Steve McCurry is an American photojournalist best known for his photograph, ™Afghan Girlthat originally appeared in National Geographic magazine. He has won countless awards for his work and is one of the worlds most celebrated Photographers. He flew from New York to Jersey for just one night, and we were lucky enough to go around some of his most famous images with him and hear how they came about.
The Blue City
I love colour, many people in my line of work use black and white, but the world is in colour and it’s the real world I’m trying to get across in my pictures. I live in New York but i’ve taken about 95 trips over to India and sometimes I travel to the most amazing places like this city in Rajasthan, and it’s somewhere most people would never get to see unless it is photographed. It is so striking and incredible, I want to bring these magical spots from around the world to as many people as possible.
I took this photo in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. The image itself was named as “the most recognized photograph” in the history of the National Geographic magazine. I knew I had a great photo before I got back to my room to check them because her eyes were so wonderful, and she had this striking look, I knew it was special. The picture almost wasn’t used as the Editor didn’t like it, he thought her look was too disturbing, but then the Editor In Chief did like it, he thought she had a disturbing look but that reflected the situation she was in and people needed to know about that. The picture looks so still, but I’m actually in a class room and there are all these other children running about shouting and screaming around us, as children do, just out of shot. This picture has led to so many incredible moments in my life; the Dalai Lama once approached me when I was in a photographer pen on a visit to New York, he was just taking to the stage to address thousands of people and he came up to me (!) and he asked the same question I’ve been ask 10,000 times “When you went back 17 years later, how did you find her?”, it was such an honour that he knew who I was, and to have him approach me, but it was funny that he had the same old questions as everyone. The answer is luck. We went back to the same refugee camp, with this picture and just started asking people. Eventually one person came to us and said he knew her brother and from there it was easy. She remembered me, even through she was very young at the time, as it was the only time she’d ever had her photo taken.
Sri Lankan Fishermen
This is a personal favourite on mine. This way of fishing has almost died out, I was on the southern coast of Sri Lanka and up early every morning going out trying to get the best picture, I’d been doing it for about a week, I’m stood on a rock in the sea to get this picture and I’d been focused on the three on the sticks for hours, the waves were quite big and they’d pic me up and I was never sure where they’d put me down again, but the light was looking great, and I was snapping away, then this guy in the sea just walks into my shot and boom, I loved it. It’s not what I’d been going for, but the lines and the clouds all worked so well.
Taj & Train
I’d been travelling and I was really sick, I couldn’t get out of bed so I started reading this book, an amazing book, by Paul Theroux ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ and I loved the idea of these trains running, packed, around the world. I wondered if at any point they go anywhere near India’s most iconic building the Taj Mahal. I got a map out and was delighted to see the one runs so close at one point. So I went there and I had been going back to the same place for five days trying to get the perfect picture and it wasn’t until that night when I was looking through all the images I saw this one. It had all come together. The steam, the people and that beautiful building.
Some parts of this job are incredible like that, when you get the best picture you’d been hoping for, then other times are really bad, like getting sick or the worst was one December 31st my family were called and told I was missing presumed dead and it wasn’t until a week later than I managed to get in contact with them, that’s really hard to go through.
There is currently an exhibition of Steve McCurry’s work in Liberty Wharf, including all the pictures above.