Steve McCurry is an American photographer and photojournalist.
He was born on April 23, 1950 in Philadelphia. Steve studied Film at Pennsylvania State University. After graduation in 1974, he started to work for a local newspaper called The Daily Collegian and started his career as a photographer.
After a few years of working as a freelance photographer, McCurry made his first trip to India.
Back then, he didn‘t know that this country would be the start for his international career, filled with many trips to countries, which suffer from armed conflicts, war, and poverty, but also will give him huge resources to know different cultures and take fascinating pictures.
Everything started from a one-way ticket. India for the first trip was chosen not accidentally. Its rich culture promised many vivid and lively shots.
Through his career, McCurry had visited India many times and collected wide spectrum of pictures. From cities full of people like Mumbai or Kolkata till farmscapes in the Uttar Pradesh area.
While traveling through these places, he started to create spectacular portraits of locals, surrounded by cows and busy with their daily works. You can see deep looks, which catch your attention and give you the feeling, that behind every person, it doesn‘t matter if he or she is young or old, is an individual and unique story, which Steve was trying to bring to the world.
India is very generous of giving the photographer plenty of colors – red, orange, blue or green and that perfectly reflects at Steve’s photos. You can see different fabrics on people’s bodies or turbans on men’s heads.
By taking these pictures, the photographer shows, that huge part of India‘s culture can be disclosed exposing the vivid colors of locals, because it seems like every person he shoots is one of a kind and unique.
Steve said: “I think that joy of photographing in India is that you never quite know what is waiting for you around the next corner. There is always, what‘s delightful, horrified, something that you never saw before, something who always can strike you in the face”.
The artist emphasizes a picture he took in the Rajasthan region, saying that circumstances were favourable, when suddenly dust storm started and it created an exclusive atmosphere for the shot.
Group of women were hiding from the storm covered in the circle and started to sing.
What McCurry likes of this picture, is how fabric was blown during the dust storm and the fabrics itself symbolize the past, cause they aren’t produced anymore and also the trees are symbol too because there is a big desolation of trees in that part of the country.
Afghanistan and the big break
While being in India, Steve McCurry accidentally snuck into Afghanistan, just before it was invaded by Soviet troops.
He needed to be very careful: shave his beard, put the same clothes as locals wear and especially hide his cameras in a bag.
At that time, there was a military zone with the armed Pakistani soldiers and the whole region was unsafe but also very interesting for a photographer.
When he sent films with pictures back to his family, one of them were printed in Geo magazine and The New York Times, but the real break happened when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan later the same year and then the appearance of these photos was vitally important for all printed media.
The famous Afghan girl
When photo of the Afghan girl was printed on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985, it became one of the most popular and iconic pictures in the whole photography history.
The picture was taken at the refugee camp during the Soviet invasion. McCurry remembered, that there was a full class of children, but one girl took his attention from the entering in the classroom, because of her incredible green eyes and mesmerized look.
At first, a girl was a bit shy, because probably it was the first time in her life when somebody was taking pictures of her, but her teacher told her, that it would be important to let the whole world see her.
To create this portrait the circumstances were perfect – right light, good background and an expression of the girl‘s face.
The authenticity of a girl brought success, because she didn‘t pose, just sat calmly and looked into the lens.
The picture of a girl symbolizes the fear and horror of war and perfectly illustrates how one image can describe individual experiences during a difficult situations of the country during the war.
About the inspiration: “I think what inspires me, is that incredible world we live in, all the ways people live their lives, come out of the mountains, wearing this jewelry, hats, and in the middle east women covered to the top – all of this area of culture is happening in the same little particular place of dust. I am amazed by how we all are the same, we do the same things, we all do them erratically in different ways. So I think the thing, which inspires me is the traveling, absorbing and wandering around this amazing planet”.
And where is that famous Afghan girl now? Here she is speaking with the BBC. Clearly the photo was a mixed blessing for her.
Steve McCurry is married and has a daughter, who was born in 2017. He loves to travel with his family to various countries, he hopes, that his daughter could know other cultures, meet different people and learn to speak several languages, because for him it is important, that she could feel comfortable in different parts of the world.
Published works and achievements
Steve McCurry has published books including: The Imperial Way (1985), Monsoon (1988), Portraits (1999), South Southeast (2000), Sanctuary (2002), The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage (2003), Steve McCurry (2005), and Looking East: Portraits (2006), In the Shadow of Mountains (2007), The Unguarded Moment (2009), The Iconic Photographs (2012), Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (2013), From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail.
Through more than 40 years of his career, Steve received various awards, including Medal of Honor for coverage of the 1986 Phillippine Revolution given by White House News Photographers Association, Golden Doves for Peace journalistic prize issued by the Italian Research Institute Archivio Disarmo in 2018.
His works were exhibited in the exhibitions in New York, Hong Kong, Brussels, and other cities. The most important – his works inspired many photographers and creators around the world.
To see Steve McCurry‘s pictures you can visit on of the following sites:
Steve McCurry Videos