Steve McCurry: Crossing National Borders to Transcend Cultural Ones

Steve McCurry: Crossing National Borders to Transcend Cultural Ones

This article appears in Volume
25: The Pioneer Issue

1979, disguised in local attire and without a passport,
photographer Steve McCurry was smuggled into Afghanistan just
before the Soviet invasion closed the country to all western
journalists. He later returned to Pakistan with rolls of film sewn
into his clothes and delivered the first photographic evidence of
the conflict. Since then he has continued to venture into
“government unadvisable” regions, crossing national borders in
order to transcend cultural ones.

McCurry’s work locates the personal within the political. “When
I have a strong emotional reaction to a particular situation, I
always try to show the story of how those people live their lives,”
he says. “I want to have some sort of insight into the human
condition of the subject.” Nowhere is this intent more apparent
than in McCurry’s portraits, the penetrating green-eyed glare of
the Afghan Girl (Sharbat Gula) having become embedded into our
collective consciousness as a symbol of the plight of refugees
around the world.

“Connecting with people has never been so essential to protect
our humanity,” and in a time when immigration rhetoric is too often
dehumanising and questions of representation are being debated,
McCurry’s work in showing the humanity of faraway issues is more
pertinent than ever.

Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures:
40 Years of Photography (2018) by Bonnie McCurry is published by
Laurence King.

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