Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry portrait.jpg
Steve McCurry on "Celebrating Multiculturalism Through Photography", Central Market Annex gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Editorial photographer
Agent Magnum Photos
Notable credit(s)

Leica Hall of Fame Award, Hasselblad Master

Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad

Steve McCurry is an American editorial photographer best known for his photograph "Afghan Girl" which originally appeared in National Geographic magazine.

Early life[edit]

Steve McCurry attended Penn State University. He originally planned to study cinematography and filmmaking, but ended up getting a degree in theater arts and graduating in 1974. He became interested in photography when he started taking pictures for the Penn State newspaper The Daily Collegian.[1]

After working at Today's Post in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania for two years, he left for India to freelance.


His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled areas of Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes. Those images, which were published around the world, were among the first to show the conflict. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise.[2]

McCurry continued to cover armed conflicts, including 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.[2] His work has been featured worldwide in magazines and he is a frequent contributor to National Geographic. He has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1986.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded by the National Press Photographers Association. The same year, he won an unprecedented four first-place prizes in the World Press Photo contest. In 2014, McCurry was awarded The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal.[3]

McCurry focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face. “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.”[4]

Steve McCurry is portrayed in a TV documentary The Face of the Human Condition (2003) by French award-winning filmmaker Denis Delestrac.

In May 2013 Steve McCurry was Pirelli's inspired choice of photographer to shoot the pictures for the 2013Pirelli Calendar in Rio de Janeiro.

"Afghan Girl"[edit]

Main article: Afghan Girl

McCurry took his most recognized portrait, "Afghan Girl", in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan.[5] 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.”


Although McCurry shoots both in digital and film, his admitted preference is for transparency film. Eastman Kodak let him shoot the last ever produced roll of Kodachrome transparency film, which was processed in July 2010 by Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas and will be housed at the George Eastman House.[6] Most of the photos, excluding a few near-duplicates, have been published on the Internet by Vanity Fair.[7] "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."


2014 Photography Appreciation Award[8] Hamdan International Photography Award
2011 Leica Hall of Fame Award St. Moritz, Switzerland
2011 Prix LiberPress Girona, Spain
2009 Ambrogino D’Oro Milan, Italy
2006 Lowell Thomas GOLD
2006 First Place, Buddha Rising, National Geographic, Dec. 2005 National Press Photographers Association
2006 Honorary Fellowship New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP)
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 Distinguished Alumni Award Pennsylvania State University
2003 Co-recipient of the New York Film Festival Gold for documentary, Afghan Girl: Found" New York Film Festival
2002 Distinguished Visiting Fellow College of Creative Studies, University of California
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 Special Recognition Award United Nations International Photographic Council
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 Our World Photo Winner, "Red Boy"

Our World Essay Finalist, India

Life Magazine: 'The Eisenstaedt Awards'
1998 Award of Excellence, Portraits: Red Boy Picture of the Year Competition
1998 Southern Asian Journalistic Award: Outstanding Special Project: National Geographic Story, India: 50 Years of Independence

Southern Asian Journalistic Award: Outstanding Photograph: Red Boy

1997 Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence: Fishermen Picture of the Year Competition
1996 Magazine Feature Picture Story Award: '"Beggar

Magazine Feature Picture Story Award: Burma: The Richest of the Poor Countries

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 Photo Competition
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
1985 Oliver Rebbot Award Citation: Monsoons and The New Faces of Baghdad
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




  • The Earth Defenders: Lavazza 2015 Calendar.


  1. ^ Biography on Magnum Photos
  2. ^ a b Biography on National Geographic Website
  3. ^ "Centenary Medal". Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  4. ^ McCurry, Steve. "Steve McCurry Masterclass: 8 Ways to Improve Your Photography". Eyevoyage. Eyevoyage. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "A Life Revealed- Afghan Girl" by National Geographic
  6. ^ "Last Kodachrome roll processed in Parsons" by The Wichita Eagle
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Padley, Gemma (17 March 2014). "HIPA announces prize winners at grand ceremony". British Journal of Photography. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Steve McCurry: India". Retrieved 10 January 2016. 

External links[edit]