Cultures on the Edge

Vanishing Peoples, Vanishing Livelihoods

Tightrope Walker

Rajasthan, India, 2009


Tibet, 2007

Since the beginning of time, nomads have roamed the world and have been an essential part of economic and cultural activity around the globe.


Tibet, 2007

South Asia has the world’s largest nomadic population. In India, there are more than 500 nomadic groups, roughly 80 million people, but every day their traditional ways of life are disappearing.


Tibet, 2007

The diversity of the livelihoods of each of these nomadic communities is staggering.  Each one fills a particular socio-economic niche, fulfilling a specific need of village or sedentary communities.

Each of these groups is threatened by a variety of factors:  urban sprawl, cheaper factory goods, modern technology,  stringent wildlife laws and governmental pressure.


Nomad Children, Amdo, Tibet, 2001



Kuchi Shepherd, Kashmir, 1995

The Kuchis of Afghanistan have to travel long distances to avoid drought, dust storms, and wars. They are about 10% of Afghanistan’s population and are an important part of the foundation of Afghanistan’s exports of wool, carpet, and animal hides.  Because they travel to remote regions, the Kuchis have been instrumental in taking manufactured goods to remote areas, and rather than being a relic from the past, they are relevant, but drought and social pressures are impacting their way of life that has survived for centuries.



Kuchi Nomads, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

The fate of all nomadic peoples is precarious, but it is vital to recognize that their way of life has served them and their regions well for centuries, and that perhaps it is worth a Herculean effort to help them survive.


Tuareg Woman, Mali, 1986

My pictures of India’s nomads were published in the February issue of National Geographic Magazine:

40 Responses to “Cultures on the Edge”

  1. Your dead naan Says:


  2. Thank you for pick up the afghanistan nomadic

  3. This website the shizzzzzzzzzniiiisle my name ali shariff and i gets no girls😦

  4. Anonymous Says:

    wow amazing

  5. Reblogged this on Oxford School of Photography and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  6. beautiful. wonderful

  7. […] on the need for the appreciation of cultural diversity in this increasingly globalized world. Cultures on the Edge – Photo Gallery that documents several cultures around the world, before they vanish forever.  This […]

  8. Says:

    Hi steve

    With which lense do you work most?

    Tehran Iran


  9. Hi Steve,

    if I want to get any of the above images how do I go about it.

  10. Respected Steve,

    Congratulation for the publication of Nomadas ! Seen the photos at National Geographic Magazine’s site. Really a great work !

    Apratim Saha.

  11. Tibet always in my heart.

  12. thangks to good picture~~

  13. No words….

  14. Hilmi Karabulut Says:

    Hi Mr. Mccurry,

    From my experience film still shows the skin color more real than digital does. I can also see this in your photos. Do you agree or is it only me ?


  15. absolutely gorgeous, steve
    thanks for a great india expedition …

  16. What is your inspiration, Mr. McCurry?

  17. thanks for sharing, I’ve been following your blog for some time, and have been shocked and upset a lot by your images of Kabul, whilst reveling in the beautiful vibrant images of India, a country I am in love with.

    You have produced some of my favourite photographs of all time, and I’m an 18 year old british girl about to partake in a degree in Social Anthropology at the university of edinburgh. I would love it if you could give me some tips/if I could go on a shoot with you. My dream is to be a photojouranlist.

    liz x

  18. you have a blog! wow! very excited to discover it.


  19. Alvaro Menendez Says:

    Great job, as usual. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Thank you once again for sharing your view of this amazing World with us.

  21. So great to see your work on a blog !

  22. HI!! how r u?
    we have been talkin on 26 of february..
    we have a photograph together
    i was so glad of meet you..
    of course i was nervous because i have been seen your pictures since years and in a minute we wore talking like friends… lol…
    you might know i would like to travel around the world and take a lot of pictures of important things.. like you.
    i have been reading a lot about the afghana girl…and it was really amazing, i am meant what you have done for a picture and meet her again.
    well, i was really glad of meet you..

    a big hug!!!
    from, chivilcoy- argentina!!

  23. Jaw dropping work as ever! Would it be cheeky to ask for some hints as to how you get your colours so rich and the textures so deep in your photos?

  24. If there is anyone who can give a sound insight into these nomadic communities, it’s yourself Steve! Thankyou for bringing it to us.



  25. Dear Steve,

    Thanks for posting these images. For me, the image taken of the Kuchi Nomads in Kandahar best captures the nomadic lifestyle … contemplation of ones next journey.

    Best regards,

  26. I wish I could be with you on this journey.
    I really love rural India.


  27. Hi Steve

    I e-mail my photos of Iran to you

    I hope you enjoy

    morteza zeighami

  28. hi steve,
    have you made pictures of the Bo people of the Andamans? the last member of that tribe passed on recently at 85 and with her went a whole culture and way of life, not to mention a language. this loss of diversity is disturbing to say the least and to preserve it is paramount. the act of documenting it is also important for posterity — thanks for your work here.

    ps: small typo in one caption — the tribe is tuareg, not taureg.

  29. Nice to discover your photos which speak volumes!

  30. Absolutely fascinating as well as disheartening that the way of life for these nomadic people is fading away. I thoroughly enjoyed the images on the NG site as well. The image of the little boy learning snake handling intrigued me the most. I am curious as to why snake handling is outlawed. It seems harmless unless they’re handling more than boas.

  31. Terrific work. Particularly love the Tuareg woman in Mali.

  32. very good portraits!

  33. Great photos as always!

  34. As always, beautiful.

  35. I loved it when I came across your images in my most recent issue of NG! Totally fascinating the long history of some of these folks as traveling entertainers — and, yes, a lost way of life.

    I was especially drawn to your image of the little boy learning snake handling … despite my strong aversion to snakes. (What woman likes them, I ask.) It comes across as a very specific, yet utterly common (in the a wonderful way), moment in time. It gives you a interesting sense of voyeurism into this family’s life perhaps.

  36. Hi Steve,

    Again a excellent collection of photographs… Thanks for sharing with us…

    If you can answer I would like to know that why you choose underprivileged as your subject….


  37. Greetings from Spain!!!

    I’ve just discovered your blog via Twitter. I’ll follow it, I’m fond of your photographs.

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