Archive for July, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by stevemccurry

Debating Monks at Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India, 2001

In Tibetan Buddhism, debate is considered an integral part of sharpening critical thinking and analytical abilities and demonstrating one’s understanding of Buddhist logic and philosophy.

These monks are part of a sect called the Yellow Hat Sect or Gelugpa.  It was formed by a reformer in the 14th century who wanted to emphasize compassion and emptiness.  The Dalai Lama is the leader of this group.  The picture  of the debating monks was taken in India during the time that the Dalai Lama was present.

I have had the privilege of photographing  His Holiness the Dalai Lama many times, and each time I am impressed by his humility, humanity, and sense of humor.

The Annenberg Space for Photography

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 by stevemccurry

It was wonderful to spend time over the weekend at the The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.

Led by Wallis Annenberg,  Chairperson of the Board, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation, it is one of the largest private foundations in the United States .  Wallis has spent much of her life focused on philanthropy and is dedicated to education,  communications, arts and culture. The Photography Space opened its doors on March 27, 2009, and has quickly become an important cultural destination.

Wallis believes that, “Photography is one of the most accessible and personal forms of art. We see the creation of the Annenberg Space for Photography as a service to the community where visitors can see the world through a different lens and leave feeling motivated to make positive change.”

It was a privilege to be involved in the planning of the space, and very gratifying to see it come to fruition.

Photograph copyright  Julius Shulman

The Story Behind a Picture

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 23, 2009 by stevemccurry


I had been photographing the effects of shelling in Kabul, when, without warning, hundreds of rockets started pouring down on the city from several different directions. I had to find cover immediately, and the first refuge I saw was what appeared to be a series of abandoned buildings. I dashed for cover in what turned out to be a hospital for the mentally ill. Its residents were victims of decades of war. There were soldiers who had lost their minds and civilians traumatized by the indelible images of the horror that they had witnessed.

There was no electricity, no running water, no doctors, no nurses.  The smoke from the fire of a makeshift kitchen blackened the ceilings and walls.

As I was moving to another part of the courtyard, I looked back and saw that a man had picked up heavy stones and was bashing another inmate in the head. I remember seeing a huge stone bouncing off his head.  We wrestled him to the ground and hustled the man to a hospital.  That experience haunts me to this day.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 20, 2009 by stevemccurry

A few years some friends and family founded ImagineAsia.  The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities in order to provide educational resources.

One of our projects  has been to provide medical books to doctors who have virtually no current reference books. We have received donations of thousands of new and slightly used medical textbooks from hospitals and the American College of Physicians, which we have distributed to medical schools and hospitals around Afghanistan.

It is impossible to overstate the need of up-t0-date information for Afghan doctors, and it has been very gratifying to receive positive feedback from doctors and librarians.  One of the needs mentioned most often was pediatric textbooks, and thanks to the physicians at the Chester-Crozer Hospital, we have been able to provide hundreds of those books.

We have also provided hundreds of literature books to schools, especially in Bamiyan.  One of our board members went to Bamiyan to teach an intensive English course for high school girls.

Our small school for refugee children in Kabul has been taught by a wonderful teacher who has been with us for three years, and thanks to the efforts of an Afghan doctor friend, has been well provided with a stove, wood, and other materials so that the students can learn all winter even when the public schools are closed.



Elliott Erwitt

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 17, 2009 by stevemccurry

I’m often asked about what advice I could give to young photographers. I would recommend studying the work of Elliott Erwitt, my colleague at Magnum Photos who has had an illustrious career in fine art, editorial, and corporate advertising photography.

Elliott has done it all – from creating films including The Glass Makers of Herat (1977) to exhibitions in London, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Zurich and New York. He is also coming out with two new books this year.

I spent almost a week with Elliott in Australia about 10 years ago on a book tour and I was struck by his curiosity and his keen eye, photographing even at the airport before we got on the plane back to New York. I discovered that we both have a love for Italy and Japan and both travel there often.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 17, 2009 by stevemccurry

Recently I was in Milan to help prepare for a major exhibition at the Palazzo Della Ragione on the Piazza dei Mercanti, which opens in November.

Milan is one of my favorite cities, and I always look for an excuse to stop over and see old friends.  My friend, Biba Giacchetti,  invited some of us to her home.

I wanted to have a picture made with three important people to me.  Amanda Renshaw is the Editorial Director at Phaidon London, who I have worked with over the past ten years. We have worked on and produced 10 books together. She is one of the best editors in the business.

Francesca Lavazza is a Senior Director at Lavazza. We worked on an important project on helping tribal people to manage and grow coffee in a more productive, sustainable way. We traveled to Honduras, Colombia, and Peru. Apart from being a wonderful person, her company makes the best coffee in the world.

Biba Giacchetti is the Director of Sudest57. She is elegant and smart, and we have worked on some wonderful projects together in Italy. I have had the good fortune to work with and know Biba over the past 15 years.

MJ’s Memorial

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 7, 2009 by stevemccurry

Two weeks ago, Michael Jackson and his producer discussed using my pictures in his upcoming tour during the song, “We are the World.”  Michael was excited by the idea of using my photography during his show.  They said his eyes “lit up” thinking about how the music and pictures would work together.

When Michael died, they asked if they could use my pictures as a montage during the song at the end of the memorial, and I was honored to provide them over the fourth of July weekend.

I remember listening to MJ’s music on my Walkman as I traveled around the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan during the early 1980’s. I could never have predicted that someday the pictures I was taking would be used at his memorial service.


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