Steve McCurry Exhibition–
December 10th, 2012 until January 10th, 2013
On December 23rd of last year I visited The Empty Quarter Gallery, Dubai to view an exhibition by award-winning, US photographer Steve McCurry, titled ‘Unguarded Moments.
McCurry says that his photographs combine his love for wanderlust and photography. There is nothing more important that you can do with your life than to experience different cultures and see how different people live and see the amazing variety of life in this world’s human life, animal life, the natural world, the seas, the oceans, the mountains. To try to experience that is about the most interesting way you can spend your life, he points out.
36 photographs were on display, from locations such as Sri Lanka, Rajasthan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Kashmir.
At the entrance to the gallery, McCurry’s iconic image, ‘Afghan Girl, Pakistan (1984)‘ was displayed. The portrait was shot in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. McCurry managed to shoot only two frames with the young girl looking directly into the camera before she jumped up and ran off. McCurry describes her look as concentrated, focused and intense. I also think her expression could be described as determined and resolute, she appears dignified amidst the unquestionable chaos that the camp would bring.
After viewing all of the works I revisited a few that had caught my eye and interest. ‘INDIA. Jammu & Kashmir. Dal Lake. 1999′ was one of these. My initial thought as I viewed the photograph was of the immediate sense of calm and peace that the image transmits. The stillness of the water, the lack of activity and the light made me think that this was perhaps taken very early in the day. The collection of houseboats and homes on stilts and the laundry drying on the boat roof suggest that this is a community and at a different time of day the scene could be bustling with activity and noise. The lone female in the bright yellow clothing provides a splash of colour, which draws the eye to the foreground of the image. The woman is the only person that can be seen, perhaps undertaking some early morning chores before the work of the day begins. I find this to be an excellent example of how McCurry has used a human element to bring a photograph to life.
Another photograph that I found to draw me in was ‘Portrait Photographer, Kabul (1992)‘. The photograph captures the scene of a photographer, his camera and his studio (the cubicle behind him and the developing bowl at his feet). While it would be easy to concentrate on how rudimentary the surroundings or the photographer’s equipment is, the first thought for me was how proud the man seems of his occupation, his work and his equipment. He reaches out to hold his box camera, a link that tells the viewer the two are connected.
Of all McCurry’s photographs exhibited I found this one to interest me most, Father and daughter at home, ‘Kamdesh, Afghanistan (1992)’. The photograph shows a father and daughter closely sitting side by side at home. My eye was first drawn to their faces. They are both looking intently at something beyond the camera frame. Their attentions are focused and their expressions appear tense. In front of them, across a low blue table, lies a large rifle. No attention is paid to the rifle, perhaps denoting that its appearance is an everyday occurrence. I found the eye-line of the father and daughter to be very strong and I wondered on what were they focused, perhaps, a television news channel or a family member of friend relaying some important and unwelcome news to them. McCurry believed their gazes spoke of some unspoken sorrow.
The wall behind the pair is decorated with handprints, a form of ancient folk art that McCurry has documented in Central America. I have to admit that the handprints were one of the last things I noticed in the photograph, my attention focused on trying to read the emotions of the father and daughter.
I enjoyed viewing McCurry’s work in this exhibition, both from a photographic and anthropology perspective. One cannot help be both impressed and terrified when you contemplate some of the situations he has sought to capture, such as war zones. However, for me, where the photograph was shot often became a secondary consideration to the stories that the people within the photographs could perhaps tell.
Steve McCurry’s work can be viewed at