Steve McCurry on becoming a photographer

Steve McCurry is one of my favourite photographers. Famous for his images of Asia, his work is always a pleasure to come back to. His richly-textured collection South Southeast is one of just a handful of photo books to have carved out a space on the small bookcase in our living room. Perhaps more importantly, he captured the iconic photograph of Sharbat Gula (or "Afghan Girl") which made the cover of National Geographic and made both McCurry and Afghanistan worldwide stars.

Anyway, McCurry, very much a man of the film age, has started a digital-era blog. If I’m honest (and I’m no-one to judge) it’s a comically bad effort. By that I mean it looks awful – straight off a basic WordPress template and with several bits of the pre-fillled text and descriptions left in place. There aren’t even any pictures. But there are words, wise words, and for that I’ll be checking Steve’s blog regularly for updates. Take the latest entry, for example, titled simply Becoming a Photographer:

When people ask me how they can become a photographer, I almost never mention cameras, lenses, or technique. I say, ‘If you want to be a photographer, first leave home.’ As Paul Theroux, a great writer and friend, further advises, “Go as far as you can. Become a stranger in a strange land. Acquire humility. Leaving home really means that the photographer (or writer) has to wander, observe, and to paraphrase Theroux, concentrate on people in their landscape. That is what I try to achieve in my pictures.

Anyone who can quote Paul Theroux when offering life advice is just fine by me. And there is hope in the comments, too: an intelligent query or two and a reply from the great McCurry himself. Perhaps the clunky, lo-fi look of the blog makes the photographer’s point for him: it’s not the medium, it’s the message that’s important.



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