Steve McCarry Gallery – the path to the goal is as important as the goal itself

Steve is a bright representative of the American school. Its work always has a technique honed to perfection, sharpness, exposure, and color – bright, often close to open, and warm. He gives priority to simple composition and golden light, all for the sake of the viewer’s contact with the “essence” of what he shoots. His images seem to stare at us, peering into our souls, never letting us forget them. He’s a color photographer who takes his inspiration from painting and early black-and-white photography with its aesthetic techniques.

Thank you Agency.Photographer for his assistance in preparing this article for publication.

Steve McCurry’s official website:


Steve McCarry

Steve McCarry.

Photo by Alexander Naanu. New York. 2010.

Born in 1950 in Philadelphia, USA. He became interested in photography while studying film at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1974 he graduated from the university with a degree in theatrical art, and took a job as a photographer with a local newspaper.

In 1978 he went to India with his own money, where he worked in difficult conditions, often risking his life and health.

In 1979 he moved to Afghanistan, which would become a country for several years, where he repeatedly worked and even lost in 1980 and 1988.

In 1980 he received the Robert Capa Gold Medal, which is awarded to photojournalists who have shown exceptional courage and initiative.

In 1984 he made the famous portrait of Afghan Girl, which in 1985 appeared on the cover of National Geographic and immediately became a symbol of the struggle of Afghans for independence and the most famous photo image.

Steve was accepted as a candidate for the Magnum Agency in 1986 and became a full member in 1991.

A burly-looking man of medium height entered the room, modestly dressed, wearing a khaki cap with a red star embroidered on it and with a camera under his jacket sleeve. He was demure, almost shy, but also very attentive to what was going on around him, watching and assessing his “potential interlocutor. He started asking me all sorts of trivia about what, how, who and where, and after a minute it turned out that he and I had been to the same relatively hard-to-reach place at almost the same time… “There it is – the thread!”, I thought, and Steve began his story..

Steve McCurry is one of the most brilliant photographers of our time and one of the most recognizable, shooting almost exclusively in color and specializing in Southeast Asia. He has been photographing for over 30 years and over the course of his career he has witnessed changing cultures, disasters and celebrations, conflicts, wars, their aftermath and recovery from them. In India, he saw the rice paddies leaving the outskirts of cities, to be replaced by high-rise buildings. He documented the monsoon, coming in long-awaited rain after drought and dust storms and washing everything in its path. He photographed pilgrims going for a dip in the Ganges. He watched the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran and the aftermath of the invasion of Kuwait..

He was, to summarize what Steve saw, observing human life in this region, penetrating it and showing it from the inside.

When it came to America, Steve said: “I’m sorry I haven’t been to America much, it’s changed a lot since the ’80s. That’s what a lot of people had to shoot!”. And I thought about how strangely intertwined our country’s history and McCarry’s life story is: he appeared in Afghanistan at the moment of Soviet troops’ entry there, and from that moment all leading magazines of the world started to publish his photos.

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1996. Villagers participating in the festival

Photo: Steve McCarry/MagnumPhotos

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1996. Villagers participating in the Holi Festival.

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1996. Villagers participating in the festival.

– Steve, what is it that attracts you to photography??

– What attracts me to photography is to be able to walk down the street in the morning, without any specific plan or task, without a pre-prepared script, and just search, explore, – and no pressure, no specific expectations. Photography gives me the opportunity to return over and over to the same place to realize and see a single image. Lately, I think that if one tries to remember an important event, it is the static images and photographs that will come to mind.

– Which of your works do you consider to be important photography?

– I was on assignment once, shooting a monsoon story and looking for the most parched, hot spot. And on the way, in the desert, I was caught in a dust storm: the sky was so dark and a deafening wind was blowing. You couldn’t see anything because of the sand and dust, it was very disorienting. Suddenly I noticed women working on a farm nearby, they huddled together, hiding from the sand, and started singing. So they begged, begged for rain. When I saw that, I knew I had to shoot, even though it had nothing to do with the assignment. Their clothes were made from fabric that was no longer being made. I found this scene to be very beautiful. You can’t get hung up on what feels like your “real” goal. The path is just as important. The photo from this storm is one of my favorite images. It’s one of those pictures that people react to.

– I can’t help but ask you about the portrait of an Afghan girl. What do you think of this image today, and has your attitude changed over the years?

– Even after all these years, in my opinion, this picture hasn’t lost its power. And the way I met her the girl years later was an amazing experience. There was the same fire in her eyes, the same look. I think she’s still beautiful despite the harsh living conditions in those parts. People still ask me about it regularly.

– Do you make contact with the subjects of your photographs or do you try to remain invisible, whatever your approach?

– The only tactic I use is to be respectful and open and try to convince people that I am thinking of them first and in no way trying to show them in a bad light. I never get tired of saying that the most important thing is to respect and be sensitive to all people. The problems in our world come when people see that they are not listened to and not respected. I always try to make a personal connection, no matter how short it may be.

– When you get an assignment, you plan a shoot, or you just immerse yourself in the environment and react to it? How you have it all coming together?

– When I get somewhere, I like to have a very good idea of what I’m going to do next. But there’s no point wasting time trying to visualize your ideas beforehand, because that always leads to frustration. I usually arrive at a place, try to immerse myself in the situation and build on that. I’ve been so many places already and I have a long list of situations, places and people I want to photograph. But at the same time I like to spend time just looking around: it helps to see, to find what makes a particular place stand out and makes it unique, unlike any other place in the world. I always try to find these unique qualities wherever I go.

– Have you ever had that moment where you went back to a place you’d been, but it was so different that you didn’t recognize it?

– So many of the places I photographed no longer exist as they once did. I even wrote about it on my blog, in a post The Way it Was . There I was describing a scene of women tilling the ground. There are modern buildings standing there now. A lot of environments have changed, whether they are man-made or natural.

– You are based in New York, why do you have relatively few photographs of the city??

– I actually have a lot of photos of New York City, but I haven’t put them up. There are a few on my website , but really, most of my work is from other parts of the world, and these are the images people want to see. I was in New York on September 11, 2001, and I have a lot of pictures of the first responders and the images of how they helped people.

– When you came to New York you shot with a Nikon D3 x and a Nikkor 24-70/2.8. Tell us why you use this camera and if there is anything special about the way you use your?

– Right now I’m using a Nikon D700 and a medium format Hasselblad. I used to use discrete lenses, mostly 28, 35 and 50mm. But so far I’m happy with the results of my Nikkor 24-70.

– What advice would you give to our reader??

– Be prepared to work very hard! Unless you’re obsessed with your work and in love with it, you won’t succeed.

If you want to be a photographer, you have to take pictures all the time. If we look at the works of the greats, we see that they found a specific place or subject and carved out something profound, something special and memorable. This kind of work takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, it’s not for everyone.

Finding your own style, I think, is like finding your own voice or point of view. Life is interesting to us all in different ways. For example, I’m drawn to travel around this planet and meet people, see other cultures, other approaches.

Don’t stand still and rediscover yourself, grow, keep your heart open, and don’t get hung up! Life sort of floats around you and you have to stay open to respond to it and let the beautiful things touch you and change you.

Find your own voice. In time you will start to see in your own way, and then your look and character will get into your photos. We are all unique, and our photography should reflect the way we see. Look for inspiration in other people’s work, but don’t copy it.

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 1984. An Afghan girl in the Nazir Bagh refugee camp

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 1984. Afghan Girl at Nasir Bagh refugee camp.

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 1984. An Afghan girl in the Nazir Bagh refugee camp.

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 2002. Sharbat Gula

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 2002. Sharbat Gula.

PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 2002. Sharbat Gula.

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1983. Sandstorm

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1983. Dust storm.

INDIA. Rajasthan. 1983. Sandstorm.

CAMBODIA. Angkor. 2000. Buddhist monks working in the kitchen at a monastery near Angkor Wat

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

CAMBODIA. Angkor. 2000. Buddhist Monks working in the kitchen at a monastery next to Angkor Wat.

CAMBODY. Angkor. 2000. Buddhist monks working in the kitchen at a monastery near Angkor Wat.

INDIA. Bombay. 1993. A mother and child beg through a cab window during a monsoon

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos/agency.photographer

INDIA. Bombay. 1993. A mother and child ask for alms through a taxi window during the monsoon.

INDIA. Bombay. 1993. A mother and child begging through a cab window during a monsoon

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