Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Newtown Square, Delaware County
Award-winning photographer Steve McCurry is best known for his portrait of an Afghan refugee.
Steve McCurry, born on February 24, 1950, in Newton Square, Pennsylvania, is a photojournalist based in New York, although it is his work abroad that has brought the recognition, winning him several awards for his photography. He graduated cum laude from Penn State University in 1974, and has since traveled the world and displayed his images in exhibitions and books.
Steve McCurry was born on February 24, 1950 in the small town of Newton Square, Pennsylvania. He attended Marple Newtown High School in Delaware County, and afterwards attended Penn State University. Majoring in cinematography, Mr. McCurry graduated cum laude in 1974. It was at the University where he became interested in photography, and after graduation he went to work for Today’s Post in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania for two years. Even when he was younger, Mr. McCurry traveled extensively, favoring India. It is not surprising that his job as a photographer has taken him around the world, winning him numerous awards for his skills in photography.
He received his first award, the Robert Capa Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, in 1980 after his first trip to Afghanistan. Because of the hostile environment and the war taking place between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. McCurry had to disguise himself in local dress to cross into the border area. In order to get his film back across the border, he had to sew the film strips to the inside of his clothing. This was not the last time Mr. McCurry would see himself in the midst of danger and death-defying situations.
For McCurry, the most frightening moment he had abroad was the time his plane crashed in Yugoslavia. He was taking aerial pictures in a light-weight plane when the pilot lost control. The plane crashed into a lake, and McCurry struggled to get out of his seat-belt and out of the sinking plane. Eventually, McCurry surfaced and swam to shore where a boat picked him up. These dangerous situations in which McCurry finds himself do not detour him from the work he loves, however.
One of McCurry’s favorite photos that he has taken is titled “Dust Storm, India.” Taken in Rajasthan, India in 1983, the image of the women huddled behind a tree for shelter is truly,as McCurry puts in his own words, “magical.” Despite the fact that he was worried about his equipment being damaged, he went out in the storm anyway because “that was what [he] was there for.” His style of photography captures the raw instances in human lives, when people are being themselves. McCurry says he likes to wait with his subjects and joke with them to lighten the mood. He says that eventually they forget the camera is even there and their true essences shine through.
Perhaps one of McCurry’s most famous photos, “Afghan Girl,” captures the essence he discusses. The photo, taken in 1984 is of an Afghan girl who had escaped to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Only 13 years old at the time of the photo, her identity was unknown, though her face was recognized throughout the world. The photo appeared on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985. The picture earned McCurry numerous awards, and National Geographic named it their most recognized photo. In 2002, 18 years after he first captured her face on film, McCurry went back to Afghanistan to find and photograph the unknown girl again. Though the journey was tiring, and he was almost exhausted, the trip was a success, and again her picture appeared on the cover of National Geographic in April, 2002.
Today, Mr. McCurry favorite place to go abroad for his photography is Asia, though he does find the western United States, in particular the Grand Canyon area, “one of the most spectacular places in the world.” He spends the majority of his time traveling and plans to do so for the rest of his life. McCurry has published a number of his collections in the form of books. His work is also displayed on exhibit throughout the United States and abroad. He has offices in Pennsylvania and New York, spending most of his time in New York.
Portraits. New York: Phaidon P, 1999.
South Southeast. New York: Phaidon P, 2000.
Sanctuary: The Temples of Angkor. New York: Phaidon P, 2002.
Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage, The. New York: Phaidon P, 2003.
Looking East. New York: Phaidon P, 2006.
Steve McCurry: In the Shadow of Mountains. New York: Phaidon P, 2007.