Interview: Steve McCurry on Street Photography and Change: An iconic photographer discusses the current state of the art


«Over the course of his 30-year career, Steve McCurry has traveled to a laundry list of places, creating some truly iconic images along the way. His most famous photo, «The Afghan Girl,» is one of the most recognizable photographs on the planet. Now, he has a new book (Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs) looking back across his career. He was also recently named as a member of SanDisk’s Extreme Team Legends. Despite his busy travel schedule, Mr. McCurry took some time to talk to us about how photography — and the world around us — has changed over the years.»

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Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.
National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 167, No. 6, June 1985, Along Afghanistan’s War-torn Frontier.
«The green-eyed Afghan girl became a symbol in the late twentieth century of strength in the face of hardship. Her tattered robe and dirt-smudged face have summoned compassion from around the world; and her beauty has been unforgettable. The clear, strong green of her eyes encouraged a bridge between her world and the West. And likely more than any other image, hers has served as an international emblem for the difficult era and a troubled nation.» – Phaidon 55
Steve McCurry

Bamian, Afghanistan, 2007
Teaching the young has paid off in Hazara society, where literacy is above the national average. Boys- like these fifth graders at an all-boys school in Bamian -still fill the majority of classrooms. But at least 40 percent of Hazara students taking college entrance exams are now women. -National Geographic, February 2008, Vol. 213, No. 2
Steve McCurry

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992
A small but industrious group of photographers have worked the streets of Kabul for decades. Using simple box cameras, they have captured husbands going to war and sons about to come of age or be married. In McCurry’s portrait, the man’s studio is actually the cubicle in which he sits. After the picture is taken, the negative is developed in the small bowl at his feet.
Steve McCurry

Bombay, India, 1993.
A man carries a statue of Ganesh on his head out into the Indian Ocean
Steve McCurry

Tailor in Monsoon, Porbandar, India, 1983
An Indian tailor was caught in the monsoon floodwaters in Porbandar. The city had been underwater for a week. I was a bit reluctant to wade through the water because of the dead animals and other debris floating in the streets. After trying to photograph from a boat, it became clear that the only way I could cover the flood was to wade in. I spent days wandering in water up to my waist.
One afternoon I spotted this man walking down the middle of the street with the sewing machine on his shoulder. He was a tailor and the sewing machine represented his livelihood. Unfortunately, the machine was ruined, but when the picture was published, the machine’s manufacturer sent him a new one.
Steve McCurry

Women gathering clover, Shibam, Wadi Hadhramaut, Yemen, 1999
The women wear these elongated hats to keep their heads cool in the intense heat as they gather clover for cattle. In the distance can be seen a Hadhrami family compound. Dwarfed by the crumbling mountains, the newly designed home is heavily fortified to protect against tribal raids.

Steve McCurry