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.