Archive for March, 2011

Stalemate in Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by stevemccurry



Insane asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The pain of war has become too much for these men. Wrapped in blankets, they  have retreated into themselves.  Vulnerable and
haunted by demons, they are the uncounted casualties of decades of war.


Hospital, Jalalabad


I was covering the war that erupted between the militias after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, photographing the aftermath of an attack on Kabul when, without warning another rocket attack began. I took cover in what turned out to be a hospital for the insane. Its residents were the victims of decades of war  – both civilians and soldiers. There were no doctors or nurses, no electricity, no running water. The smoke from the fire of a makeshift kitchen blackened the ceilings and walls. The men and women there wandered around, or sat in a catatonic stupor.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul

Photographers work in metaphors, trying to distill experience in pictures.  The scenes inside these hospitals get closer to showing the tragedy of the war than those of  destroyed cities.


Hospital in Herat

The rationale for the mission has lurched from one thing to another.  Officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America from Al Qaeda.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society with good governance.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul



Pul i Khumri


Victim of Kandahar air attack in Peshawar Hospital


Going to morgue, Kabul



Terence White, AFP reporter, took this wounded Afghan fighter
to the hospital in Kabul



Rocket attack in Kabul


The Century Foundation, a non-partisan research institute, has called on all sides of the conflict to enter into peace talks.  Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special representative for Afghanistan, has co-chaired a special task force with former undersecretary for political affairs Thomas Pickering.  Their recommendations are clear and blunt: it is time to stop deluding ourselves that there will be a clear victory in this war.  The report,  Negotiating Peace, was published this week.






Executive Summary Chapter One

Afghanistan has been at war for more than thirty years, and for nearly a decade, the international community has supported the country’s political, social, and economic reconstruction—and opposed the return to power of the Taliban. Afghans have seen many improvements over that decade, yet the resurgence of the Taliban across much of the country underscores that they are undeniably a force in Afghan society whose exclusion entails a very high cost. A majority of the Afghan people seem anxious for the contending factions to achieve a negotiated end to the war.








Rahimullah Yusufzai,  senior analyst with the Pakistani TV channel, Geo TV, and the Resident Editor of the News International in Peshawar, an English newspaper in Pakistan, makes the point that the Taliban can keep fighting forever because they are fighting for their country and for their religion.  He believes that there is no military solution and that negotiations are the only way to stop the endless cycle of killing.




There will never be a time when we can achieve an historic battlefield victory and declare that the war is won.  Tribal groups will always vie for power.  Religious groups will always believe that the right way is only “their” way.  Women will always have to fight for their rights.

Wars end with political settlements, and it seems clear to many, if not most, that this war will have no winner.  Decades of war have been tragic for the Afghan people and the generations of children who have lost their childhoods, their limbs, and their lives.  It’s time to see if negotiations can do what shooting could not.


Hazara Boy, Bamiyan Province


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The Eye of the Beholder

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by stevemccurry


 The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, are two of the world’s most iconic buildings.   They both evoke passionate emotions, even love, despite being  on opposite ends of the historical and architectural spectrum.



Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Built with translucent white marble and inlaid with gems from China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and the Arabian peninsula


 In both buildings shape, size, scale, proportion, texture, color, and light  work together to spectacular effect, but very simple structures can also be designed to bring aesthetic pleasure.



Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain
Constructed with a steel frame covered with titanium sheathing

What makes things pleasing to our eyes, and how can the design of everything from majestic buildings to simple utilitarian structures bring delight?



Kyoto, Japan

For centuries, there has been documented evidence that people have preferences for structures in the built environment and in the natural environment that have certain geometric  proportions known as the golden ratio or golden proportion.


Red Fort, New Delhi, India

  The ratio of length to width of approximately 1.618  appears not only in art and architecture, but also in natural structures.


Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet



Junagarh Fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India


Step Well, India


Kimberly Elam’s book,  Geometry of Design: Studies in Proportion and Composition, points out that things in nature as different as
the human body, the pine cone, and the trout all share natural proportioning systems that provide the foundation for all art, architecture, and design.


Summer Palace, Beijing, China

Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is
recognition of the pattern.
 – Alfred North Whitehead, Mathemetician


INDIA-10997, Jodhpur, India, 2005

Jodhpur, India



Gujarat, India


INDIA-10966,  Jaipur, India, April, 2008, Final print_Novartis

Jaipur, India, 2008

 On photography and geometry:

“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson



“Let no one destitute of geometry enter my doors.”  –  Plato 


Unpublished, Unseen 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2011 by stevemccurry

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2011

Over the past thirty years, I have taken nearly a million pictures.   Many of them have been published in my books, in magazines, and seen in my exhibitions, but a majority have never been seen.  Here are a few of those unseen pictures.


Myanmar/Burma, 2011


_SM12394, Burma/Myanmar, 02/2011, BURMA-10273

Burma, 2011


Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2011


Tokyo, Japan, 2008



Day of Ashura, Afghanistan



France, 1989


Madrid, 1995



Rajasthan, India, 2010



Myanmar/Burma, 2011





Mumbai/Bombay, 2011





Chiang Mai, Thailand

_SM14180, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10314




Over the years I’ve come to see  that all of us are basically the same.  There are many more similarities that bind us than differences that separate us.


Yangon, Myanmar/Burma


On the Road

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2011 by stevemccurry

Stories about roads and journeys are as old as humankind.  One of the earliest “on the road” stories was Homer’s Odyssey, from 800 B.C.E., the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan Wars.

AFGHN-12211Southern Afghanistan

NIGER-10001NFMadaoua, Niger


From Homer to Dante,  Xuanzang , Marco Polo and Cervantes to Halliburton, to Kerouac, Durell, Theroux, Iyer, writers have taken their readers along on their roads, whether the journey is  fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of both.

MAURITANIA-10003Tiguent, Mauritania


  The words, “on the road”, can mean many things.  To the salesman, it is a time away from home trying to sell products.  To the explorer, it means setting off on an  adventure.  A road trip for athletes means that they’re playing in a different city.  To a homeless person, being on the road means the search for food and shelter.  To a Buddhist, the road may symbolize the path to enlightenment.  For refugees, the road is an escape route and symbolizes hope and safety.

AFGHN-12804NFBamiyan, Afghanistan



AFGHN-12880Near the Afghan/Pakistan border






AFGHN-10072NF5Kabul, Afghanistan



KUWAIT-10007NFAhmadi Oil Fields, Kuwait



INDIA-10837Calcutta/Kolkata, India



INDIA-10461Calcutta/Kolkata, India



INDIA-10841Rajasthan, India


“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson




USA-10208Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

CUBA-10022Havana, Cuba



 INDIA-10206Calcutta/Kolkata, India






AFGHN-12499NF2Kabul, Afghanistan



INDIA-10405NFPorbandar, Gujarat, India



CAMBODIA-10082NF2Angkor, Cambodia


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

– Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien


TIBET-10403Kham, Tibet


TIBET-10510Amdo, Tibet


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