Best known for his iconic image of the “Afghan Girl”, Steve McCurry arrived in Milan on Monday 27th and had a masterclass at Politecnico in front of thousands of inspired students.
Steve is an incredible, cheerful human and it has been exciting to listen from his own voice to his incredible stories about the people he met and photographed, his adventures travel around the globe, the countries he visited, the locals that helped him, the harshness of war.
On Wednesday we followed him to Villa Reale in Monza (reggiadimonza.it) for the grand opening of his new exhibition: curated by Biba Giacchetti (long time friend of Steve) and Peter Bottazzi, it features over 150 images that are placed beautifully inside the second floor, respecting the history and original assets of the Villa that was newly renovated.
Steve McCurry was born on February 24, 1950, in Philadelphia. He started to travel at the age of 19 and, although he always wanted to be a filmmaker, he fell in love with still photography. He took his famous image in 1984, in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. The image of a young afghan girl named Sharbat Gula was published on the cover of the National Geographic’s on June 1985.
Even today, it’s considered to be the most recognized photograph in the world.
The quotes below comes from his vivid voice. Much has been asked and told about him but we thought this was the most genuine and true way to convey some of his amazing talent and great personality to all his fans.
“I like to celebrate people, places and culture through my photography, to show people what is happening. I think the simplicity in this approach creates a timeless quality.”
“I think I have a good ability to identify an interesting face among even a crowd of thousands, which I think is important to my work. I always want to document and report a face that has an incredible story on it. That to me is such a wonderful way to spend my time. Take my camera and walk out the door without an agenda. It’s a free flow. I like being a fly on a wall.”
“Travel was more difficult and sometimes impossible 50 years ago.”
“One of the wonderful thing about of Burda unlike other religions is that even if they are covered from head to toe, they still have a smile on the face.”
“A lot of the photography i do is called street photography, photographing people as they are without disturbing and just trying to catch their life and a little bit of their soul.”
“One of my favorite stories was taking this train journey from near Afghanistan through Pakistan, to India, into Bangladesh and it was really fortunate that actually the train passed closed the Taj Mahal: i lived a very funny situation because the door of the train was locked so to pass the breakfast tray they had to do it from outside the train.”
“Everyone has seen the Taj Mahal. It has been photographed millions times and it is always a challenge to do it a different, original, way. What else can be said about one of the most beautiful piece of architecture in the world? This picture explain why i found this country so rich and unique.”
“Some pictures are showing the extreme contrast between the ultra rich and very poor, especially in India. I met this couple that has spent the entire life on this street and on the other side a very wealthy family. India is made of contrasts”
“There’s an amazing festival in India that happens every 12 years and there’s a very special one every 140 years, and you won’t believe that 30 million people attended it; just in one festival, you can’t even imagine. Their aim is to take a bath in the holy river in a very special time.”
“I asked Kodak if i could get the very last roll ever made because i wanted to do a very special project with it. And i got it.”
“I started looking at a lot of photography books-by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. And then Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, or Walker Evans: they all inspired my work.”
“I photograph stories on assignment and they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling.”
“Bombay: there’s a kind of real chaos there, a lot of action and people on the street, there’s never a dull moment in that city.”
“The travel predates my photography. After high school I went to live in Europe for a year. I did some traveling, a little bit in Europe, the Mideast, Africa, Central America. I have a feeling that it could have been a need to travel and have this gypsy existence that led me into photography.”
“I wanted to be a filmmaker. And see where i ended up”.
“This was an extraordinary woman i met, she could hardly walk, but she was such a kind soul.”
“The best rule is to have somebody with you who understands what you’re doing and can communicate that in the local language if things get rough. Otherwise traveling can be very thought and unsafe in some countries.”
“People asked me which is the most dramatic story i lived and i think it was the Gulf War, in 1992; i’ve seen epic scenes, with dead bodies everywhere, i really felt i was on another planet rather than planet earth. A surreal world.”
“Kyoto. I remember this place for its wonderful gardens. I was there few years ago just after the Tsunami and it was really the most unbelievable scene of carnage, distruction and devastation with houses completely washed away.”
“The man behind me is a magician in India. He was really a genuine magician, a very charming man and for me he symbolizes in some ways the variety of people from that amazing country.”
The man mentioned by Steve McCurry is a member of the Rabari tribe and is the protagonist of the cover photo of his new exhibition. One of the most iconic photos of Steve that stands out in the exhibition of Villa Reale. A must-see open until April 2015.