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Steve McCurry’s Photographic Life Told in His New Book

steve mccurry praying

Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs covers 30 years of McCurry’s extraordinary career and includes interesting mementos from his journeys which include photos of him at work, diary entries, and the many passports he’s gone through over the years. McCurry lived through the harrowing Slovenia plane crash and even armed bandits and bombings while in Afghanistan. The remarkable thing about McCurry’s work is that his images evoke wonder, rather than distress or tragedy.

steve mccurry clover collecting

Women gathering clover in Wadi Hadhramaut, near Shibam, Yemen, 1999

As a child growing up in suburban Philadelphia, McCurry was drawn to the woods more than hitting the books. His introduction to photography was at an early age of 11, when he saw a LIFE magazine photo essay by Brian Brake on the torrential monsoons of India.

steve mccurry train station

Train station platform, Old Delhi, India, 1983

“It just transported me to another world,” said McCurry in an interview with TIME. He was deeply inspired by photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, which helped convince him of his calling.

camel silhouette steve mccurry

Struggling camels silhouetted against the oil-fire, al-Ahmadi oil field, Kuwait, 1991

McCurry once said to CNN “My first good photograph was in Mexico City. There was a [homeless] man sleeping in front of a furniture store … below this brand-new sofa in the window. The juxtaposition was, I thought, a perfect kind of image. That’s what set me on my way to being a professional photographer.”

architecture photography steve mccurry

Agra Fort Station, Agra, India, 1983

Steve McCurry is best known for his photograph, “Afghan Girl” which originally appeared in National Geographic magazine. His new book, Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs begins with a short narrative from McCurry on one of his harrowing and perilous exploits,

“Flying low over Lake Bled, on assignment in Slovenia in February 1989, the pilot took the plane dangerously close to the water’s surface. The wheels caught and we went down, the propeller shattering as we hit the water. The plane flipped, and the fuselage began to sink in the icy lake. My seat belt was stuck, but an instinct for self-preservation kicked in and I was able to wrestle free. The pilot and I swam under the aircraft to the surface. My camera and bag are still 65 feet down.”

steve mccurry pasta making

Workers turning ropes of sugar paste into hard candy, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2007

McCurry has been bestowed the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal, the National Press Photographers Award as well as four first prize awards in the World Press Photo contest.

For those interested, Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs can be ordered here.

View some of McCurry’s amazing work here.

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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