Photographs from the East was the first survey exhibition of the celebrated American photographer Steve McCurry in the Netherlands. The exhibition features 138 black and white and colour photographs from the period 1979 – 2016. All the selected photographs have been taken on his favourite continent: Asia. He travelled to countries like Afghanistan, India, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Tibet and Vietnam. Almost all the photographs in the exhibition are highlighting India and Afghanistan. In the centre of the exhibition there is a gallery with a selection of the most beautiful portrait photographs McCurry shot in Asia. Some of them are shown for the very first time.
The work of Steve McCurry (Philadelphia, USA, 1950) captures the changes that take place in today’s world. His crystal-clear photographs are marked by an incredible beauty and intensity. The photographer first became known in 1979 when he smuggled his first rolls of film out of occupied Afghanistan, disguised as a mujahideen (a Muslim warrior). The photographs were immediately published in TIME, Paris Match, Stern, The New York Times. Five years later he would take his most famous photograph in a refugee camp in Pakistan: ‘The Afghan Girl’ with the green eyes. Ever since its publication in 1985 in National Geographic it has become an iconic image. The photograph of the then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula still is topical today due to the present refugee crisis.
During his travels McCurry first gains the trust of the people, by approaching them in a very personal way. In the countries where he takes his photographs he always captures the local customs, the wealth of colour and the natural light. Since his very first visit McCurry’s love for Asia remains unchanged. How people’s everyday lives and religious experiences are coming together and give colour to public space, always has fascinated him. McCurry’s photographs tell us more about disappearing cultures and about the onslaught of globalisation. In India, his favourite country, McCurry learned to watch and to wait for the right moment: “If you wait, people forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view”.
Steve McCurry embodies several key characteristics that have made him a top photographer: he is incredibly fond of travelling, he is both daring and curious, tenacious and patient, he has a great eye for composition and light, and he sees the unusual and lyrical beauty of his subjects. Technically he is a master photographer, and above all he treats his subjects with great respect.
Throughout his long career McCurry has received numerous awards. The exhibition also features two films: ‘Search for the Afghan Girl’ and an extended ‘conversation with Steve McCurry’ about some of his most iconic photographs.
Steve McCurry has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1986. The Magnum Photos agency was founded 70 years ago, in 1947, by the photographers Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymour. Today Magnum has four offices worldwide: in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. Magnum supplies photographs to the press, publishers, advertising agencies, television, galleries and museums. Henri Cartier-Bresson once explained Magnum’s credo as follows: “Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually”.