Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Interview with Steve McCurry

“I’ve never been interested in accumulating stamps in my passport,” says Steve McCurry, who nonetheless has gone through many little blue books during his decades as a photojournalist traveling up, down, and around six continents. Work has carried him from the temples of Angkor to refugee settlements at the Afghan-Pakistan border to India, where he tracked a monsoon—the “gift of the gods.” Everyone knows his most famous photo—the haunting green eyes ofAfghan Girl, which made National Geographic’s cover in 1985 and gave a face to the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan—yet it’s only one image in a career that has spanned the globe.

“I have never thought of my pictures in terms of covers,” says McCurry, who’s a recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal. “I look for pictures that tell a story of what it is like to be that person in that place at that time.”

cutruzzula mccurry
Steve McCurry/Magnum

Though he has traversed six continents on assignment as a photojournalist, McCurry says a good subject can be found anywhere.

McCurry, 63, is one of an increasingly rare breed. He’s still sent to some of the most dangerous and newsworthy locations in the world to capture a particular moment in time. An engrossing new book about his career,Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (to be published by Phaidon Press on September 3), contains photo series, essays, journals, and assignment letters fromTime, National Geographic, and, yes, even one from Newsweek granting permission to shoot a story about refugees in Pakistan. Now magazines and newspapers are more likely to cut their photo staffs (as was the case at theChicago Sun-Times this May) than to groom the next generation of McCurrys. But, as McCurry says, a photographer’s duty is to adapt to a changing landscape.

Here, he allows the attention to turn to a rare subject: himself. McCurry shares withNewsweek his thoughts on the ubiquity of iPhone photography, his advice for photojournalists of the future, and some of the most haunting images he’s ever seen. Read more here

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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