Steve McCurry: Iconic Photojournalist of All Time

 

 

 

 

This is my presentation on Steve McCurry for my Photography class. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did! Steve my hat is off to you, and one day I hope to fill your shoes! Thank you for a lifetime of inspirational Images, and thank you for inspiring me to chase my dream, to keep on improving, and keep looking for the hidden story. I find myself setting the camera down more often and just looking, watching and waiting for life to happen! You are an amazing inspiration and the world should know your legacy! One day I hope to meet you in person!!!!Image

“I don’t think his eyesight was very good, but I figured my hair was so sparse it didn’t matter,” says photographer Steve McCurry. After lugging his cameras around the spice market in Taizz all day, Steve wanted to rest somewhere. When he saw a barbershop, he sat down in the empty chair–the only seat in the shop.

It cost Steve just a quarter for the trim. “The barber was very serious about his work,” says Steve, “but his scissors were so dull, I don’t know how much hair he really cut.”

Steve’s Legacy is that he is able to pause and take a look around him to see those secret moments and hidden messages in peoples faces before snapping a photo.

 

 

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“One face, more than any other, resonates strongly in his memory and the world’s. I was walking through an Afghan refugee village one day. I was doing a story on the Afghan, Pakistan border. At that time there were maybe a couple million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. And I passed this tent, a large tent which was being used as an elementary school. I asked the teacher about this one particular student with these kind of amazing eyes. She says, she had to walk with her family for two weeks through the mountains because her village had been bombed by helicopter gun ships. So people in her family had been killed and they had made this two week trek– and this was in the middle of winter– through the snow to get to this refugee camp. So it was clear that she had been deeply traumatized by being displaced and family members killed and what not. There’s certain photographs which have struck a chord in people. I was very happy that several people told me that they actually volunteered to go work in Pakistan refugee camps based on that picture. So I felt like that alone is a positive contribution that photography can make where it actually inspires people to want to help others.” –Steve McCurry Through My Eyes Video

 

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The most recognized portrait by Steve Curry is “Afghan Girl” in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. National Geographic published the 1985 photo of this young girl in June of 1985 which then became the most powerful message and photo of Steve’s young career. Over 17 years later he returns after finding this women, which facial recognition and a specialized doctor in iris research confirmed her to be the same women Steve Originally Photographed in 1985.  She was located in 2002 in Sharbat Gula. Steve is quoted as saying: “Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was all those years ago.” This photo was the poster child used on Amnesty International brochures, posters, and calendars. National Geographic helped Steve McCurry in finding this iconic women. There were many imposters. In 1985 Steve snuck his film and gear into these areas sown into his authentic cultural garb.

“One face, more than any other, resonates strongly in his memory and the world’s. I was walking through an Afghan refugee village one day. I was doing a story on the Afghan, Pakistan border. At that time there were maybe a couple million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. And I passed this tent, a large tent which was being used as an elementary school. I asked the teacher about this one particular student with these kind of amazing eyes. She says, she had to walk with her family for two weeks through the mountains because her village had been bombed by helicopter gun ships. So people in her family had been killed and they had made this two week trek– and this was in the middle of winter– through the snow to get to this refugee camp. So it was clear that she had been deeply traumatized by being displaced and family members killed and what not. There’s certain photographs which have struck a chord in people. I was very happy that several people told me that they actually volunteered to go work in Pakistan refugee camps based on that picture. So I felt like that alone is a positive contribution that photography can make where it actually inspires people to want to help others.” –Steve McCurry Through My Eyes Video

 

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“And I has a drawer full of awards, including the Robert Kappa gold medal for exceptional courage. I’ve made a career of searching for the next image, the better image, the one that breaks our heart or makes us smile. I’ve worked for the National Geographic for more than 22 years. And during that time I’ve made about 60 trips to India, I lived in Pakistan for two years, and traveled to Afghanistan 16 times covering the civil war there. I don’t think there’s a region of the world I haven’t worked in. I mean, for me traveling and seeing the world is one of the most interesting and satisfying things you can do with your life.” –Steve McCurry Through My Eyes Video

 

 

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“The morning of September the 11th I had just gotten back from Asia literally the night before. I was kind of tired and exhausted after three weeks of bouncing around in jeeps. So I’m sitting down on my sofa in my office and a friend called me on the phone and in a panic said, look out the window. You’re not going to believe this. The World Trade Center is on fire. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Both towers were on fire. My first kind of gut reaction was to grab my cameras. I got my photo vest with other equipment in it. I raced up three floors to the roof. And got up to the roof and there was a straight view straight from my building right to lower Manhattan. And I started to photograph the fire. I continued to photograph. I wanted to go down and be right at the location. But I thought, let me stay here and finish this. And then when they fell down and collapsed, you know, you could have told me my best friend had been killed. It was just amazing the sort of overwhelming grief which just kind of came over me. I just knew that this was a monumental event, something that would probably be the most important human event of my lifetime. I’ve been photographing wars and conflict around the world for almost 20 years. But I don’t think anything could prepare me for the enormity of this kind of disaster and the tragedy and the heartbreak.” –Steve McCurry Through my Eyes Video

 

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“Even amid enormous despair, news was unfolding and the journalist in him knew the drill. Sorrow would have to wait until he finished the story. Somehow I was able to focus my concentration and go down there to document and have a record of this tragedy for the future.” –Steve McCurry Through My eyes Video

 

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“An early inspiration for Steve was the work of one Hungarian immigrant whose historic photographs grace the lobby of Steve’s New York apartment building. You know, the reason I moved into this building was because Henri Cartier, who is one of my idols, one of my heroes of photography, used to live here in an apartment looking over the park. And they did a whole book of pictures out of his apartment. And one of the pictures he took was looking south at the financial district. And this picture is one before the World Trade Center was built. And the one on the other side of the lobby was after they were completed. And it’s a really kind of amazing picture. A set of pictures made all the more amazing by events that were about to unfold.” –Steve McCurry Through my eyes video

 

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Pet Peeves: “I’m always kind of mystified when you talk to a young photographer and you mention someone like Leni Riefenstahl or Walker Evans, and they’ve never heard of these people. How can you have a love and a passion for photography and not know the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson? How is that even possible?”

As a photographer, it is a definitive part of your learning process to understand The Decisive Moment. “The decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

**I was unable to find the photos that Steve McCurry states are his favorite photos of Lower Manhattan from the same apartment building he lives in that Henri Cartier lived in showing the New York City Scape before the building of the World Trade Center, and then again once it was finally completed.  These images from Imo Jima and the Korean War are his most Iconic images that placed him on the map.

 

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Currently Uses: The Nikon D3x. “It’s probably the best ‘35mm’ camera I’ve ever used,” he says. Lenses: 24-70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4.

Started on: Kodachrome color slide film, with a Nikon FM2 camera and Nikkor 105mm F2.5 lens.[

Advice for Aspiring Photographers: “It’s important to look at work that has gone before. In my experience, in looking at the photographs of Dorothea Lange and Kertész and Walker Evans and Robert Frank, well, there’s no better way to spend your time than to pore over these books.”

 

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Selected Awards:

2000: Picture of the Year Competition: Book of the Year, South SouthEast Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence: “Women in Field, Yemen”

2001: Photography Annual, Communication Arts Award of Excellence, Book Series, South SouthEast

2002: French Art Directors Association, Award of Excellence for “Women of Afghanistan”

2002: United Nations International Photographic Council: Special Recognition Award

2002: Photographer of the Year, American Photo Magazine

2002: Photographer of the Year, PMDA Professional Photographer Award

2002: Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ

2002: Distinguished Visiting Fellow, College of Creative Studies, University of California

2003: Co-recipient of the NY Film Festival Gold for documentary, “Afghan Girl: Found”

2003: Distinguished Alumni Award, Penn State University, PA

2003: International photography Awards, CA, the Lucie Award for Photojournalism

2005: Photographic Society of America: Photojournalism Division-International Understanding through Photography Award

2005: Honorary Fellowship, The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, London

2006: Honorary Fellowship, New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP) May 4th

2006: National Press Photographers Association 1st Place, Buddha rising, National Geographic, Dec 2005

2006: Lowell Thomas GOLD

2009: Abrogino D’Oro, Milan, Italy

2011: Prix LiberPress, Girona, Spain

2011: Leica Hall of Fame Award, St. Moritz, Switzerland

2012: Pictures of the Year International Book Award for the Iconic Photographs

2013: Contender for Pulitzer Peace Price Award for lifetime achievement of Afghanistan people portraits.

 

 

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Looking through his lens into faces and history, Steve seeks a moment’s peace in a time of tears and anger.

 

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Steve’s Quote that he lives by is: Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a
tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.
– Henri Matisse

Shows he’s been in, in the last 7 years are: (He has been in a total of 85 shows in this short period, and over 500 shows in his career).

2006: Magnum Photos 60 Years (International Show)

2008: Palmer Museum of Art, State College PA

2009: International Festival of Photojournalism, Perpignan, France

2010: Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2011: Gallery of Photography, Dublin, Ireland

2012: Seoul Art Center, Seoul, South Korea

2013: National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Photographs Traveling International Show.

 

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Steve McCurry is most notable for his iconic portraits because they completely changed the way that America saw portraits. He redefined portraits in a way that took it out of it’s rigid little box. These portraits now had character, definition, vibrant colors, exquisite backdrops, and most importantly striking faces that told the entire story within the environmental scene. This is the highlight of his career and what his subject matter mostly consist of. However he was a National Geographic and Magnum Publishing Photographer that appeared in LIFE, TIME, etc so he often had photography assignments of subjects outside of portraits. He had this amazing eye and ability to patiently wait for that fleeting moment of secrecy in his subjects. He preferred places such as Asia, India, The Middle East, and European countries. His only highly recognized and notable American body of work is 9/11 documentation. That’s not to say he didn’t have remarkable assignments state side.

 

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“The Most liberating part about my photo story telling is that not only do I get to experience what they experience, but I get to see it and feel it, and touch it, and re live it. I get to touch people’s hearts back home. Movements have paved ways for hope and inspiration from my photographs.”

 

 

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“I get to travel the world, and capture these unique practices.  Sometimes I even get to participate in them!”

 

 

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“I saw this young boy weeping on the side of the road in a village in a mountainous area of Peru. Some of the other children he was playing with were tormenting him. He had a toy gun in his hand, I walked over to see if I could help, but the child wasn’t able to respond because he was so upset. He walked away towards his house.”

***Toy Pistol

 

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He always gives just enough to keep the viewer interested and leaves out just enough to keep the eye from wondering too far from what the real story is about. His story telling in image is spectacular; truly one of a kind and truly awe inspiring.

 

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His use of color is absolutely stunning; as well as his ability to decide which images should be full color and which should be black and white. Black and white doesn’t work for every image, nor does color, I myself sometimes still struggle with some images and if they look more aesthetically pleasing one way or another. Steve McCurry’s ability to just know is amazing.

 

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The series, simply titled Trains, presents the life of Indian commuters and travelers, many of whom appear to travel for livelihood rather than just for pleasure. As passengers scramble to hop on moving trains or ride atop the metallic beasts, we’re given a sense of the hardships these people must face on a daily basis.

There are cultural and economic differences made abundantly clear when viewing the photographer’s set, especially when compared to images of first-world urban stations. However, despite the apparent lack of wealth, there is a richness in culture that McCurry captures beautifully. The photojournalist says, “As I tried to tell the story of the community that inhabits the depots, I would go to the train station every day and wander around the platform. Each time a train would roll in, while carefully stepping over bodies and around huge mountains of luggage, I would start to photograph the swirl of life that assaults and saturates the senses.”

 

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When you meet for the first time someone you are going to portray, what are you looking at?

There are people with very powerful faces, they have emotions on their face, faces that tell stories. Some characters can be read on the face. I am fascinated with what a face can tell. Because every each of us has several “faces”… Some are very common, others very beautiful, but beyond it you sometimes see faces with something archetypal on them, something extremely powerful…

And how do you convince them? I guess many are shy… They are common people and you convince them to look
into the camera and the result is such a natural image…

Not quite… You can have people relax. I think everybody wants to be liked, we want people to like us and if you walk up to somebody and tell them “I think you are awesome, extraordinary and I would very much like to portray you because you seem to be such a wonderful person”, most people would stop for you on the street… Most agree exactly because you placed them there, you gave them that position…

 

 

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For 60 years, Kodachrome ruled the world of photographic film. Known for its color accuracy, crispness and fine grain, Kodachrome was considered a classic film by professional photographers and amateurs alike. Processing of the film is more complicated than that of other slide films, and in recent years, fewer and fewer photo labs developed Kodachrome. As digital photography gradually took over the market, Kodak announced in 2009 that they would stop making the film. And the last photo lab that develops Kodachrome in the U.S. did so on Dec. 30, 2010.

 

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“I was in a beat-up taxi traveling through the desert to a town called Jaisalmer near the India-Pakistan border. It was in June, and as hot as the planet ever gets. The rains had failed in that part of Rajasthan for thirteen years. I wanted to capture something of the mood of anticipation before the monsoon.

As we drove down the road, we saw a dust storm grow — a typical event before the monsoon breaks. For miles it built into a huge frightening wall of dust, moving across the landscape like a tidal wave, eventually enveloping us like a thick fog. As it arrived, the temperature dropped suddenly and the noise became deafening. Where we stopped, women and children worked on the road — something they are driven to do when the crops fail — now barely able to stand in the fierce wind, clustered together to shield themselves from the sand and dust. I tried to make pictures.

In the strange dark-orange light and howling wind, battered by sand and dust they sang and prayed.  Life and death seemed to hang in a precarious balance.”

 

 

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“The words, “on the road”, can mean many things.  To the salesman, it is a time away from home trying to sell products.  To the explorer, it means setting off on an  adventure.  A road trip for athletes means that they’re playing in a different city.  To a homeless person, being on the road means the search for food and shelter.  To a Buddhist, the road may symbolize the path to enlightenment.  For refugees, the road is an escape route and symbolizes hope and safety.”

 

 

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•The Iconic Photographs 2012
•100 Photos of Steve McCurry for Press Freedom 2012
•Steve McCurry: Stern Portfolio 2012
•The Unguarded Moment 2009
•In the Shadow of Mountains 2007
•Looking East 2006
•The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage 2003
•South Southeast 2000
•Monsoon 1998

Some others not in the slide are:

-Steve McCurry 2005

-Sanctuary: The Temples of Angkor 2002

-Portraits 1999

-The Imperial Way 1985

 

 

 

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The thing that intrigues me most about Steve McCurry is that he doesn’t care about the amount of images he is capturing, because he is more focused on the angle of the story. I find myself feeling the same way. I feel sometimes images can tell the entire story in one photograph, whereas other times it takes multiple photographs to complete the story. I love that Steve’s advice to young aspiring photographers is to get out there and know who your predecessors are/were, and know why you like them. Be able to be inspired by them, and pick their work out in a line up. Most importantly I love how his images capture your heart, your emotions, and draw you in; they really make you want to know more, or go out and do something. For me as an aspiring photojournalist, they make me want to keep on trucking and to never give up my dream, they inspire me to keep getting better, and keep training my eye. I aspire to be a name among iconic photographers such as Steve McCurry, and the likes of Timothy O’Sullivan, Matthew Brady, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, Man Ray, Annie Leibowitz, Julia Margaret Cameron, Ron Galella, Alfred Wertheimer, Karen Kuehn, Bob McNealy, Neil Leifer, Joe Rosenthal, Bob Landry, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Nick Ut, Lyle Owerko, Sally Mann, and Tim Mantoani. As well as the local photographers I’ve gotten to meet and know on a personal/semi personal or professional basis such as: Scott Baxter, Brandon Sullivan, Eric Fairchild, Jennifer Laffoon. Art Holman, William LeGoullon, and Michael Baxter. Mark my words, with inspiration like this, I will have photographs published in the likes of National Geographic, TIME, LIFE, and maybe even Sports Illustrated. I truly admire and love Steve’s enthusiasm for film, and how he still maintains his film skills; being that I adore film still myself. I want to have his courage and strength when photo documenting a crisis, disaster, war, or any other subject I may come across with the level of professionalism he maintains. If I could I would drop everything and move my family to New York to study under him and be his intern. This man is truly an iconic Photographer because of the impact he had, that he worked hard for.

 

 

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One thought on “Steve McCurry: Iconic Photojournalist of All Time

  1. Pingback: Photographing the little ones - Get the kid to stand still while you take the photos.

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