Everyone is familiar with the photograph that made Steve McCurry famous. The image of the Afghan Girl is a picture that aroused interest and concern in the West for the conflict going on in Afghanistan and still evokes deep emotions from viewers today. Known as "The First World's Third World Mona Lisa," this image became one of the most famous National Geographic covers when it was featured in its June 1895 issue.
For many years, her identity remained a mystery until McCurry returned to Afghanistan in early 2002. She was found through aid of iris recognition. Her name is Sharbat Gula. She now lives in a remote part of Afghanistan with her husband and her three daughters. She and McCurry still keep in touch.
When McCurry began as a photographer, he was greatly influenced and inspired by the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and André Kertész. He adopted their technique of wandering, exploring, and waiting, or as McCurry himself put it, "watching life as it unfolds." He realized his calling as a photographer in Mexico when he took this picture.
He found the irony and juxtaposition profound. This moment and the time following greatly influenced his decision to travel and take pictures. He gives this advice to beginning photographers: "When you start looking and slowing down, there are all sorts of wonderful things that you see which you would miss otherwise."
Steve McCurry has a very distinctive style. He utilizes color and tries to capture raw human emotion, something he excels at. He has done freelance work in countries as far away as Beirut, Cambodia, the Phillipines, Yugoslavia, Tibet, and Afghanistan, as well as at home in the United States. He is renowned for his famous image, The Afghan Girl. He finds inspiration by travelling all over the world and finding people and their untold stories.
To date, Steve McCurry has earned several awards, including:
Steve McCurry is a very prominent contemporary photographer. He was born in Philadelphia, PA and studied film at Pennsylvania State University. He worked for a newspaper for many years before leaving to travel across India with his camera. He was smuggled into Afghanistan just before the Russian Invasion and was the first to capture images of the conflict. It was there that he captured the famous image, Afghan Girl.
A girl wearing a blue necklace smiles at the camera. You can see a cow and a dog in the background behind her. She smiles as though she is content with her life. Shallow depth of field is used.
An old man gazes out of the shot, wearing bright clothes and beads. He looks like he is very wise and is about to say something profound. The cloth and beads and wrinkles in his face provide texture.
A boy with white cloth wrapped around his head looks out of the frame. He seems trusting and unafraid. His bright blue eyes create emphasis.
A woman in a red scarf holds her child and looks through a rainy car window. They seem like they are asking for help from the viewer. The bright red of the scarf brings emphasis into the image.
A man with his hair piled on one side of his head stares at the camera straight on. He seems confident and almost challenging. Contrast is used in the different textures and colors of his hair and clothes.
An old man with a blue turban carries a large wrench and hammer on his shoulder. He has lived a long happy life. Shallow depth of field is used to focus on the subject.
A girl holds a pad with writing on it. Her head is clad in what seems to be a blue sweater. She looks up at the camera like she is confused about what she is doing. The blue contrasts with the muted colors of the background.
A woman dressed in clothes that cover her face looks up at the camera. She seems surprised at what she sees. The fabric frames her eyes.
A girl painted blue and bedecked with jewelry stares up at the camera. She seems sad. The bright blue contrasts with the grey of the background.
A dog stands on a ramp outside of a building painted coral. The streets are flooded. The dog looks like it wants to be let in. The coral of the walls contrasts with the purple of the water.
A woman is bent over, harvesting water plants with two flat baskets balanced across her head. She has an expression as though she is very tired. Shallow depth of field is used.
A small boy stands in frond of his father who is helping him support a gun. The boy is looking straight forward and seems unaware of what he is holding. There are leading lines in the magazine.
Girls wearing red scarves huddle in a close circle. There is a lot of dust in the air. They look like close friends sharing a secret. The dust creates a sort of shallow depth of field.
A girl dressed in purple stares out of the frame. She looks like she is thinking about what she sees. She is strongly contrasting against the blue and back background
A small boy dressed in brown clothes and a bunny hat stares out of the frame. He looks curious about what is happening outside of the picture. Shallow depth of field was used to create focus on the subject.
A young boy holds a red umbrella and wears a red sash.
A small boy holds hands with his parents. He has a look of anxiety on his face, as though he were afraid of the observer. The bright colors add interest and contrast. The other people are also framing.
A young woman stares out at the sunset. She is happy. Contrast is used to set her red tunic apart from the yellow background.
A girl covers her face with her hands and red scarf. Her eyes show her curiosity. Shallow depth of field is used.
A small Italian girl laughs and covers her mouth with her hand. She is enjoying the crackers she is eating. Her red tights contrast with the blue background.
A woman has her makeup done. She is patient and composed. The hands frame her face.
A girl in a blue headscarf smiles at the camera. She is happy and well cared for. Shallow depth of field is used to emphasize the subject.
An old man smiles as he carries a rusted sewing machine on his shoulder through neck high water. He seems to be satisfied with the work. There are curved lines in the water.
A child kneels in the back of a narrow boat wrapped in a red headscarf. They seem to be in the attitude of prayer. The sides of the canal act as leading lines.
A father holds his small daughter close to his side. The expression in her eyes is mournful as though telling us of hard times she has seen. Framing is used to emphasize her face.
A small boy with white paint on his face poses for the camera in front of a hut. He is around the age of eight. Shallow depth of field and contrast are used to make this image more profound.
A boy and his father shelter under a black umbrella in the midst of a violent monsoon. The boy is crouched down with his face in his hands; his father, clothed in a yellow turban, has his arm around him to comfort him. Another man is in the background, also under a black umbrella. The ground and sky are drab browns and greys. In this photo, we are given a glimpse into universal human emotions in places and people so different from ours. We can experience the fear of the boy and the love of the father. It is intriguing to see such familiar emotions in such a different environment. McCurry used shallow depth of field in this shot, creating a focus on the subjects. We see many diagonal lines that inject energy and tension paired with the curved lines of the umbrellas that suggest comfort and security. Rule of thirds is utilized in the background for the horizon line.