Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for over three decades, documenting conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture. His image of a young Afghan refugee with piercing eyes—the June 1985 National Geographic cover—has become one of the most distinctive in photographic history.
Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; McCurry studied film at Pennsylvania State University, before going on to work for a local newspaper. After several years of freelance work, McCurry made his first of what would become many trips to India. Travelling with little more than a bag of clothes and another filled with film, he made his way across the subcontinent, exploring the country with his camera.
It was after several months of travel that he found himself crossing the border into Pakistan. There, he met a group of refugees from Afghanistan, who smuggled him across the border into their country, just as the Russian Invasion was closing the country to all western journalists. Emerging in traditional dress, with a full beard and weather-worn features after weeks embedded with the Mujahideen, McCurry brought the world the first images of the conflict in Afghanistan, putting a human face to the issue.
Since then, McCurry has gone on to create evocative images in over six continents and countless countries, with scores of magazine and book covers, as well as solo global exhibitions. Despite his prolific output his pictures always retain the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl so powerful. He has published many books and retrospectives, including Monsoon (1988), The Path to Buddha (2003), Portraits (1999), On Reading (2016) and most recently, Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures (2018).
McCurry has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and an unprecedented four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest.