Contrast and Clarity

PERU-10027Yanesha, Peru

It has been said that we live by contrasts.  During my travels over the past three decades, I have been in palaces and paper shacks;  in extreme heat and in bitter cold.  I have seen  the sublime and the bizarre; violent death and new life.  Each contrasting thing heightens the effect of its opposite.


USA-10001North Carolina

“The yin and yang of stark contrasts create a notion of a fine balance.”  – Valerie Kent




“In the canvas of life, a flat landscape would be boring. It is the valleys and the mountains that help us to appreciate the flatlands. It is the dark that makes us appreciate the light, and the cold that makes us appreciate the warm.” – Anne Copeland

PHILIPPINES-10012NFBoringot, Manila, Philippines

PHILIPPINES-10032Manila, Philippines

“So many opposites: darkness and light,  peace and chaos, subtlety and directness, intensity and muteness.” – Matthew Higginbotham

USA-10162Los Angeles

USA-10112Los Angeles

“Sublime upon sublime scarcely presents a contrast, and we need a little rest from everything, even the beautiful.” – Victor Hugo

USA-10025Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
Mumbai, India
Mumbai, India
“Beauty, pleasure, and the good things of life are intensified, and perhaps only exist, by reason of contrast.”  – Walter J.  Phillips

48 Responses to “Contrast and Clarity”

  1. Impresionante trabajo..

  2. You have captured the human condition with such sensitivity…thank you..

  3. Hi, did not know of this blog is wondervul, amazing shots! Contrast and clarity are simply beautiful, being the boy with a sheep on shoulders and the old man sleeping on bench in Mumbai my favorites.

    Felicitations on this and all your work. Do get in touch with me so I can update you since we met last march in India. Always, Viveca.

  4. Vince Provenzano Says:

    Your work is beyond outstanding and I never tire of looking at these wonderful images.

  5. […] Up Palestinian in the Age of the Wall – MUTE: the Silence of Dogs in Cars – Contrast and Clarity – Patricia Lay-Dorsey lives with multiple sclerosis for 20 years before taking the […]

  6. Hello,

    After i saw your work (your pictures are very strong and full of color power) at an art Gallery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, i found my self in the need to tell you that the photo with the little boy crying and pointing a gun to his head was titled as “América Latina”. This shocked me, all the other photos had in the title the places they where taken. This one was the only one that said only that; all this and the fact that the picture itself is very powerful made me leave the presentation with a bitter taste in my conscience. Probably it was a curation mistake, but if a picture would have a title it has to be accwered ; so this title “América Latina” make the picture masse up the communication with the spectator. So, this is it, just want you to know the destiny that ones work could arrive. Thank you very much for your work


    • Hello,

      I am not sure why the museum had that caption for the photograph. Here is the story:

      I saw the young boy weeping on the side of the road in a village in a mountainous area of Peru. Some of the other children were tormenting him. He had a toy gun in his hand, I walked over to see if I could help, but the child wasn’t able to respond because he was so upset. He walked away towards his house.
      That picture has touched many people, and demonstrates again, the power of a photograph.

  7. Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the array of emotions you are able to evoke through your photographic skills. I have been absorbed by your Contrast and Clarity photos but no more than the young boy in the Yanesha, Peru photo. I have been left breathless at the emotion that has stirred in me. Maybe my understanding of the story is unreal but the sense of sadnesss and despair the photo portrays cannot help but draw on the imagination and experiences (conscious or unconscious) of the observer. As a photographer I have some difficulty in maintaining a sufficient separatenesss to record such an event if it is as traumatic in reality as the composition presents?

  8. The pics are great. Thank you.It seem like there is a symmetry between the opposites.

  9. Flor del Cupatitzio Says:

    Vaya manera de captar los contrastes, claramente la condición del ser humano, me conmueven estas fotografías y qué hacemos al respecto?

  10. Powerful powerful stuff. Your photographs serve as constant inspiration to so many of us. That first shot, with the kid holding (what I hope is) a toy gun. That, to me, is one of the most powerful photographs ever.

  11. I’m very touched by these photographs. My favorites are the ones of Los Angeles.

  12. So my heart cries… Tear drops of sensibility cuz of the peeks, sadness about the contexts…

  13. […] Contrast and Clarity « Steve McCurry's Blog […]

  14. the suffering, the joy, all part of the wholeness of life on this planet, of human experience…but so hard to hold both together…pulling like polar opposites…your images touch my heart deeply.

  15. kyleamorgan Says:

    Great set of pictures, always right on the dot with your chosen subject. My favorite of this series is the one from Kuwait.

  16. Manki Wong Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences from all over the world. I love the powerful, intermingled photographs and quotes on your blog. Keep creating!

  17. Interesting collection of images. Love the one of the rich man and his dog. Very funny and beautifully composed.What a lovely yellow!

  18. I just wish the world to be even for all of us , you are my favorite photographer ! love all of your work .

  19. bhuneshwar Says:

    love the Yanesha, Peru

  20. I enjoy your blog so much, this collestion is great. Thank´s a lot.

  21. Hamad AlSarraf Says:

    Your photography is always an inspiration for me.
    Whenever I want to clean my mind & vision, I go through your photographs

  22. Great pictures. I thought my travel photos were good, but yours put mine to shame.

  23. Adrian O Sullivan Says:

    Very informative ….helps us look at things slowly

  24. anne de graaf Says:

    great again!

  25. Annie Koshy Says:

    The perceptions we live in, thanks for sharing.

  26. Our life lies between contrasts. Your wounderful photosets from time to time show that fact in colors and emotions! Thanks, Steve!

  27. Wonderful vision! You have captured in your pictures this beautifull and horrible world of us and gave us, your public, an intense emotion of living. What is the meaning of life for each of your character, I wonder? What is the meaning of live for the child in the first photography?

  28. Dear Steve,

    Your photographs are awe inspiring in the way that they expose the multifaceted nature of life. There’s no one side that you choose to ignore, and I admire that immensely. I really wish I could be at your Phaidon book-signing, but unfortunately I will be in class (ironically, photography class).

    All the best,

  29. Pat Digre Says:

    Gripping. As a life long social worker, I never cease to be amazed at how these contrasts continue to exist, and to ponder how one’s “accident of birth” forms the inner soul of each of us. Only when we break out of our own cocoon can we, both rich and poor, see the light and fly towards each other.

  30. Hi Steve,

    I like all and photograph of hand (Kuwait) most.

    I am not sure if any such calculation of deaths has been done is past, but if has been, I am sure that number of untimely deaths will be much more than natural deaths.

    Meanwhile please share a post of this years` Kumbh.


  31. contrast and clarity is the quality of transparency; sharpness of image worlds

  32. You left me -more than ever- speechless.

  33. More than 30 years traveling must have offered experiences even better than your wonderful photographs. Congratulations from Barcelona.

  34. Jeff Silber Says:

    Steve records life as is.
    No gimmicks.
    No make believe.
    The Plain TRUTH….
    Bravo Steve.
    Wishing You Every Happiness:
    Especially For This Festive Season.

  35. The first child… what happened?

    And how do you know when to take the photo, and when to stop what is about to happen?

  36. Steve — these are wonderful as always. Would love to know the story behing the India image (hand). Blessings, Rita

  37. Wow.
    Viewing your blog is a privilege.

    PS: I can’t understand what’s going on in the first picture.

  38. Very powerful, as always.

  39. Contrasts of life teach us their mutual significance. Very good thoughts there Steve. Loved the “Thailand” shot.

  40. Ets gran Steve !

  41. Another excellent collection !

  42. Beautiful series, as always.
    Some musicians have the absolute ear, Steve has the absolute retina and more importantly, vision.

  43. Rob Zijlstra Says:

    Thank you for sharing these nice photographs of such ‘conflicting’ worlds!

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