McCurry, Steve

American (1950-)

Though Steve McCurry (1950) studied filmmaking at Penn State for a while and ended up graduating with a degree in theater, it was photography that captured his interest for a lifetime. His first experiences came as a staff photographer for the college paper, The Daily Collegian. He enjoyed this work so much that, upon graduation, he traveled to India, turning his camera on something more important than pep rallies and rush week: the human face.

McCurry uses the phrase “the unguarded moment” to refer to the split second at which a human face gives up its stories, suddenly allows the events of its life and their consequences to be seen in full vulnerability. McCurry has been present to capture these faces all over the world. He first gained notoriety for capturing some of the first images of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. He disguised himself in native dress and then sewed rolls of film into his garments in order to smuggle them out of the country. Since then, he has chronicled the victims and perpetrators of the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, political unrest in the Philippines and in Cambodia. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine, in whose pages he sought to find the famous Afghan Girl, a young child he had photographed in the 80s. He and his team located her, Sharbat Gula, in 2002 and were able to observe the toll that living in a war-torn country had taken on her.