Reading Response 5: Steve McCurry

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Steve McCurry is best known for his image of an Afghan Girl that appeared on the cover of National Geographic. In the article “I don’t think pictures are worth dying for, but I don’t want to live knowing I was timid,” Gabby Wood from The New York Times interviews McCurry about his journey as a war photographer.

He explains how his experiences abroad and as a conflict photographer have informed his worldview and opinions on especially the US and its involvement in Afghanistan. His images of the Afghan people and all of his subjects for that matter, evoke a certain intimacy and understanding with that person. With the subject usually addressing the camera and our perceived nothing that they are the other and his images often including children and women,  gives us a sense that he is off to capture the vulnerable and the misunderstood. It seems that in many cases, taking these photographs has given the photographer perspective that he may otherwise not encounter. He certainly has sympathy for the Afghan girl whose portrait gave McCurry his name in the photojournalism world. In this interview he spoke of how, when they went back to find her, he and National Geographic aided her and her family with money for medical bills and education. But the skeptical part of me asks why it took him 17 years to figure out the girls name and try to find her and help her. It seems that maybe he did not have the kind of close relationship or any relationship to his subjects whatsoever as his striking photographs would suggest.

He later on in the interview describes his conclusions about the Afghan people and how they are clever and will take what they can get from rich foreigners. I can;t say I’ve ever been to Afghanistan so I personally cannot directly dispute that generalization since I have not experience with Afghans in their own country. But it the article did mention briefly that McCurry was often embedded in the US Army. I am not sure whether this means that  he was working for the US military or just hanging out with them but from a few things he shared it seemed as though his view of the situation does not directly correlate to the way his images turn out. This just shows that war photography and photojournalism can be very ambiguous at times.

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