Author(s): Steve (PHT) McCurry
This definitive retrospective of Steve McCurry’s work in Afghanistan spans almost four decades of pictures. Depicting a rare and disarming humanity, McCurry photographs that seemingly blighted yet beautiful country with remarkable skill and passion. “They are a proud people, eyes leveled straight, in contempt as much as in curiosity: these are the faces, both male and female, that peer so defiantly from Steve’s magnificent photographs.” Afghanistan is a country overwhelmed by tribal rivalries, colonial wars, and geo-political conflict. The Afghans have always called their mountains “the land of rebellion.” In spite of this, born of chaos and entrenched conflict are these most breathtaking of images. American photographer Steve McCurry has traveled to Afghanistan regularly for almost four decades to document its people with a rare and disarming humanity. His most striking 1984 portrait Afghan Girl has graced the covers of magazines the world over, in equal parts haunting and evoking remarkable grace and dignity. In common with so much of McCurry’s work, it has a timeless, painterly quality —entirely at odds with the battle-torn backdrop of the region in which it was taken. Steve McCurry has always been subjected to dangers that are an inevitable part of life “on the road” for photographers. He often ventured behind the lines, usually at great risk; his first trip to Afghanistan in 1979 involved him dressing in Afghan robes in order to be smuggled across the border from Pakistan. That journey into the treacherous, unpredictable landscape—territory controlled at various times by the Mujahideen, the Russians, and the Taliban—was one that McCurry would make numerous times. Many other photographers would follow in his footsteps, but none would return with such a flawless body of work.