there is probably no photographer alive with quite as recognizable a photograph as the Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry….maybe just maybe he is rivaled a bit by Dennis Stock’s image of James Dean walking through Times Square…i would have to think about that one, but both images can be seen hanging in the finest art museums as well as faded torn copies hanging just over the bartender’s shoulder all over the world…i wish i had taken pictures of all the places i have seen the Afghan Girl…and the paintings and sketches derived from it…EVERYBODY knows this picture….
originally published by National Geographic Magazine in 1985, Steve’s icon graced the cover …the most famous cover shot of all time….obviously it is the EYES that just kill us….stop us dead in our tracks….and even though i have seen this photograph thousands of times in the last 25 years, i still have to stop and take a look….photographically it is just a simple portrait…..taken straight on in just flat light (in a refugee tent)….there is nothing so remarkable about the picture, until her gaze simply bores a hole into your heart….
i meet many a young entry level photographer for whom Steve McCurry is certainly their favorite photographer….his work is clean, straightforward, features dramatic color , and has a clear journalistic sensibility…Steve says of the Afghan Girl, “not a day has gone by in the last 25 years when someone does not ask me about this picture”….
i asked Steve if his fame for this picture was any kind of artistic burden (in the way “Satisfaction” might be for Mick Jagger)…he said “absolutely not”……enough said….Steve continued ” I love what I am doing and just want to keep doing it”….and for those of us who know Steve , we know that nobody never stops working like Steve never stops working…..all of the photographers i know are pretty much fanatical workaholics, but all of us look lazy compared to Steve…..the guy does not stop….ever!!
i recently photographed Steve in Union Square (below) and he has the same impish chuckle that he has had all of the years i have known him … besides being one of the world’s great photographers, i count Steve as a good friend…long before i moved to New York, Steve allowed me the use of his apartment many times as a crash pad…..and i am sure many of you already know that Steve’s cover shot for the Magnum book on 9/11 of the crumbling Trade Center tower was made from this very rooftop…..
there is no way to imagine where Steve will go next…..but, wherever it is, we can count on something uniquely McCurry…
Steve will be on line from time to time in the next 12 hours to answer your questions….
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN 2002
Steve McCurry Union Square , New York City 12/08