Veteran photographer Don McCullin is giving a talk at the National Media Museum next week to launch an exhibition of his photographs of Britain from the 1950s to the present. Don McCullin – In England includes several taken in Bradford.

Famed for his gritty pictures of human suffering, McCullin, 73, took a photograph of a London gang in 1959. This picture, called The Gov’nors, was published in a national Sunday newspaper after a policeman was murdered by one of the gang members. It is part of the exhibition.

Twenty-seven years later, he came to Bradford to make his first film for the BBC, an Arena special called Home Front.

Born poor himself in London, Don focused his cameras largely on the struggle to survive the first recession which destroyed thousands of manufacturing jobs and put 30,000 people in the district on the dole.

He had been coming to the city for years and was shocked by the scale of the decline.

“There’s not just one estate in Bradford that is full of sadness – there are lots. And there are people all over England suffering hardship,” he once told the T&A.

“I love Bradford, The people are some of the nicest you’ll ever come up against, but there’s nothing to be proud of in having to rely on the generosity and good nature of people to put up with misery.”

Don received the World Press Photo Award in 1964 for his coverage of the war in Cyprus between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and the Warsaw Gold Medal.

In 1977 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Bradford University awarded him an honorary degree in 1993, the year that he became the first photo-journalist to receive the CBE.

Yet everything could have been so different. In 1968, his Nikon camera got in the way of a bullet intended for him. His work sent himinto places where life was cheap and death commonplace and violent.

He once said: “I have been manipulated, and I have in turn manipulated others, by recording their response to suffering and misery.

“So there is guilt in every direction: guilt because I don’t practise religion, guilt because I was able to walk away, while this man was dying of starvation or being murdered by another man with a gun.

“And I am tired of guilt, tired of saying to myself: ‘I didn’t kill that man on that photograph, I didn’t starve that child. That’s why I want to photograph landscapes and flowers. I am sentencing myself to peace.”

In recent years, commissioned portraits, landscapes and still-lifes have formed the subject- matter of his photography.

NMM curator Colin Harding says: “Although Don is best known for his war photography, he is not purely a war photographer and does not class himself as such. However, many of the images displayed in this show are clearly influenced by his experiences abroad.

“Don’s vision of England is not a pretty one. He photographed what he saw and what he saw was often harsh – poverty, unemployment, discrimination – but he always photographs with passion and empathy.”

Many of the images have a political or social context and are taken extensively from two books, Homecoming (1979) and In England (2007). Some of the images will be publicly displayed for the first time.

Other aspects of English life are featured – a series of landscapes, including a study of Hadrian’s Wall taken earlier this year, a 1968 shoot with The Beatles, trips to the seaside and Royal Ascot.

Don McCullin is in conversation at the National Media Museum on Friday, May 8, from 6.45pm to 8.15pm. Tickets are available on 0870 7010200. The exhibition, Don McCullin – In England, is on from May 8 to September 27.