early on in the war, where he was embedded with Biafran units. At the time, McCullin was working for the Sunday Times, which he described as being “pro-Biafra” even though the weekday paper was in favor of one Nigeria. However, over the course of his many trips to Biafra, McCullin came to doubt the viability of the Biafran cause.

McCullin describes his famous photo as “one of the most obscene photographs I’ve ever taken.” He found himself at a Catholic mission in Umuiaghu after getting malaria and also suffering from stress and trauma after a particularly horrific battle. It was at the mission that McCullin first came into contact with the depth of starvation in the population. He contextualizes the photograph by noting that “to be a starving Biafran orphan was to be in a most pitiable situation, but to be a starving albino Biafran was to be in a position beyond description.”

“Albino boy” by Don McCullin, 1969.
See Also:

Campbell, David. “Cultural governance and pictorial resistance: reflections on the imaging of war.” Review of International Studies 29 (2003): 57-73.

“From Beirut to Biafra: Don McCullin’s War Photographs Go on Show.” Guardian. Feb. 8, 2010.

Kamber, Michael. “Don McCullin at War.” New York Times, Nov. 6, 2015.

Krznaric, Roman. “Do We Suffer Compassion Fatigue?” RomanKrznaric.com. Oct 10, 2010.

McCullin, Don. Unreasonable Behavior. London: Random House, 2015 (new ed.)

Owen, Jonathan. “One the Edge of Reason: The Torment of Don McCullin.” Guardian, Dec. 30, 2012.

“How a Photo of a Starving Albino Child in Africa Sparked Change.” Time. 2016.