19th Jul 2018
Showing a cross-section of works from his long career, the exhibition will be an opportunity to view McCurry’s most iconic images in London this February. Having travelled the globe for over thirty years, McCurry is a veteran photojournalist who has photographed warzones, burning oil fields, refugee camps, ship breaking yards and monsoons all over the globe.
McCurry was born in 1950 and grew up in Philadelphia. During a gap year, he spent several months in Stockholm, Amsterdam and the Middle East before going to the College of Arts and Architecture at Pennsylvania State University to study filmmaking. Whilst studying he started taking photographs for the college newspaper. After graduating he worked for a local newspaper but was quickly taken by the urge to travel. He made his first of countless trips to India in 1978 and immediately fell in love with the subcontinent. In 1979 the Soviet-Afghan War broke out and Western journalists were banned from Afghanistan. McCurry crossed the border into the country from Pakistan, disguised in native garb. Travelling with local militia fighters, known as the mujahideen, he documented the human cost of the Afghan-Soviet War. Smuggling his rolls of film out of Afghanistan by sewing them into his clothes, McCurry photographed the mujahideen in armed combat and on the move across the country. His photographs of the conflict were published in The New York Times and Time magazine. They were some of the first images of the conflict to emerge from the country and won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for the Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad.
Over the next three decades McCurry travelled the world, seeking the most spectacular places from which to report picture stories. He has undertaken extended projects in Afghanistan, Tibet and India but the subject of each photograph holds its own significance for him. As he has said, “what is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling.” 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 political and social issues, often producing arresting portraits and figure studies.
A highlight of this exhibition included the dramatic photographs of fishermen using stilts to catch fish in Weligama, Sri Lanka. In this interview, McCurry tells Giles Huxley-Parlour (Director of Beetles+Huxley) how the famous image came about and the methods he uses to conduct his work.