Steve McCurry on Portrait Photography

Steve McCurry has travelled the world, seeking the most important places from which to report picture stories. He has reported on a vast number of international and civil conflicts including the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanon Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, the Gulf War and the Afghan Civil War. Instead of photographing combat, McCurry tends to focus on the human cost of war, often producing arresting portraits and figure studies. And as such, is now celebrated as a portrait photographer. When asked what makes his portraits so distinctive, he stated; “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.”

McCurry first visited Tibet in May 1989 and made eight trips over the following two decades, resulting in many striking portrait studies, On a trip to Tibet in 2000, McCurry captured this powerful image of a monk at Jokhand Temple in Lhasa. McCurry has since said; “there was something about his face, there was some ‘ancient feeling’, some kind of ancient truth there. I have never seen a face quite like his. He looks with intensity into the camera, deeply aware of the transience of the moment…”

Explore More


Lessons in Distortion: André Kertész’s Melancholic Tulip


Sandra Blow: Surface Shifts


Eleanor, Port Huron, 1953