Turning Moments into Legends
Photographer Q & A
Your photograph of a young girl in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan has become iconic. How did you get that shot?
I was in Pakistan in 1984. I had traveled to that region of the world since the late 1970s. I followed the sound of voices to a tent where I found a group of girls. I noticed this one little girl off to the side that had this incredible set of eyes. I took a picture (using Kodachrome film) and it made it to the cover of National Geographic in June of 1985.
What was it like to be in Kuwait during the first Gulf War while you shot those images of the oil field fires?
The destruction devastated the people, animals and plant life in that area. That was an absolutely out of this world experience and a very vivid example of the environmental impact on the aftermath of war. It was as though you were on another planet, or a movie set or the end of the world.
Your work has taken you to numerous hotspots in the Middle East. Can you a share an experience of this type of conflict journalism.
In 1993, I was in Kabul, Afghanistan when it was hit once again by rocket fire. Hundreds of rockets started pouring down on the city from several directions. My colleagues and I took cover in an insane asylum and found ourselves face to face with an inmate beating another about the head with heavy stones. We managed to wrestle him to the ground and then back inside the hospital. That's an experience that haunts me to this day.
A reader of your blog recently wrote: "It's strange that one needs help to look at one's own country with more empathy. Some of your photographs from India are unnervingly authentic." How do you respond to that?
Life is kind of flowing in front of your eyes and you need to be open to respond, to allow yourself to be touched by things that are extraordinary. You shoot lots of moments because you never know when the situation will either peak or evaporate.
Steve's Lowepro gear includes:
Owner of the last roll of Kodachrome film. Recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Metal for war coverage. Member-photographer of Magnum Photos since 1986. Steve McCurry has earned all of these distinctions in his career, and more. His work has been featured in every major publication in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic. His published books include: The Imperial Way (1985), Monsoon (1988), Portraits (1999), South Southeast (2000), Sanctuary (2002), The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage (2003), Steve McCurry (2005), Looking East (2006), In the Shadow of Mountains (2007), The Unguarded Moment (2009), and The Iconic Photographs (2011).
McCurry has permanent collections at the George Eastman House, the Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio in Italy, the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art and the Musee National d'art Moderne in Paris. His awards and exhibitions number in the hundreds. The United Nations International Photographic Council bestowed him a Special Recognition Award for "ceaseless devotion and outstanding achievement".