In 1985, on of the most famous National Geographic covers ever was made. The photograph on this cover was taken by a photographer called Steve McCurry and the famous picture, also known as the Afghan Girl, can be seen on the right. This photo made Steve McCurry a very well-known name even among those who weren’t interested in photography as such. He is often described as one of the world’s best contemporary photographers, and he continues taking pictures that become instant classics. His usage of soft, yet vibrant colours characterise his pictures. To make sure he can control the colours completely, he prefers to shoot in film even though most of his colleagues have moved on to shoot photography with digital photography, as he believes the colours to be better with a digital camera.
McCurry was born in Pennsylvania, in the United State of America in 1950. He originally intended to become a movie maker, but he later gravitated towards the storytelling of photojournalism. Two years after he had graduated from university in the United States, he left his stable job and went to India to take pictures. He has been travelling almost without stop ever since.
In the later years of the Soviet and Afghan war, which lasted from 1979-1989, McCurry dressed in traditional Afghan clothes and snuck into a part of Afghanistan that was controlled by rebels to take pictures of those fighting the war and the conflict’s impact on the country. When he left the country again, he had to sew the film that he had taken pictures on into his clothes to make sure the rebels or the border police would not take it from him. His pictures were the first to show this conflicts from the inside.
Although there are many photographers who take pictures of war and conflicts, there are few who focus, as McCurry does, on the individuals who go through it as opposed to the damage it brings. The famous ‘Afghan Girl’ is a good example of McCurry capturing the pain war brings in the face of a young refugee. The Afghan Girl, or Sharbat Gula, as her name was later discovered to be, was an Afghan refugee living in a Pakistani refugee settlement.
McCurry does not only focus on war, but travels all over the globe to take portraits of people from all backgrounds. To the left you can see one of his photos from India, in which a couple stand before a city filled to the brim with houses. This picture is a great example of McCurry’s use of colour – he has captured the blue colour of the houses while contrasting it with the golden lights coming from the buildings and the red dress of the woman standing looking at the scene with her partner.
If you are interested in seeing more of McCurry’s photos, you can go onto his website, where you can also find a blog that is regularly updated with new photos: http://stevemccurry.com/. Alternatively, you can go to one of his many exhibitions in London, which he advertises on the website as well.
Image 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl
Image 2 : https://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/page/2/