The Chris Beetles Fine Photography gallery is host to the first major London exhibition for the work of Steve McCurry, one of the world’s most renowned and respected photographers of today.

McCurry, a leading member of ‘Magnum photos’ from 1986, is universally regarded as one of the most travelled and humanitarian photographers of our time. The award- winning American photographer takes inspiration from Henri Cartier- Bresson, by continuing in the same spirit of intrepid and striking photojournalism. He deems the work of Huỳnh Công Út, professionally known as Nick Ut, of that which had the first impact on him, particularly the image of a young Vietnamese girl, crying in anguish, running towards the camera to flee a South Vietnamese attack.

McCurry’s career launched in the late 1970s, when he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan, just before the Russian invasion. Dressed in native garments, he smuggled films out of country, sewn to his clothing, which were the first to depict conflict and were published worldwide.

The photographer’s ability to capture ‘the decisive moment’ has ultimately made him one of the most sought after by many international publications. One particular cover for National Geographic Magazine has undoubtedly become one of the world’s most recognizable photographs ‘The Afghan Girl’, a portrait of an unidentified refugee taken in 1984.

This photo became a symbol in the late 20th century of strength and hardship, combining beauty and compassion, a common theme throughout all of his images. Her striking green eyes acted as a bridge between her world and the west.

Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan 1984, 'Copyright Steve McCurry'
Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983 'Copyright Steve McCurry'
Revellers lift and carry a man during Holi Festival, Rajasthan, India, 1996, Phaidon, Iconic Images, final print_milan 'Copyright Steve McCurry'
Jodhpur, India, 2005, 'Steve McCurry'

All photos depict a sense of intensity and realism yet, due to the eclectic and contrasting inclusion of deep, vivid colouring, each image becomes surreal. This distinctive blend makes each photo a vision of intoxication.

The representation of women throughout McCurry’s images is a strong yet poignant one, from the young girls in the ‘The Afghan Girl’ and ‘Girl with green shawl’, to the mature women in ‘Road workers in Rajasthan’, the unvarnished beauty combined with the potency of colour, creates an image that can do no less than evoke emotion.

“Most of my pictures are grounded in people”, explains McCurry. “I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it would be like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape that I’d guess you’d call the human condition”.

The highpoint in McCurry’s career was the rediscovery of Sharbat Gula, The previously unidentified refugee girl which he photographed over two decades ago.

The Steve McCurry exhibition will take place from Wednesday 7th September to Saturday 24th 2011, 10:00am- 5:00pm daily at:

Chris Beetles Fine Photography

3-5 Swallow Street

London W1B 4DE


Adrianna Haynes

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