I haven’t turned down an invitation to war or revolution for twenty years. Why? Why, for instance, did I spend four years in Vietnam? I can feel the reason, but I can’t articulate it.
My first war assignment was in Cyprus. I remember when I was asked if I wanted to do it: I was so excited I must have floated at least four feet above the floor. At last, after so many years, and after I’d photographed every minor labour dispute in every little town in Britain, I was being trusted. That trust changed me completely.
I was like some wild animal–a bull–finally let loose. I wanted the adventure; I wanted to be able to face up to fear and defy it. But I was also after something else: I wanted to show that I could be a great–no, the greatest–photographer around. I was determined to be fast enough and clever enough to carry myself into situations where a reporter with a camera wasn’t meant to be. I thought I could get closer than anybody else; that I could show much more than anyone else. I was so determined that nothing could stop me. I took photographs while I was directly in the firing-line of snipers. I took photographs hobbling with a broken ankle down a street that was being strafed by a plane. I took photographs with broken ribs or a broken arm or with blood streaming down my legs. There was a time when if someone said, ‘Look, Don. There’s a cliff. Go and jump off the edge of it’, I would have jumped. And I would have landed without breaking a limb.