Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry (born 1950) is best known for his evocative colour photographs that document both human struggles and joy. Having travelled the globe for over thirty years, McCurry has photographed warzones, burning oil fields, refugee camps, ship breaking yards and monsoons all over the world. A member of Magnum Photos since 1986, many of his images have become modern icons.

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Works

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Steve McCurry, The Afghan Girl, 1984. Sharbat Gula

Afghan Girl, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Woman at a Horse Festival, Tagong, Tibet, 1999

Woman at a Horse Festival, Tagong, Tibet, 1999

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Flower Seller, Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996

Flower Seller, Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Mother and Child at Car Window, Bombay, India, 1993

Mother and Child at Car Window, Bombay, India, 1993

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Holi Festival, Rajasthan, India, 1996

Holi Festival, Rajasthan, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Shaolin Monks Training Zhengzhou, China, 2004

Shaolin Monks Training, Zhengzhou, China, 2004

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan, 2007

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan, 2007

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Villagers Participating in the Holi Festival, Rajasthan, India, 1996

Villagers Participating in the Holi Festival, Rajasthan, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Boy in Mid Flight, Jodhpur, India, 2007

Boy In Mid-Flight, Jodhpur, India, 2007

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Fishermen, Weligama, South Coast, Sri Lanka, 1995

Fishermen, Weligama, South Coast, Sri Lanka, 1995

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, The Blue City, 2010

The Blue City, India, 2010

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Mingun Pagoda, Mandalay, Burma, 1994

Mingun Pagoda, Mandalay, Burma, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Rabari Shepherd, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Rabari Shepherd, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Flower Seller, Kashmir, India, 1998

Flower Seller, Kashmir, India, 1998

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Camels in Dust Storm, India, 2010

Camels in Dust Storm, India, 2010

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Taj and Train, Agra, India, 1983

Taj and Train, Agra, India, 1983

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Train Station at Old Delhi, India, 1983

Train Station at Old Delhi, India, 1983

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Train Station, Agra, India, 1983

Train Station, Agra, India, 1983

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Procession of Nuns Rangoon, Burma, 1994

Procession of Nuns, Rangoon, Burma, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Man Beneath Stairs, Jodphur, India, 2005

Man beneath Stairs, Jodhpur, India, 2005

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Rabari Tribal Elder, Rajasthan, India, 2010

Rabari Tribal Elder, Rajasthan, India, 2010

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Rajasthan Shadows, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Rajasthan Shadows, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Camels and Oil FIelds, Al Ahmadi, Kuwait, 1991

Camels and Oil Fields, Al Ahmadi, Kuwait, 1991

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Intha Fisherman, Burma, 2011

Intha Fisherman, Burma, 2011

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Clover Gatherers in Wadi Hadramawt Near Shibam, Yemen, 1999

Clover Gatherers in Wadi Hadramawt, Near Shibam, Yemen, 1999

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Boat Covered in Snow in Sankei en Gardens, Japan, 2014

Boat Covered in Snow in Sankei-En Gardens, Japan, 2014

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Flower Vendor on Dal Lake, 1996

Flower Vendor on Dal Lake, 1999

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Moonrise in Mumbai, India, 1994

Moonrise in Mumbai, India, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Geisha in Subway, Kyoto, 2007

Geisha in Subway, Kyoto, Japan, 2007

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Stepwell, India, 2002

Stepwell, India, 2002

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Salat at Blue Mosque in Mazar e Sharif, 1992

Salat at Blue Mosque in Mazar-E-Sharif, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Man in Bamiyan Mosque, 2006

Man in Bamiyan Mosque, 2006

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Jodhpur Fruit Vendor, India, 1996

Jodhpur Fruit Vendor, Jodhpur, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Chand Baori Stepwell, Rajasthan, India, 2016

Chand Baori Stepwell, Rajasthan, India, 2016

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Ship Breaking Yard, Karachi, Pakistan, 1985

Ship Breaking Yard, Karachi, Pakistan, 1985

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Blue Mosque Mazar-E-Sharif, 1992

Blue Mosque, Mazar-E-Sharif, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl Hiding her Face, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984

Afghan Girl hiding her Face, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Smoking Coal Miner, Pol-E-Khomri, Afghanistan, 2002

Smoking Coal Miner, Pol-E-Khomri, Afghanistan, 2002

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Monk at Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet, 2000

Monk at Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet, 2000

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Three Men on Steps Jodhur, India, 1996

Three Men on Steps, Jodhpur, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Girl with Green Shawl, Peshawar, Pakistan, 2002

Girl with Green Shawl, Peshawar, Pakistan, 2002

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Man Covered in Powder, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Man Covered in Powder, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Mujahideen Stand Atop a Mountain in the Hindu Kush, 1984

Mujahideen Stand atop a Mountain in the Hindu Kush, 1984

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Girl in a New Coat, Xigaze, Tibet, 2001

Girl in a New Coat, Xigaze, Tibet, 2001

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Portrait Photographer, Afghanistan, 1992

Portrait Photographer, Afghanistan, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Dalits Sweeping the Streets, Mumbai, India, 1996

‘Dalits’ Sweeping the Streets, Mumbai, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Kumbh Mela Festival, Allahabad, India, 2001

Kumbh Mela Festival, Allahabad, India, 2001

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Ship Breaking Yard, Mumbai, India, 2006

Ship Breaking Yard, Mumbai, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Herat after Ten Years of Bombing, Herat, Afghanistan, 1992

Herat after Ten Years of Bombing, Herat, Afghanistan, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Afghan Women at Shoe Store, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

Afghan Women at Shoe Store, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Russian Car in Old Havana, Cuba, 2010

Russian Car in Old Havana, Cuba, 2010

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Wreckage at Ground Zero, New York, 12 September, 2001

Wreckage at Ground-Zero, New York, 12 September 2001

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, New York, 1994

Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, New York, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Rooftops, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Rooftops, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Stepwell and Birds, India, 2012

Stepwell and Birds, India, 2012

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Welder in a Ship-Breaking Yard, Mumbai, India, 1994

Welder in a Ship Breaking Yard, Mumbai, India, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, A Villager Participating in the Festival of Holi, Rajasthan, India, 1996

A Villager Participating in the Festival of Holi, Rajasthan, India, 1996

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Teeth Maker in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1998

Teeth Maker in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1998

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Father and Son in Helmand Province, 1980

Father and Son in Helmand Province, 1980

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Woman in Canary Burqa, 2002

Woman in Canary Burqa, 2002

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Farmer in Jalalabad,1992

Farmer in Jalalabad, 1992

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Mujahid Prays, 1980

Mujahid Prays, 1980

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, An Afghan Refugee in Balochistan, Pakistan, 1981

An Afghan Refugee in Balochistan, Pakistan, 1981

Steve McCurry

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Steve-McCurry-Sri-Lanka

Stilt Fishermen, Sri Lanka, 1995

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, India, 1994

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, India, 1994

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Mujahideen Fighters Watch Convoy Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1979

Mujahideen Fighters watch Convoy, Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1979

Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry, Young Man Walks Behind an Elephant, Sri Lanka, 1995

Young Man Walks Behind an Elephant, Sri Lanka, 1995

Steve McCurry

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Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983

Steve McCurry

Early Life

Steve McCurry was born in 1950 and grew up in Philadelphia. McCurry travelled to Stockholm, Amsterdam and the Middle East before applying to the College of Arts and Architecture at Pennsylvania State University. Whilst studying, he started taking photographs for the college newspaper, The Daily Collegian. Although he originally planned to study cinematography and filmmaking, McCurry graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts in 1974.

Early Photographic Career

Upon graduating Steve McCurry worked as a staff photographer at the Philadelphia newspaper Today’s Post for several years. However, McCurry left his job in 1978 and bought a one-way ticket to India with only a bag of clothes and film. After spending months travelling around India, he crossed the border into Pakistan and met a group of Afghan refugees in Chitral, where he learnt of the devastating consequences of the ongoing civil war. In May 1979, the group of refugees managed to smuggle McCurry into Afghanistan, just as the Russian Invasion was closing the country to all western journalists. Travelling with the Mujahideen, McCurry adopted traditional Afghan dress and grew a full beard in order to blend into the rebel-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Documenting the human cost of the Afghan-Soviet War, Mccurry brought the images of the conflict to the world by exporting rolls of film sewn into his turban and stuffed in his underwear. His photographs of the conflict were amongst the first to present the true brutality of the Russian invasion, and were subsequently published in The New York Times and Time magazine. His haunting images garnered worldwide attention, eventually winning him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for the Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise.

In 1984 McCurry was approached by National Geographic to photograph the refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border. In the Nasir Bagh camp McCurry found a tent that had been set up as a girls’ school. He noticed one girl with particularly startling green eyes. He recalls ‘she had an intense, haunted look, a really penetrating gaze – and yet she was only about twelve years old… I guess she was as curious about me as I was about her. After a few moments she got up and walked away, but for an instant everything was right – the light, the background, the expression in her eyes.’ That crucial moment resulted in McCurry capturing what has since become one of the most widely-recognised photograph of the twentieth century. It was the first time the young girl had ever been photographed, and her portrait ended up on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985.

McCurry became a contributing member of Magnum Photos in 1986, an international photographic cooperative founded by a group of leading 20th century photographers including Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Recent Work

Over the next three decades Steve McCurry travelled the world, seeking the most important places from which to report picture stories. His photography spans conflict, ancient traditions, vanishing cultures, and contemporary culture; retaining a human element throughout. He states that most of his 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.”

McCurry has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including Burma, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Cambodia, the Philippines, former Yugoslavia, and the Gulf War. His coverage of Afghanistan and Tibet has been ongoing throughout his career. Instead of photographing combat, McCurry tends to focus on the human cost of war, often producing arresting portraits and figure studies. He focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but also on the faces of its victims.

McCurry’s work has been featured in every major magazine in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic with recent articles on Tibet, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. A high point in his career was the rediscovery of the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl. Her identity remained unknown for 17 years until McCurry and the National Geographic team located the woman, named Sharbat Gula. ‘After almost two decades,’ he said, ‘her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was all those years ago.’ Sharbat Gula initially struggled with her fame, being deported back to Afghanistan after serving a 15 day prison sentence for illegally obtaining Pakistani identity papers. In a BBC interview she admitted that she eventually came to see the photograph and her resulting fame as an honour, as the generated income helped a lot of widows and orphans. She plans to establish an NGO offering free medical treatment to those in need. McCurry founded the Afghan Girl’s Fund to work with non-profit organisations to help young women in Afghanistan. In 2008 the organisation widened its scope to include boys and changed its name to the Afghan Children’s Fund.

McCurry’s coverage of the September 11th attacks in 2001 have since become a key document of the events, and is a testament to the heroism and nobility of the people of New York City. McCurrry’s photographs of Ground Zero were published in New York September 11th, by Magnum Photographers. His photograph of the collapse on the North Tower was used as the front cover.

Having shot on Kodachrome for thirty years, Kodak asked McCurry to shoot the last roll of the famous transparency film, the product of which is housed at the George Eastman House.

Exhibitions and Awards

Steve McCurry is the recipient of numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded by the National Press Photographers’ Association in 1984. In the same year, he won an unprecedented four first prizes in the World Press Photo Contest. He has also twice won the Olivier Rebbot Memorial Award. He was awarded the Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Royal Photographic Society in London in 2014.

His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world, including Germany, Italy, Mexico and the United States of America.

McCurry has published several books, including Monsoon (1988), The Path to Buddha (2003), Portraits (1999), On Reading (2016), Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures (2018), and most recently In Search of Elsewhere (2020).

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