A Third of Our Lives


Calcutta, India



Tonle Sap, Cambodia


Recently, I have been reviewing the pictures in my archive for a new book project.    I have been looking for activities that are shared by people in every culture and tradition. My blog on reading generated over 25,000 views, and it has been great to read many comments from people who are passionate about reading and literature, and the impact that they have on our lives. I discovered that I have a very large collection of people who are in some form of sleep.  It may be a nap or a snooze, a siesta or a deep slumber, but it is something we all need, but something many of us don’t get enough of.


Angkor, Cambodia


We sleep as much as a third of our lives, so it is clear that we are actually doing some important “work” during that time.  From consolidating memory and learning,  to repair of our bodies, sleep isn’t so much a luxury as a necessity.


Chiang Mai, Thailand


For Shakespeare, sleep was the balm of hurt minds.  He wrote in Macbeth:

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”


Bombay, India



Beijing, China



Paris, France



Outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan



Bangkok, Thailand


Bangkok, Thailand


“Now, blessings light on him that first invented sleep!   It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.  It is the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap, and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise man, even. ”
-Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605

38 Responses to “A Third of Our Lives”

  1. very very very good photos, thanks for sharing it! :)
    And also Cervantes is a great poet/writer

  2. […] borrowed from Steve McCurry’s post. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  3. Great captures…..

  4. WOW….Wonderful…amazing shot I had never see, nice shot n colourng…..God make wonderful world….

  5. Wow! Just found your blog and site. Fantastic, sensitive images. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Outstanding work! Your portraits capture the essence of the individual. The images are very powerful and moving! You are a real inspiration to other photographers to do whatever and go wherever to get the shot! Thank you for posting your work so we can enjoy viewing all the photos.

  7. […] as been and pulls together series of shared human experiences, experiences such as LOVE, SOLUTIDE, SLEEPING and READING[READING partII]. Do yourself a favor a take […]

  8. All these photos are so excellent one by one, making this collection so special !
    Always love to watch your amazing work.

  9. Samantha Dixon Says:

    And Shakespeare’s wider metaphor is that a nation that doesn’t sleep is sick at heart. Many of your pictures eloquently display the nightmarish wakefulness of war zones.

  10. Joanna Casey Says:

    A wonderful set of photographs. You always manage to create an interesting composition as well as the actual subject matter.

    I am a great admirer of your work and saw your exhibition in Birmingham recently. To see the actual images so close and so large was inspiring. They have such a unique quality to them. Thanks for sharing these ones.

  11. Hi Steve,
    thanks for sharing. I like this way to find new common themes in archive photos, and also the specific concept of sleep in different cultures. I just gives the idea that in some way pictures change as we change while growing.

    Thank you.


  12. I’m glad to visit for the first time here let’s hope this visit continues until a beautiful friendship.

    Warmest regards always.

  13. Great work and blog Steve!

    It’s a big pleasure to read your blog and enjoy your pictures. When are you going to come to Spain to make any workshop? As a photographer I have a question that you might have done a lot of times, but when the chance arrives I never know how react, and the thing is often asked me for money after I took a portrait on the streets, should I pay the person pictured? It would be grateful if you guide me in this, thanks Steve

  14. Dear Steve,

    Thank you for posting these and other amazing photographs.


  15. Hi Steve,
    it is always a pleasure to go through your writings and snaps. Please keep sharing.

  16. I’ve been yesterday in Perugia to see your showcase. Simply stunning!!!

    I’m an amateur photographer and I’ve been really studying each photo, or better each masterpiece!

    I’d like to learn to capture such portraits, since I’m always afraid to hurt people’s sensibility.

    Thanks for sharing also this selection of Human acitivity really common to everybody. Probably it is the one we all do with the most same behavior.

  17. I just love how you’re finding themes that are common to all mankind. What an extraordinary collection of images..and to man’s necessity for sleep.

  18. Surely we are all but human? whether we are black, white, Jewish or Muslim, old or young, we all eat and drink, laugh and play, hurt and cry, hate and loathe, sleep and dream. How we do these things may be different but we all share the need for such things.

    Truly inspirational work! I aspire to be a photojournalist, to tell such stories and hope to convey them with vivid imagery like yours!

  19. my compliments – thanks for sharing
    Steve. Best regards, erwin.

  20. The uniqueness of the subjects you write about is very much equal to the outstanding photographs you take.

    I admire your work, and I’m always amazed.

  21. The one from Bombay with that man and a dog is especially touching and excellent because of the similarity of their sleeping positions.
    A truly inspiring work for me, thank you Steve for sharing here.
    Greetings from Paris,

  22. Arjan Jutte Says:

    Magnificent pictures!
    As always!!!

  23. Great idea, fabulous shots. Is that a large snake under the hammock in the second pic?? I love how the mom and baby are all snuggled together.

  24. marilee pittman Says:

    These photos are amazing. Thank you for sharing them with this armchair traveler

  25. Daveen Wilson Says:

    Moving… the thing that struck me is how all the sleepers are poor, and able to relax into sleep in uncongenial surroundings – whereas us rich folk in our posh beds aren’t able to…

  26. Jos Runarka Says:

    Dear Steve,

    it is amazing how many collection of different theme of people and live you have. Great to see them all and thank you shared all of them with us!


    Jos Runarka

  27. Great pictures Steve. While each of them is amazing, the one from Thailand with the man sleeping next to the Elephant is inspiring. I’d like to take a chance to let you know that your work is inspiring to me and many more budding photographers like myself.

    Thanks for having this photo blog and sharing.

  28. Death and sleep are the two activities that has been granted to man to relax,

    i am sure you can take better photographs of sleeping while standing.

  29. Nice collection of sleeping people from all over the world Mr. Steve :)
    All the photos are fantastic !

  30. Hi Steve,

    It’s a notable point that sleeping is an important “work”… earlier due to our parents and now due to our kids or bosses we are compromising in this important work, which is not healthy. In such a competitive world no wonder if it becomes luxury in future. It will be interesting to see how our bodies are going to adopt with this change.


  31. Love this. And I love the Don Quixote quotation at the end. Thank you.

  32. i never knew that sleep could be so attractive to see. i especially like your photos in paris, cambodia, and thailand. always love for looking through your eyes, steve! (and just wonder what will we see in the next chapter). thank you!

  33. Thanks for sharing, I truly love your work it is always inspiring.

  34. I’m always happy to see a new blog post of yours, Steve.

    These theme photos are especially interesting. Thank you so much for posting your excellent work.

  35. I like Paris’ shot, I always love seeing your photos outside the Far East.
    Sleeping? What about dreaming? Tougher to photograph but carrying a deeper psychological meaning.

  36. A great collection of shots, Steve. I especially like the juxtaposition of the statues and the sleeping man in the first image.
    I’ve been really inspired by your photographs and your stories. Thanks so much for posting!


  37. La Vida es sueño. de Calderón de la Barca es el libro de un contemporáneo de Cervantes y habla de todo ello.
    Jorge Luis Borges tambien habla mucho del sueño y que jsutamente vivimos sueños de otros..quizas de una reencarcación.
    Muy bonitas tus imágenes, Steve..que bueno es comunicarme contigo mediante este blog!!

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