Steve McCurry (American, b.1950) is a photojournalist whose photographic work focuses on war and its consequences. McCurry started in photography as a Pennsylvania State newspaper photographer while attending the university to earn a degree in theater arts. After graduating in 1974, he went on to work for Today's Post in King of Prussia, PA, for two years. He then went to work freelance in India.

As a freelance photographer, McCurry would often go off the beaten path. Early in his career, this tendency led him to cross the Pakistan border into Afghanistan prior to the Russian invasion. The film he shot was smuggled out of the country sewn into his clothing—native garb he wore so as to blend in—and contained some of the first images taken of the beginning of the struggle between Russian and Afghan forces. The photographer’s experiences in Afghanistan marked the beginning of a career of war coverage, taking him to battlefields in Beirut, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, and later back to Afghanistan.

McCurry's photos aren't about the coverage of epic battles between vast armies. Instead, he covers the effects of war on people and places. He attempts to show, through the stark realism of his photographs, the experiences of those caught in the middle of warfare, as well as the damage done to the war-torn landscapes. Often, his pictures focus on the faces of his subjects, showing unguarded emotions. One such image became world famous. His 1984 photo Afghan Girl appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in the June 1985 issue. It shows a young girl of about 12 years of age living as a refugee from the Afghan war in Pakistan. Often referred to as the Afghan Mona Lisa, the picture portrays the depth of sadness in the eyes of the young girl orphaned by war. The image became symbolic not only of the war but also of the difficulties with refuges worldwide. The photograph is considered to be the most recognizable of any published by the magazine.

McCurry's photos have won him numerous awards, including the Magazine Photographer of the Year award from the National Press Photographers' Association, multiple first-place prizes in the World Press Photo Contest, and the Award of Excellence from the French Art Directors Association for his Women of Afghanistan photos. McCurry's work can be seen worldwide in exhibitions at galleries and museums such as the Obras Caja Canarias en Tenerife in Spain, Lujubljana Castle in Lublijana, the Museum of Modern Art in Croatia, and Oeksnehallen in Copenhagen. McCurry's work is handled by Magnum Photos of New York.

Timeline

1980
Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for coverage of the war in Afghanistan for Time
1984
National Press Photographers Association: Magazine Photographer of the Year
1985
World Press Competition, Four First Prize First place, Nature and Nature Series; First place, Daily Life and Daily Life Series
1985
Oliver Rebbot Award Citation ("Monsoons" and "The New Faces of Baghdad")
1986
Oliver Rebbot Memorial Award, Overseas Press Club, Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad for work done in the Philippines
1987
Medal of Honor, Philippines, for coverage of the 1986 Philippine Revolution
1990
Award of Excellence, White House News Photographers Association ("Spanish Gypsy")
1992
Oliver Rebbot Memorial Award, Overseas Press Club, Oliver Rebbot Memorial Award, Overseas Press Club
1992
Picture of the Year Competition, Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence ("Fiery Aliens") First Place, Magazine Science Award ("Camels under a Blackened Sky") First Place, Gulf War News Story ("Kuwait: After the Storm")
1992
World Press Photo Competition; First Place, Nature and Environment ("Oil-Stricken Bird, Kuwait"); First Place, General News Stories ("Kuwait After the Storm"); Children's Award ("Camels under a Blackened Sky")
1993
National Press Photographers Association, Award of Excellence ("Rubble of War")
1994
Pennsylvania State University, Arts and Architecture Distinguished Alumni Award
1996
Picture of the Year Competition; Magazine Feature Picture Story Award ("Beggar"); Magazine Feature Picture Story Award ("Burma: The Richest of the Poor Countries")
1997
Picture of the Year Competition; Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence
1998
"Life" Eisenstaedt Awards - Our World Photo Winner and Our World Essay Finalist
1998
Picture of the Year Competition, Award of Excellence
1998
SAJA, Southern Asian Journalistic Award, Outstanding Special Project
1999
Pennsylvania State University, Lifetime Fellow Award
2000
Picture of the Year Competition; Book of the Year, South SouthEast; Magazine Feature Picture Award of Excellence: ‘Women in Field, Yemen’
2001
Photography Annual, Communication Arts; Award of Excellence, Book Series, South SouthEast
2002
Distinguished Visiting Fellow, College of Creative Studies, University of California
2002
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Hackensack, USA
2002
Photographer of the Year, PMDA Professional Photographer Award
2002
Photographer of the Year, American Photo Magazine
2002
United Nations International Photographic Council: Special Recognition Award
2002
French Art Directors Association, Award of Excellence for “Women of Afghanistan”
2003
International Photography Awards, Lucie Award for Photojournalism
2003
Distinguished Alumni Award, Pennsylvania State University
2003
Co-recipient of the New York Film Festival Gold for “Afghan Girl: Found” documentary
2005
Honorary Fellowship, Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain
2005
Photographic Society of America, Photojournalism Division-International Understanding Through Photography Award

Exhibitions

2010
Centro Cultural Borges, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2009
Open Shutter Gallery, Durango, USA
Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore
Palazzo della Ragione, Milan, Italy
International Festival of Photojournalism, Perpignan, France
The History Center, Orlando, USA
Face of Asia – Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, USA
Bagh- Babur, Queen’s Palace, Afghanistan
Stories from the Field – Cavalier Gallery, Greenwich, USA
Stadtmuseum, Schleswig, Germany
Latitudes Photography Festival, Huelva, Spain
2008
Human Reflection, The Photo Symphony, Milwaukee, USA
The Magnum Print Room, London, England
Face of Asia – Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
2007
Camera Obscura, Denver, USA
Path to Buddha, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, USA
India at 60, New York, USA
Pilgrimage, Morris Museum, Morristown, USA
South Southeast, Rennes, France
Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
South Southeast, Art Center Waco, USA
Tibet, International Center of Tibet, Washington D.C.
2006
South Southeast, Valencia, Spain
Afghanistan’s Children: The Next Generation, United Nations Lobby, New York, USA
First Photography Biennial, Alejandro Otero Museum, Caracas, Venezuela
Face of Asia, George Eastman House, Rochester, USA
Soho Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
Cavalier Gallery, Greenwich, USA
Gallery Old Town, San Diego, USA
Daegu Photo Biennale, Daegu, Korea
Pilgrimage, Madrid, Spain
Face of Asia, Sir William Gray House, Hartlepool, England
Lucca Photofest, Lucca, Italy
Sojourn: Narratives of Asia, Galleria ModernArte, Modena, Italy
Hartlepool Art Gallery, Hartlepool, England
2005
Face of Asia - Asia House, London, England
Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, USA
2004
Phil Woods Gallery, Ottawa, Canada
Pilgrimage - National Geographic Society, Washington D.C.
Buddhism - New Delhi, India
Written with Light - Artopia Gallery, Miami, USA
Boca Museum of Art, Boca Raton, USA
2003
Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Face of Asia - George Eastman House, Rochester, USA
Tibet House, New York, USA
The Augen Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Pilgrimage - National Geographic Society, Washington D.C.
Levering Hall, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
2002
Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, USA
Stenerson Museum, Oslo, Norway
Palacio dos Aciprestes, Pro Historica Associacao, Lisbon, Portugal
The Victor Barsokevitsch Photographic Centre, Finland
The School of Photography, Madrid, Spain
The Augen Gallery, Portland, USA
Exhibition Leeuwarden, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2001
Radiant Light Gallery, Portland, USA
Palacio dos Aciprestes, Pro Historica Associacao, Lisbon, Portugal
Vision Workshops, Annapolis, USA
2000
Magnum: Our Turning World, New York Historical Society, New York, USA
Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio and Cappella dei Mercanti Gallery, Torino, Italy
1999
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, USA
India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-97, Photo Festival Naarden, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1998
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, USA
1997
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India
National Gallery of Modern Art, Bombay, India
India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-97, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA
India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-97, Chicago Museum of Art, Chicago, USA
International Photo Journalism Festival, Perpignan, France
Royal Festival Hall, London, England

Public Collections

George Eastman House, New York, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio, Torino, Italy
Ackland Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Houston Museum of Modern Art, Houston, TX
Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
Palmer Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
International Center of Photography, New York, NY

Literature

2009
The Unguarded Moment, Phaidon Press, USA
2007
In the Shadow of Mountains, Phaidon Press, USA
2006
Looking East, Phaidon Press, USA
2005
Steve McCurry, Phaidon Press, USA
2003
The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage, Phaidon Press USA
2002
Sanctuary: The Temples of Angkor Wat, Phaidon Press, USA
2000
South Southeast, Phaidon Press, USA
1999
South Southeast, Phaidon Press, USA
1988
South Southeast, Phaidon Press, USA
1985
The Imperial Way, Houghton Mifflin, USA