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McCurry in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2012
April 23, 1950|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Leica Hall of Fame Award, Hasselblad MasterRobert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad
Steve McCurry is an American photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. His most famous photo is of the "Afghan Girl", the girl with the piercing green eyes that periodically appears on the cover of National Geographic. McCurry has photographed many assignments for National Geographic and has been a member of Magnum since 1986.
McCurry is the recipient of numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded by the National Press Photographers Association; the Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal; and two first-place prizes in the World Press Photo contest (1985 and 1992).
Life and work
McCurry attended Penn State University. He originally planned to study cinematography and filmmaking, but instead gained a degree in theater arts and graduated in 1974. He became interested in photography when he started taking pictures for the Penn State newspaper The Daily Collegian.
After working at Today's Post in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania for two years. In 1978, he left to freelance in India. After a year working there, McCurry traveled to northern Pakistan where he met two Afghans who told him about the war across the border in Afghanistan.
McCurry's career was launched when, disguised in Afghani garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled areas of Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion. "As soon as I crossed the border, I came across about 40 houses and a few schools that were just bombed out," he says. "They were literally destroying whole villages with helicopter gunships." He left with rolls of film sewn into his turban and stuffed in his socks and underwear. These images were subsequently published by The New York Times, TIME and Paris Match and won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad.
McCurry covered more armed conflicts like the Iran-Iraq War, Lebanon Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines, the Gulf War and the Afghan Civil War. There have been a couple of dangerous moments where McCurry came close to losing his life. He was almost drowned in India and he survived an airplane crash in Yugoslavia. McCurry has had his work featured in magazines worldwide and he is a frequent contributor to National Geographic.
McCurry concentrates on the toll war takes on humans. He intends to show what war does to not only the landscape, but to the people who inhabit that land. “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.” What McCurry wants his viewers to take away from his photographs is the "human connection between all of us." He believes there is always some common thing between all humans despite the differences in religion, language, ethnicity, etc. McCurry also states, "I have found that I get completely consumed by the importance of the story I am telling, the feeling that the world has got to know. It's never about the adrenaline. It's about the story." However, sometimes McCurry has witnessed some "horrific" and "distressing" sights. In times like these, he uses his camera as a "shield" because it's easier to witness these events through a viewfinder.
On September 10, 2001, McCurry had just gotten back from Tibet. The morning of September 11, McCurry received a call saying the World Trade Center was on fire. He went up to the roof of his building and started taking photographs, he didn't know it was a plane that hit the towers. McCurry was on the roof when both of the towers fell, "they were just gone. It didn’t seem possible. Like you’re seeing something but you don’t really believe what you’re seeing." After the fall of the towers, McCurry ran to Ground Zero with his assistant. He describes the scene, "there was this very fine white powder everywhere and all this office paper, but there was no recognizable office equipment—no filing cabinets, telephones, computers. It seemed like the whole thing had been pulverized." McCurry left later that night and went back early on September 12, he didn't have any press credentials and had to sneak past security. He was eventually caught and escorted off Ground Zero, he wouldn't go back again.
McCurry switched from shooting color slide film to digital capture in 2005 for the convenience of editing in the field and transmitting images to photo editors. He admitted to no nostalgia about working in film in an interview with The Guardian. "Perhaps old habits are hard to break, but my experience is that the majority of my colleagues, regardless of age, have switched over... The quality has never been better. You can work in extremely low light situations, for example."
McCurry shoots in both film and digital, however, admits he prefers shooting with transparency film. Eastman Kodak gifted the last roll of film to ever be produced by Kodak. The roll was processed in July 2010 by Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Most of these photos were published on the Internet by Vanity Fair. McCurry states, "I shot it for 30 years and I have several hundred thousand pictures on Kodachrome in my archive. I'm trying to shoot 36 pictures that act as some kind of wrap up – to mark the passing of Kodachrome. It was a wonderful film."
McCurry took his most recognized portrait, "Afghan Girl", in December 1984 of an approximately 12-year-old Pashtun orphan in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. McCurry found the girl when he heard "unexpected laughter" coming from children inside a one-room school tent for girls. "I noticed this one little girl with these incredible eyes, and I instantly knew that this was really the only picture I wanted to take," he says. This was the first time the girl had ever been photographed. The image itself was named as "the most recognized photograph" in the history of the National Geographic magazine, and her face became famous as the cover photograph on the June 1985 issue. The photo has also been widely used on Amnesty International brochures, posters, and calendars. The identity of the "Afghan Girl" remained unknown for over 17 years until McCurry and a National Geographic team located the woman, Sharbat Gula, in 2002. McCurry said, “Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was all those years ago.”
Controversy about photo manipulation
In a May 2016 interview with PetaPixel, McCurry did not specifically deny making major changes, indicating that he now defines his work as "visual storytelling" and as "art". However, he subsequently added that others print and ship his images while he is travelling, implying that they were responsible for the significant manipulation. "That is what happened in this case. It goes without saying that what happened with this image was a mistake for which I have to take responsibility," he concluded.
When discussing the issue with a writer for Time's Lightbox website, McCurry provided similar comments about being a "visual storyteller", though without suggesting that the manipulation was done by others without his knowledge. In fact, the Time writer made the following statement, "Faced with mounting evidence of his own manipulations, McCurry has been forced to address his position in photography." In neither interview did he discuss when the heavy photo manipulation began, or which images have been manipulated. However, considering the controversy it has created, he said that “going forward, I am committed to only using the program in a minimal way, even for my own work taken on personal trips.” McCurry also offered the following conclusion to Time Lightbox, "Reflecting on the situation … even though I felt that I could do what I wanted to my own pictures in an aesthetic and compositional sense, I now understand how confusing it must be for people who think I’m still a photojournalist."
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|2014||Photography Appreciation Award||Hamdan International Photography Award|
|2011||Leica Hall of Fame Award||St. Moritz, Switzerland|
|2009||Ambrogino D’Oro||Milan, Italy|
|2006||First Place, Buddha Rising, National Geographic, Dec. 2005||National Press Photographers Association|
|2005||Honorary Fellowship||The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, London|
|2005||Photojournalism Division-International Understanding through Photography Award||Photographic Society of America|
|2003||The Lucie Award for Photojournalism||International Photography Awards|
|2003||Co-recipient of the New York Film Festival Gold for documentary, Afghan Girl: Found"||New York Film Festival|
|2002||Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa||Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ|
|2002||Photographer of the Year - PMDA Professional Photographer Award||PMDA|
|2002||Photographer of the Year||American Photo Magazine|
|2002||Award of Excellence for "Women of Afghanistan"||French Art Directors Association|
|2001||Award of Excellence, Book Series: "South SouthEast"||Photography Annual, Communication Arts|
|2000||Book of the Year: "South SouthEast" Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence: "Women in Field, Yemen||Pictures of the Year International, Picture of the Year Competition|
|1999||Lifetime Fellow Award||Pennsylvania State University, PA|
|1998||Award of Excellence, Portraits: Red Boy||Picture of the Year Competition|
|1994||Arts and Architecture Distinguished Alumni Award||Pennsylvania State University|
|1993||Award of Excellence for Rubble of War||National Press Photographers Association|
|1992||Oliver Rebbot Memorial Award: Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad on Gulf War Coverage||Overseas Press Club|
|1992||Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence: Fiery Aliens First Place, Magazine Science Award: Camels under a Blackened Sky First Place, Gulf War News Story: Kuwait: After the Storm||Picture of the Year Competition|
|1992||First Place, Nature and Environment: Oil-Stricken Bird, Kuwait First Place, General News Stories: Kuwait after the Storm Children's Award: "Camels under a Blackened Sky||World Press PhotoCompetition|
|1990||Award of Excellence, "Spanish Gypsy||White House News Photographers Association|
|1987||Medal of Honor for coverage of the 1986 Philippine Revolution||Philippines|
|1986||Oliver Rebbot Memorial Award: Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad for work done in the Philippines||Overseas Press Club|
|1984||Nature Category, First Place Nature Series Category, First place Daily LIfe Category, First Place Daily Life Series, First Place||World Press Competition|
|1984||Magazine Photographer of the Year||National Press Photographers Association|
|1980||Robert Capa Gold Medal for coverage of the war in Afghanistan for Time Magazine|
- 2015-2016: Steve McCurry: India, Rubin Museum of Art, New York
- 2016: Steve McCurry: The Iconic Photographs, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Hong Kong
- 2016: The World Through His Lens: Steve McCurry Photographs, New York, United States
- 2017: The World of Steve McCurry, Bussels, Belgium
- 2018: Steve McCurry Icons, Pavia, Italy
- 2018: 'S Wanderful-Making Pictures－Steve McCurry Solo Exhibition, Taipei, Taiwan
- Theroux, Paul (1985). The Imperial Way. Photographs by Steve McCurry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-39390-1.
- McCurry, Steve (1988). Monsoon. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-27850-5.
- —— (1999). Portraits. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-3839-7.
- —— (2000). South Southeast. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-3938-7.
- —— (2002). Sanctuary: The Temples of Angkor. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-4559-3.
- —— (2003). The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-6314-6.
- Bannon, Anthony; —— (2011). Steve McCurry. Phaidon 55. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-6259-0.
- —— (2006). Looking East: Portraits. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-4637-8.
- —— (2007). In the Shadow of Mountains. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-4640-8.
- —— (2009). The Unguarded Moment. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-4664-4.
- —— (2012). The Iconic Photographs. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-6513-3.
- —— (2013). Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-6462-4.
- —— (2015). From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-6898-1.
- Matthews, Katherine Oktober (November 13, 2013). "It's All Mixed: An Interview with Steve McCurry". GUP Magazine.
- "Centenary Medal". Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.Biography_VPage&AID=2K7O3R1312JM Biography on Magnum Photos
- "Q&A With Steve McCurry" (PDF). PDN. 2003. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- Wallis Simons, Jake (June 29, 2015). "The story behind the world's most famous photograph". CNN. able News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
...disguised himself in Afghan clothes and crossed illegally into Afghanistan, just before the Soviet invasion.
- Iqbal, Nosheen (June 28, 2010). "US photographer Steve McCurry: Go with the flow". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
To cover the war, he had dressed in salwar kameez and turban, smuggling rolls of film across the Afghan border, sewn into his coat.
- http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photographers/photographer-steve-mccurry/ Biography on National Geographic Website
- "Steve McCurry: The Ground Zero Photographs". American Photo. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- all-about-photo.com. "Steve McCurry Photographer - All About Photo". www.all-about-photo.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
Iqbal, Nosheen (June 28, 2010). "US photographer Steve McCurry: Go with the flow". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
He is practical about the benefits and has little patience for the nostalgic romance surrounding photographers who work only with film.
- "Steve McCurry - Artists - LAURA RATHE FINE ART". www.laurarathe.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- A Life Revealed- Afghan Girl, National Geographic
- Wallis Simons, Jake (June 29, 2015). "The story behind the world's most famous photograph". CNN. able News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
...a Pashtun orphan in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, was taken in December 1984 and published the following year.
- "How One Photographer Captured A Piercing Gaze That Shook The World". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- "Steve McCurry - Besharat Gallery". Besharat Gallery. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- Sanders IV, Lewis (May 31, 2016). "'Ethical lapse': Photoshop scandal catches up with iconic photojournalist Steve McCurry". DW Made for Minds. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
The world-renowned Magnum photographer has renounced the responsibilities of a photojournalist after heavily editing several of his images. But his use of Photoshop has breached photojournalism's ethics, say colleagues.
- Cade, DL (May 6, 2016). "Botched Steve McCurry Print Leads to Photoshop Scandal". Peta Pixel. Peta Pixel. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
While the original photo was soon removed from Mr. McCurry’s website, people and publications across the Web quickly began digging to see what other McCurry images they could find that had been seriously altered. They did not seem to come up empty handed.
- "Steve McCurry's Rickshaw". PetaPixel. May 31, 2016. May 31, 2016.
By now, many voices have weighed in about Steve McCurry and the evidence that he has consistently and substantially altered details in his photos. A fresh set of examples appeared just last week.
- Laurent, Olivier (30 May 2016). "Steve McCurry: I'm a Visual Storyteller Not a Photojournalist". Time Lightbox. Time. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Steve McCurry: India". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "Images by Famed Photographer Steve McCurry on View at Sundaram Tagore Gallery Pop Up". Sundaram Tagore Gallery. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
- "The World through His Lens: Steve McCurry Photographs » Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute". www.mwpai.org. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- "Exhibition. The World of Steve McCurry (extended)". www.brussels.be. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- "Exhibitions". Steve McCurry. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- "'S WANDERFUL│Making Pictures－Steve McCurry Solo Exhibition". www.mocataipei.org.tw (in Chinese). Retrieved 2018-05-05.
- Official website
- One on One With the Masters of Photography- Interview with McCurry which discuss the techniques of his portrait photography
- McCurry's gallery at photographic agency Sud Est57
- 2013 Pirelli Calendar shot by McCurry
- Capturing the Face of Asia - Interview with McCurry by European culture and arts online magazine "Culturekiosque" (2007)
- I Visualize Photo Possibilities Wherever I Am - Interview with McCurry by Indian photography web site "Fotoflock.com" (2009)
- on YouTube - Al Jezeera interview by Riz Khan
- "It's All Mixed: An Interview with Steve McCurry", GUP Magazine (2013)