Some exhibition titles are poetic, to the point of becoming hermetic, while others are effective, perhaps too much, but fall right on. The Maillol museum in Paris presents a retrospective called “Le Monde de Steve McCurry”. This name faithfully reflects more than forty-five years of career during which this international star of photography has crisscrossed the planet.
These large-format photos reflect his world, a vision focused on traditions magnified to the detriment of modernity at work in the societies it crosses. “I don’t see myself as an anthropologist or a historian,” he explains, “but I think it’s important to build a database on human behavior, before things change or disappear.” He was recently criticized for retouching in Photoshop of at least one image taken in Cuba. Since then, he calls himself a “storyteller”, storyteller, preferring “rites, monasteries like Angkor Wat which [le] fascinated younger “.
A life away from his hometown of Philadelphia
His touch combines a perfect composition and the lively contrast, sought after between the colors, frank reds above all, the orange of the fruit or the saffron of the robe of Buddhist monks … “Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose sense of framing has me always dazzled, told me to work in black and white, tells this member of the Magnum agency. But the world is in color and I want to photograph it as it is. You have to spend time in one place, wait that something happened. I could go to the same place thirty times, at different times of the day, at different seasons, also depending on the variations in my mood. “
Most of his life, Steve McCurry, 71, has been spent away from his hometown of Philadelphia. He rolled his bump, always in a multi-pocket jacket, in Asia, South America, Africa or the Middle East. Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, from where he brought back his most famous snapshot, the famous “Afghan with green eyes” (1984), attracted him more than anything. The Maillol museum displays nearly 150 of his photographs, accompanied by the author’s comments in the audio guide. In addition to his most famous images – such as the Indian submerged after a monsoon rain and carrying his sewing machine out of the water (Porbandar, 1983) – black and white prints of his early days and lesser works. views are hung. They represent armed mujahideen but also having fun like kids swinging. These are the first he published on Afghanistan.
India, “a magical country”
Young Steve McCurry was on the move. After studying photography at university and working for a local newspaper, he chose in the late 1970s to travel to India. “It seemed like a magical land to me, I had never seen the rain fall like this.” He stayed there for two years, passing through Pakistan the second summer. “It was so hot that I wanted to go and cool off in the mountains,” he recalls. “It was there that I met Afghan refugees who insisted on showing me their country. It was a little girl. walking from where we were, the world must have known about the atrocities there. But I had never covered a war. Raymond Depardon had preceded me with pictures of shepherds fighting against the government [soutenu par les Soviétiques]. He encouraged me to make my own trip to Afghanistan. “
He will return there thirty times. It was on the Pakistani-Afghan border that he produced his “icon”, this portrait of Sharbat Gula, a 12-year-old girl darting her intense green eyes in front of her lens. “That morning, I was doing portraits in a school in a refugee camp. I was immediately struck by his incredible gaze. It didn’t last long, the meeting was very brief. In this culture , women become invisible after puberty, once they put on the burqa. ” He photographs her like others in the class and does not see the result until three months later, when he returns.
In 2002, he found her in Afghanistan, in her thirties and married to a baker. Her mouth draws bitter folds, but her clear eyes are still piercing. McCurry’s sister, who works with him, has been to Afghanistan and Pakistan three times to provide assistance. A few days ago, Sharbat Gula arrived in Rome with her four children. She is the most famous of the refugees. Steve McCurry undoubtedly changed the course of her life by photographing her twice; she changed hers by becoming her Mona Lisa.