Today I start an occasional series on the great photographers, those who are referred to as masters. This series will be to introduce you to photographers who you may have heard of but never investigated or perhaps you have never come across and so are completely new to you.
Biography: Born in a tiny village of Moravia, Koudelka began photographing his family and surroundings as a teenager with a 6 x 6 Bakelite camera.
He was trained at the Technical University in Prague and worked as an aeronautical engineer in Prague and Bratislava from 1961-67. He had been able to obtain an old Rolleiflex and in 1961, while working as a theater photographer in Prague, he also started a detailed study of the gypsies of Slovakia, who were then undergoing further attempts to “assimilate” them within the Czech state. His work was the subject of an exhibition in Prague in 1967.
In 1968 Koudelka extended his project to gypsy communities in Rumania and that same year recorded the invasion of Prague by Warsaw Pact armies. Smuggled out of the country with the help of Czech curator Anna Farova and published with the initials P.P. ( Prague photographer) to protect his family, the highly dramatic pictures showing Russian tanks rolling into Prague and the Czech resistance became international symbols and won him the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal………more
Koudelka is a photographer whose work is impossible to ignore because each image throws up so many stories, as you look at a picture and start to try to understand the reasons why the shutter was released at that moment a range of emotions, expectations and ideas come to you. His work is rarely decorative, it is always demanding and about difficult subjects. In some ways the early work of Oxford photographer Paddy Summerfield reminds me of Koudelka, Paddy’s early work is on permanent exhibition in the reception area of the Old Bank Hotel on the High Street in Oxford. Paddy is a reluctant interwebber so although he is often mentioned he no longer has his own site but this might give you some idea of his work
The hope is that with these occasional introductions you will find someone whose work you are absorbed by and undertake further investigations or maybe even go and buy a book
“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.”
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
Phaidon Press have contacted me and asked that I let you know about a new Steve McCurry book they have just published called “Iconic Photographs” this is large format and by the look of it expensive but almost certainly a beautiful book with outstanding images. Here are some bits of information about the book and Steve McCurry
About the book
Through an instantly recognizable aesthetic, an innate eye for colour, and his remarkable ability to capture the fundamental essence of his subject, Steve McCurry has carved a reputation as one of the most outstanding photographers of our time.The unique quality of McCurry’s work lies in his skill in combining the intimacy of the immediate moment with a spectacular and arresting vision of the world – his photographs are at once both naturalistic and otherworldly. The Iconic Photographs collates McCurry’s very finest images – capturing scenes from far-flung corners of India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East – that transport the viewer to distant lands and witness the humour, tragedy, deprivation and courage of his subjects.
These pictures provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of normal people around the world. The acts of praying, sleeping, laughing, fishing, cleaning and sheltering – all the vagaries of human life – are elevated in poignantly beautiful stills; while stunning landscapes immerse the viewer in blazing sunsets, torrential rains, and dusty arid days. McCurry’s most famous portraits of serene monks, bearded elders, excitable school children and the striking ‘Afghan Girl’, are reproduced life-size so that the viewer can meet them eye-to-eye.
The Iconic Photographs transcends lifetimes and cultures, chronicling urban hustle and bustle, agricultural toil and the peaceful isolation of the wilderness in an unforgettable collection that spans an exceptional career.
Steve McCurry (b.1950) launched his career as a photojournalist when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into Afghanistan thirty years ago. His remarkable coverage won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal, which is awarded to photographers who exhibit exceptional courage and enterprise. Famous also for his work in Southeast Asia, McCurry’s photographs are beautiful, uplifting and affecting. McCurry is a regular contributor to many international journals including National Geographic magazine. He is a member of Magnum Photos.