One of photography’s most prominent contemporary figures, Steve McCurry is renowned for his remarkable oeuvre, which encompasses some of the most iconic images of our time and conveys the breathtaking, mosaic beauty of our planet.
In Search of Elsewhere, his latest photobook comprises one hundred previously unseen images, spanning a multitude of countries and cultures and the entirety of his four-decade-long career.
Born in Philadelphia in 1950, McCurry studied cinematography at Pennsylvania State University and upon graduating worked as a staff photographer for local newspaper Today’s Post. He left after two years, and with his camera in tow, traveled to India, a country with which he is now synonymous owing to the wealth of stunning images that he has captured there throughout his career.
It was this inaugural trip that sparked the epiphanic realization, “if you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view”, which would set the foundation for his approach thereafter and has engendered a wealth of utterly compelling, and truly iconic photographs.
However, it was his coverage of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, which he captured in 1979 after secretly crossing the border from Pakistan dressed in local garb, that provided the launchpad for his career. Spending several months in the country, embedded with local militia group, the Mujahideen, McCurry captured a series of remarkable images which, when published, represented some of the first depictions of the conflict to be seen outside of the country.
This work led to widespread international recognition and saw him awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, also subsequently securing him a host of further assignments covering conflict and upheaval in places such as Lebanon, Cambodia, the Philippines, the former Yugoslavia, and Tibet.
Informed by a deep humanism and characterized by a remarkable perceptiveness and dexterity, McCurry’s works, whether reportage or personal, typically portray the populace, and have, over the years, graced the covers and pages of the world’s most prestigious publications, (most notably National Geographic, with whom he has had a long and fruitful relationship) transporting readers to all corners of the globe, offering them a rare glimpse into worlds hitherto otherwise inaccessible.
A compelling retrospective of some of his previously unreleased personal work, In Search of Elsewhere, features the full breadth of his kaleidoscopic oeuvre: candid quotidian scenes permeated with palpable atmosphere; spectacular landscapes, captivating in their meditative beauty, and his trademark portraiture, sensitive and profound, exemplifying his remarkable ability to capture the personality of the sitter.
Presented without background or captions, (notwithstanding the bibliography) though occasionally punctuated by fragments of prose from some of the most skilled poets and littérateurs of both today and yesteryear, the images are free to be enjoyed as they are, compelling snapshots of our fascinating world that collectively convey its wonderful diversity and beauty, and stand as a testament to the remarkable artistry and skill of perhaps the medium’s greatest living practitioner.
“Sometimes I think his work is at heart a meditation on what endures and what does not. In so many of these images there’s a backdrop of ruination – poverty, war, decrepitude. Yet what shines out is something indomitable, the undying light in all those eyes.” – Pico Lyer
(excerpt from the introduction of, In Search of Elsewhere: Unseen Images)
In Search of Elsewhere: Unseen Images is out now and directly available via Laurence King Publishing.
All images © Steve McCurry