The Way it Was


Steam Train, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1983

The art historian, Geoffrey Batchen, in writing about photography, said that one of the missions of photography is to represent and memorialize.



Fishermen, Weligama, South coast, Sri Lanka, 1995

These pictures could not be taken today.  In the past couple of decades the landscapes and cultures have changed.


Rice paddy fields, Banaue, Philippines, 1985

It is my hope that these images will provide a record of  lost moments of culture.


Women Working in Fields, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1996.

These fields are no longer being cultivated. Some of these pictures are a “last look” at much that stands for cultural identity around the world.


Railroad line inspector being pushed by a retinue of workers to check for wear and tear on the tracks, Agra, India, 1983


Farmer separating the wheat from the chaff. Baluchistan, Pakistan, 1980

The  beautiful and sublime is going to disappear.  It has already.


A view looking downtown towards the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan, New York City, 1994.

It is more common to see a baseball hat and a Chicago Bulls jersey than traditional clothing in nearly every place I travel.


Tibet, 2000

35 Responses to “The Way it Was”

  1. WOW ..Thanks for sharing, would love to travel in India on the steam trains and seeing these pictures has determined me to one day do so.

  2. post1109493

    The Way it Was | Steve McCurry’s Blog

  3. […] des photos inédites et des réflexions issues de ses nombreux voyages, comme le billet intitulé “The Way it Was”. Dans ce billet, il présente quelques exemples de ses photos qui ont contribué à documenter une […]

  4. I have seen Steve’s photos mostly taken in south east Asia followed by Europe, Africa and few in the USA. That part of the world where human culture goes back over 5000 years offers limitless opportunities for all photographers who chose to be part of it, just like Steve. I have tried to follow many other great photographer’s work but Steve’s work is simply out of this world. The more time you spend seeing his work more you appreciate the human life, our origin, our past, our connection. As much as I appreciate all different kinds of photography styles, I have not seen images in all those styles that stand timeless as Steve’s photos.

  5. Thanks a lot, Mr. Steve. A picture was taken when I was born but the color is amazing. I cannot understand how you did that and how to keep it until now.

  6. Thank you sharing these wonderful pictures and I am so glad to find your blog.

  7. Melanie Says:

    Dear Mr Mccurry,
    I read your pithy yet sharp inputs for a newbie photographer. Thank you for them! Though, one thing that always puzzles me about your photographs, portraits specifically, is how do you take them: looking straight into the lens, sans any self-consciousness or shyness. What do you tell them?

  8. One word. Thanks.

    If photography is to share the feelings of the photographer at the time of clicking the shutter, Steve, you have certainly shared it with me today. Keep it up.

  9. […] des photos inédites et des réflexions issues de ses nombreux voyages, comme le billet intitulé “The Way it Was”. Dans ce billet, il présente quelques exemples de ses photos qui ont contribué à documenter une […]

  10. valeriaventurini Says:

    I saw your exhibition two days ago in Milan, and I cried. thank you..

  11. These are all great pictures. I have always LOVED the one of the Fishermen, in Weligama, Sri Lanka! I am saddened that the world, earth is changing and some things will never be the way they were. Thank God for photographs to document and writers to explain. Your adventures, sharing and talent are priceless for countless people.

  12. That’s a superb collection of images, Steve! Had seen many of them earlier on your photo gallery but it never hurts to see such fine frames again…

    I am especially interested in your response to Jeremy’s question on a single frame or a larger body of work being used to tell a story – I often find myself facing the same dilemma when it comes to adding an image to my portfolio.


  13. The picture taken in Sri Lanka seems to me both biblical and yet surrealistic. Absolutely amazing. But I must object, somewhat, to the tone of your comments. Things always must change. At one point, people lamented the developments whose passing you now mourn. Beauty and the sublime will not disappear. They will change though. So although I understand the sentiment, the sadness is partially just the loss of things we became attached to. (And I have to note–the boy in Tibet wears his chicago bulls hat with a certain flair unusual in my part of the world!)

  14. As always, amazing pictures!

  15. manishrao18 Says:

    Must say that this is excellent photography……

  16. By the way, you really inspire me to improve more and put heart and honesty in my photography.

  17. I have been following your blog for a few months and it’s my first time to see a photo you took in my country, the Philippines. The rice terraces are slowly getting eroded due to neglect of the terraces and of the surrounding environment. I wonder if it will still be around by the time I have kids old enough to appreciate this national legacy.

  18. Hi Steve,
    I think you are the first great master of photography I knew, maybe just because your way to see the daily life is so human. I am learning a lot looking at your photos. How they are framed, shot, the contrast, the colors, I do love your portraitures.. Sorry If I am telling you just good things and compliments but your work and the life you are living give me hope and good energy ! So take care Steve, I will be back here to look at your good job. Thank you for sharing, this is a real present for us..!
    Salutations de Paris !

  19. I don’t know what to say. I went to see the Taj myself, a couple of weeks back, and I did not even know that there are paddy fields behind the monument.

    The photographs are…well, beautiful, to say the least, but not just technically — but because they have a larger purpose to serve. To explain to the world what we’re constantly losing.

    Thank you. So much.

  20. Inspiring work, truly! Thanks for sharing your passion

  21. Steve, i was doing a story on Bhutan several years ago & was taken by some monks to a monastery high up in the mountains where only about 10 monks reside. Virtually no tourists go there, as it requires a full day hike. Upon arrival at the monastery, one monk came out of his living quarters wearing a Chicago Bulls hat & wanted to only talk about Michael Jordan. A very discouraging thing to see in that location & that was in 1998.

  22. really just gorgeous pictures. your work is so inspiring

  23. am really happy to see these images in my life time…thanx steve

  24. As always, makes me wanna spread my wings and go.

  25. Fernando Ruiz T. Says:

    Your work is amazing. You have an eye for photography, are lined feeling composition and light. I still work for years. Congratulations on your work.

  26. Thanks Steve for sharing.

  27. Definitely… history needs those images…

    That is how the life is… we leave many things behind while moving ahead…

    Best wishes,

  28. These photos are amazing!! every time i come to your blog it makes want to grab a back pack and travel the world!!

  29. I feel you… and these pictures are amazing. thanks so much for sharing

  30. arlenesfelt Says:

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures. The first one especially is breathtaking. I love your blog and eagerly await new posts.

  31. I think this post catches the real meaning of photography.

  32. Steve,

    These are certainly some of your finer images! I agree as well that each image creates a historical record, these photographs now seen out of their original context each stand on their own as a testament to that moment in time.

    In the field of journalism there is so much importance put on the “photographic essay” on really being able to tell the story with a complete body of work- and I understand the value of that. I want to also defend the single image, which I think has an equal value and over time can even gain higher visibility than the essay from which it came.

    There is no doubt in my mind that I am able to better understand “The Way it Was” through the great photographs of our time, or that which was painted on canvas prior to the photographic record.

    The question I would like to put forth is this: Are great single images almost always taken from a larger body of work, or can a photographer set out to create a beautiful, complex stand alone image with just as much success?

    I ask this because as I select images for my own website portfolios, or stock archive I find that many images work together to tell a story, but do not stand alone – and are therefor edited out of the final selection.

    Is the goal perhaps then to create stronger single images that can “tell the story” by themselves, or is the nature of the photographic essay dependent on those “other’ photographs that never make the final portfolio edit?

    Those single images that stand the test of time are perhaps the product of “sketching” and could not be achieved without first working on a larger body of work.

    I have never seen your image of the Rice Paddy Fields (3rd from top), and what a great photo to exemplify this post! Who could really grasp such a beautiful & foreign life without seeing it first (or second) hand!

    I do believe, more than ever, that there is an urgency to get out there and document the cultures & landscapes of the world. And perhaps for different reasons than we have in the past, on the brink of globalization, it won’t be a matter of “have we seen this”, but rather “will we remember it!” I too have seen the Chicago Bulls jersey.

    Cheers, Jeremy

  33. The pics from Agra are trully fascinating and everlasting. The one with the train in front of Taj Mahal will remain fresh even 50 years from now.

  34. Just amazing pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    …and some of them could never been taken any more.

  35. Absolutely superb, Steve. On-going thanks.

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