It is hard to break with traditions and favoured habits, but the old cliche that a picture says a thousand words is particularly true when it comes to photojournalist Steve McCurry
‘s 1984 photograph of Sharbat Gula. Oh, you’ve never heard of either of them? But surely you have seen the image below , “Afghan Girl”.
Her piercing green eyes and casually draped red scarf form one of the most iconic images of the last century – some even refer to her as the “Afghan Mona Lisa”, and isn’t her subtle yet indeterminable expression reminiscent of da Vinci’s masterpiece?
McCurry’s image was made world-famous on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic, and is the magazine’s most recognisable photograph.
At the right is a portrait of Sharbat taken in 2002, when McCurry found her living in Afghanistan again, with the three daughters she hopes will get the education she always wished for herself. Her distinctive sea green eyes still hold their “Afghan Mona Lisa” gaze.
Steve McCurry has captured portraits of people around the world, and each have their charm and interest. Each raise a thousand questions with their stunning color and candid moments. McCurry has described India as the place where he learnt his artistic style:
“If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.”
In The Face of the Human Condition (a 2003 doco by the Award-winning French film-maker Denis Delestrac), Steve says “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.”
He’s not one to sit still, as Tina Hay – Editor of PennStaterMag found out: “…McCurry is based in New York City, but good luck finding him there. He spends much of his time in Asia on various photography projects, and in fact, to interview him today I had to call him at a hotel in Myanmar, where he’s running a photography workshop…”
Steve McCurry has an awe-inspiring website
and a separate blog
– both of which are required visiting with each jaw-dropping image better than the last. Yes, he does cover the “Human Condition” very, very well. In award-winning, inspiring, enlightening ways. He is the benchmark, the standard-bearer in that field.
But he also does travel photography, street photography, yes – portrait photography and celebrity photography (see his pictures of Robert DiNiro & Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachan on his sites) as well with a signature style – bright vibrant colours, striking observation and great composition.
His portrait of Sharbat Gulu has inspired many photographers, both professional and hobbyists alike. South African photographer Jodi Bieber
found herself amongst them when she was capturing her World Press Photo of the Year (2010) portrait of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan victim of facial mutilation: in the Montreal Mirror news feature ‘Capturing Aisha’
she says “For me, it was putting a moment of history in perspective. It was just one thing that added to the image”
Steve McCurry is an accredited Magnum photographer and a National Geographic photographer and has won a barrel full of prestigious awards.
He has also had many exhibitions and has published around a dozen books & peripheral products all of which can be accessed via the Amazon.com link given below.
More on Steve McCurry:
The photograph above is from the book
“BEHIND PHOTOGRAPHS: ARCHIVING PHOTOGRAPHIC LEGENDS”
which began as the personal quest of photographer Tim Mantoani to document and preserve noted photographers together with their images.
Story of Tim Mantoani and the book will be published next week – with an interview to follow in due course.