Picture 1: Steve McCurry
Picture 2: Afghan Girl at Nasir Bagh refuge camp near Pashawa, Pakistan 1984
Picture 3: Aung San Suu Kyi, 1995
Born in Philadelphia, Steve McCurry graduated cum laude from the College of Arts and Architecture at the Pennsylvania State University. After working at a newspaper for two years, he left for India to freelance. It was in India that McCurry learned to watch and wait on life. “If you wait”, he realised, “people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view”. Recognised universally as one of today’s finest image-makers and best known for his evocative colour photography, he captures the essence of human struggle and joy in the finest documentary tradition. Member of Magnum Photos since 1986, he has searched and found the unforgettable; many of his images have become modern icons.
His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes and images that would be published around the world which were among the first to show the conflict there. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded by the National Press Photographers’ Association. This was the same year in which he won an unprecedented four first prizes in the World Press Photo Contest. He has won the Olivier Rebbot Memorial Award twice.
Steve has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including Beirut, Burma, Cambodia, the Gulf War, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the former Yugoslavia and continuing coverage of Afghanistan and Tibet. He focuses on the human consequence of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face.
Steve’s work has been featured in every major magazine in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic magazine with recent articles on Afghanistan, Iraq, Tibet, Yemen and the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. He is driven by an innate curiosity and sense of wonder about the world and everyone in it. He has an uncanny ability to cross boundaries of language and culture to capture stories of human experience. “Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition”.
A high point in his career was the rediscovery of the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl that many have described as the most recognisable photograph in the world today. When Steve finally located Sharbat Gula after almost two decades, he said, “Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is a striking as she was all those years ago”.
Steve returned from an extended assignment in China on September 10, 2001. His coverage at Ground Zero on September 11 is a testament to the heroism and nobility of the people of New York City. “You felt the horror and immediately, instinctively understood that our lives would never be the same again”.
Steve has published 10 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), Looking East (2006), In the Shadow of Mountains (2007) and The Unguarded Moment (2009).
His images on show here highlight the opportunities that exist in today’s contemporary culture - any one can be a celebrity and often it is the image itself (as with the original Afghan Girl) that is celebrated, rather than the subject. The curator strives to show that anyone can be “beautiful” or “blessed” and together with Steve, they show that preconceptions are never an entire narrative.
Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains
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