World-Renowned Photographer Visits Texas Tech

Steve McCurry, who snapped the famous image of the 'Afghan Girl,' offers advice for students.

This photograph was taken when McCurry was taking snapshots of the many inhabitants near a refugee camp in Pakistan.

He snapped shots of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He produced the famous image of the “Afghan Girl,” which won several awards after being the cover of a National Geographic. He travels the world with his camera, producing images of the conflict occurring all over the world.

Steve McCurry has covered many war regions, including Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, the former Yugoslavia and Tibet. He gives attention to the human effects of war, not only showing the impact war has on the land, rather on the human face.
“I think being a war photographer who conveys these emotions through photos is a noble profession,” said McCurry, who recently spoke at Texas Tech University. “And it may sound morbid or crazy, but as a photographer, I get an exciting adrenaline rush while shooting as I dodge bullets and shells.”

McCurry kicked off his photography career when he began taking pictures for Pennsylvania State University’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. He also did some freelance work for a few years before heading to Asia to explore different countries with a bag of clothes, and his camera.

“Life for these people occurs on the street,” McCurry said. “They play, work, eat and live their lives in the open. You will not find such wonderful scenes of life like these in countries where the climate is colder and where people tend to live their lives indoors, or in developed cities where everything is organized and ordered.”

However, it was not until he crossed the Pakistan border into Afghanistan’s closely monitored territory that he produced images of the conflict taking place. McCurry made his way into the area during the Soviet Invasion, and his work won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award bestowed to photographers who display exceptional courage and enterprise.

One particular image caught the attention of National Geographic and was named as "the most recognized photograph" in the magazine’s history. The picture was titled “Afghan Girl,” and was taken when McCurry was taking snapshots of the many inhabitants near a refugee camp in Pakistan.

“I like to celebrate people, places and culture through my photography,” McCurry said. “I also like to tell stories about my subjects through my photographs, especially those I have shot in areas of conflict.”

With the native people’s curiosity piqued as he tried to take pictures, McCurry said getting the perfect shots in the foreign region began as a struggle. However, with experience and persistence, he was finally able to capture images of their day-to-day life.
For the many aspiring photographers hoping to produce the next “Afghan Girl,” McCurry has some valuable advice.

“Like any vocation, I think you need tenacity, perseverance and commitment to your work to be a successful photographer,” McCurry said. “For me, being a photographer has been an enormous amount of fun. I have had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the amazing places I have shot in. I can’t imagine a better way to spend your time and life than exploring this amazing planet.”


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