Archive for December, 2009

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2009 by stevemccurry
The Afghanistan Dilemma – Redux

Dead Afghan Soldier, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

Maybe one definition of hell is that it is the place where more effort produces fewer results. Five years ago, I could drive from Kabul over mountain passes in safety to the central highlands town of Bamiyan. Today, the only recommended way is to fly – if you can get a UN flight. Today we have many more soldiers, contractors, and NGO’S than we did five years ago, yet it is far more dangerous today than it was then. We are getting fewer results with more boots on the ground. That tells me that many do not understand the country, the history, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.


As hard as outsiders have tried to “re-create” the country in their own image, Afghanistan  has been able to absorb the blows of superpowers, and remain essentially the same. The interesting thing to me is that the people trying to change it,  change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of well-meaning governments, NGO’s, and coalitions. Look at the Soviet misadventure for evidence.


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The Congressional Research Service recently said the United States has spent nearly $230 billion on the war in Afghanistan. That amount will jump to $300 billion once Congress has approved a military spending bill for fiscal 2010.  The question for all of us to ask is on what we are spending the money, and is it making a difference?  Do our leaders have any idea what they are trying to accomplish?  How many books have they read on Afghan history? How many officials based in Washington have stayed there more than a couple of days?


Mujahadeen fighter takes a looter to jail. Kabul, 1992

Everyone wants Afghans to live their lives in a peaceful country where families can thrive, but our ideas to achieve that goal are often built on faulty assumptions. President Obama may be a one-term president if the war goes badly, and who will decide if and when we “win.”  The concept of winning is dangerous. Do we win, or do the Afghans win, and do they even want that victory as we define it?


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

00560_01, Afghanistan, 05/1992, AFGHN-13131

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Insane Asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

Don’t Wait for the Phone to Ring

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by stevemccurry

I am often asked by photographers just starting out what advice I can offer.  Here are some tips which might be a good start.

Insatiable Curiosity
Being curious about life and things around you is an essential part of being a good photographer.
Hard work
Any endeavor, any profession requires a serious commitment and effort and hard work. Unless you are willing to commit to that, it’s best not to begin the journey.
Leave home
Leave home or leave your comfort zone. Being a good photographer doesn’t necessarily mean you travel to distant
places, but you do need to get out of your comfort zone and explore,  wander and observe.
Fortitude and Determination
At times, there’s a lot of pick and shovel work to photography or any other profession, and you have to be ready to work your way through these tedious times.
Dig Deep
The process of learning never stops, but at a point it’s all kind of automatic in a way. If you look at the photographers whose work is widely admired you’ll see that  they’ve found a particular place or a subject, dug deep into it, and carved out something that’s become special.
Evolve, reinvent yourself, grow
You need to keep your heart and mind open. Life is  flowing in front of your eyes and you need to be open to respond and allow yourself to be touched by things which are extraordinary and let it change you.

BIO-10072Don’t wait for the phone to ring
Regardless of how successful you are, it’s important for you to spend your time photographing things that matter to you.  You need to understand the things that have meaning to you, and not what others think is important for you. Make things happen; don’t wait for others to offer opportunities.   Follow up.  Don’t wait for the phone to ring.  Pick up the phone and call.


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


In the Shadow of Mountains

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2009 by stevemccurry

A Portfolio of Images from Afghanistan


Classroom in Kunduz, Afghanistan, 2002

Allah is the mountain above the mountain, and it is He who entertains the idea — or not — of our next hour on the earth.


Girls High School, Bamiyan, 2006

This is why Afghans are reluctant to bet on tomorrow. Tomorrow is not ours to presume upon. Tomorrow is the pleasure of Allah alone.

Hazara Women at Grave in Bamiyan

Hazara women at grave in Bamiyan, 2007

Insha’Allah.  The pervasive, overpowering feeling that is difficult to describe about Afghanistan.


Bread Vendor, Kabul, 1992

It is the stubborn and unassailable conviction – the ability to endure almost anything – that defines the Afghan soul and my fascination with it.


Father and daughter at home with folk art on the wall, Kamdesh, Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1992

It is this powerful feeling that draws me there again and again.


Herat Ruins, 1992


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Former soldier in facility for mentally ill patients, Kabul, 1992

The Afghanistan Dilemma  –

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by stevemccurry

“Child’s play is the exultation of the possible.” – M. Buber

Children at Work

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by stevemccurry

In developing countries one in six children from 5 to 14 years old is involved in child labor.


Nepal, 1983

In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.


Boy working in candy factory, Kabul, 2006

Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.


An eleven-year-old boy working in gold mine, Mindinao, Philippines, 1985

An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.


Tibetan Girl, 2002



Children work in an opium field in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. 1982

The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.


Niger, 1995


Boy sells flowers in busy road, India 1993


Young Welder, Bombay, India, 1994

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together,  and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” –  Grace Abbott



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37,272 other followers