Steve McCurry, American (1950 - )

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry, recognized universally as one of today's finest image-makers, has won many of photography's top awards. Best known for his evocative color photography, McCurry, in the finest documentary tradition, captures the essence of human struggle and joy. Member of Magnum Photos since 1986, McCurry has searched and found the unforgettable; many of his images have become modern icons. Born in Philadelphia, McCurry graduated cum laude from the College of Arts and Architecture at the Pennsylvania State University. After working at a newspaper for two years, he left for India to freelance. It was in India that McCurry learned to watch and wait on life. "If you wait," he realized, "people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view."

McCurry's career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes and images that would be published around the world which were among the first to show the conflict there. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded by the National Press Photographers’ Association. This was the same year in which he won an unprecedented four first prizes in the World Press Photo Contest. He has won the Olivier Rebbot Memorial Award twice.

His work has been featured in most major magazines in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic magazine with recent articles on Tibet, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. McCurry is driven by an innate curiosity and sense of wonder about the world and everyone in it. He has an uncanny ability to cross boundaries of language and culture to capture stories of human experience. “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.”

His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian 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.
McCurry continued to cover international conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan. McCurry's 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. He has won the Olivier Rebbot Memorial Award twice.

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

McCurry took his most recognized portrait, "Afghan Girl", in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. 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 McCurry 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.[3] Most of the photos, excluding a few near-duplicates, have been published on the Internet by Vanity Fair magazine.
"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."

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