Grief, Grind, and Glory of Work

Last month the world heard the tragic news
that more than a thousand people working at a clothing factory in Bangladesh,
were killed when 
the factory they were working in collapsed.

Myanmar, Burma, 1994, final book_iconicBurma

The appetite for cheap clothing in the West is insatiable.
The people making the clothing  often pay the true cost of these items.
The scale of this factory in Burma is vast.
The sense that these workers are just part of an immense machine is
accentuated by 
the pink shirts they are obliged to wear.

BURMA-10221NF, Myanmar (Burma), 07/1994Burma

Labor disgraces no man;
unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.  

– Ulysses S. Grant


Whether it is men fishing,  nuns washing dishes, miners digging beneath the earth, or 
working in the heat of a steel mill, work is universal, yet intensely personal. Millions work in order to survive, and for them,
is no debate about how to achieve a life/work balance.  

INDONESIA-10006Woman working in a field devastated by volcanic debris and flood waters.  Java, Indonesia

INDIA-10330NFShoe repair shop in India

Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.
– Horace



Your life is a journey, not a rest.
You are travelling to the promised land, from the cradle to the grave.
The Sunday at Home, December 7th 1854

INDIA-11144, India, Bombay, 1997Mumbai, India

Gujarat, India

The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

YUGOSLAVIA-10068MKS Steelworks, Serbia


Working for long periods under extreme stressful work conditions can lead to
sudden death, a phenomenon the Japanese call karoshi. The word in China is guolaosi.

PAKISTAN-10006NFLandi Kotal, Pakistan

AFGHN-10146Bakery run by Afghan widows, Kabul, Afghanistan

Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1989Croatia

Many find their identity in the work they do. Some enjoy intense satisfaction in their work.
For others, the line between work and play is hard to find.

Tibetans, 07/2001, final book_iconicIndia

INDIA-10679NF2, Bombay, India, 09/1993. Textiles,
           Mumbai, India

A suger cane farmer stand in his field in Luzon, Philippines, 1985Sugar cane farmer, Philippines

Everything yields to diligence.
– Thomas Jefferson

BRAZIL-10044NF8, Brazil, Latin America, Lavazza, 08/2010Drying coffee beans, Brazil

If a man is called a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or
Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of
heaven and Earth will pause to say, Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.  
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

KASHMIR-10016Flower Seller, Dal Lake, Kashmir

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117 Responses to “Grief, Grind, and Glory of Work”

  1. Suas fotos impressionam e nos remete a reflexão de nossos hábitos. Cada imagem traduz um momento capturado no exalar da respiração consumida e ofegante de cada ser humano ali focado..quase um sentir da dor do outro.

    Parabéns pela sua habilidade e sensibilidade.

  2. Ana Serna Says:

    Reblogueó esto en Un Viaje al Perú.

  3. You and your work always been such an inspirational source for travel, learning, and finding peace through understanding. If you have a chance visit my blog please too at

  4. gracemaungmaung Says:

    Reblogged this on welivetolaugh.

  5. I am constantly surprised at the twist of emotions you evoke from me with your stark imagery and colour saturated photos. As usual astounding work.

    *I do so hope you are not offended that I have posted you on my blog – you are simply my favourite photographic artist of the 20th century! Not sure about the 21st century yet – lets see how that dvelops lol** *

    Best Regards

    Stanna Wieclawska

  6. Uvais Ravi Says:

    Amazing photographs, I am dying after watching it sir.

  7. wow, amazing pictures:)

  8. sangjiwa Says:

    I suppose the first picture seems lost in crowd. thanks

  9. […] Wir starten mit ehrlicher Arbeit. […]

  10. […] Last month the world heard the tragic news that more than a thousand people working at a clothing factory in Bangladesh, were killed when the factory they were working in collapsed. Steve McCurry one of the greatest working photographers has put together this selection of his images themed around work, you can see all of the set here […]

  11. Reblogged this on The Intentional Workplace and commented:
    In the weeks since the tragic (and preventable) fire at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which took the lives of 1,127 human beings, i have been deeply troubled. Every day millions of people face terrible conditions simply to eke out a meager living. There’s a high cost to cheap labor and many in Western countries are just starting to understand that.
    Discovering these photos by the extraordinary photography Steve McCurry captured the pain, monotomy and little moments of respite that characterize a largely ignored work force. Each of these photos are a mini masterpiece that allow us a glimpse into worlds largely unknown to most of us. Words of wisdom enhance the experience. I invite you to take a few minutes to take all these wonderful images in.
    In my next post, I will be following up on this theme by exploring the world of our global supply chain and how it touches everyone in every workplace in the world.
    Thanks and I hope you share this beautiful work.



  13. Always beautiful, in sorrow and happiness.Mindopening, soulopening, eyeopening. Opening.

  14. Very, very beautiful

  15. WOW!!! That just took me on a trip to all those places I will probably never visit. Thanks for sharing.

  16. […] Last month the world heard the tragic news that more than a thousand people working at a clothing factory in Bangladesh, were killed when the factory they were working in collapsed. Burma The appet…  […]

  17. yu inkol Says:


  18. Anonymous Says:

    Amazing photographs with soul as usual, they enrich my heart. A great thanks for sharing from Bente Eriksen from Norway.

  19. So beautiful powerful sad

  20. Reblogged this on WORK IN PROGRESS and commented:
    Awesome photos of people at work in lands far from America, with some appropriate words. An excellent photo essay. –John

  21. Stunning works every time so thank you so much.

  22. Dumith Muidannayake Says:

    Great captures.. Its better if you can mention the year of which the photo was taken along with the country….

  23. Your pictures as always are wonderful. What a thoughtful post. Really great.

  24. rajeev jain Says:

    like it

  25. Thank you for this tribute to the workers who were killed in the tragic building collapse in Bangladesh, and to all of those workers around the world who toil daily under challenging circumstances.

  26. Truly, truly wonderful. My favorite quote is the one by Martin Luther King Jr. Love this blog.


  27. Reblogged this on Officiella and commented:
    Praca…Szacunek…Godność / Work…Respect… Dignity

  28. Great work. Can´t get enough of it.

  29. John Prescott Says:

    Here’s a song for all the workers, especially the workers in the night–it’s by ABLE ABILITIES-“We are” is the song’s name.

  30. mandayamr Says:


  31. Reblogged this on Gabriela LeBaron's Blog and commented:
    Amazing photos and quotes! Wonderful, wonderful blog.

  32. Right when I thought I was working too hard, seeing these images and reading the quotes put everything back into perspective. Such an awakening moment! thank you for doing this and keeping this blog.

  33. blocodecotas Says:

    Reblogged this on blocodecotas and commented:
    Excellent post, sad reality /// Excelente post, triste realidade

  34. This is an awesome series. Simply and wonderfully portrays the beauty in the mundane.

  35. Anonymous Says:


  36. Of course I love them all, as always, Steve, but the ones that REALLY grabbed my attention were the flower seller in Kashmir (Stunning!!), the bakery in Afghanistan, the man waiting for the metro in Japan (reminds me of Korea where I lived and worked for one year), and the shoe repair shop in India. Great photos, as always. I’m so bowled over by your amazing talent.:-)

  37. Reblogged this on blogagaini.

  38. Simply wonderful.

  39. Thank you so much for doing the work, so we can see what you see. You’re using your gifts so well.

  40. Such amazing works of art. Wonderful!

  41. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown and commented:
    absolutely amazing. Thanks.

  42. Robert Says:

    Very, very nice.

    Thank you.

    All good wishes,


  43. A great artistic way to see human means of survival!



  45. Anonymous Says:

    thank you for using your incredible skills and talent to bring awareness to the rest of the world.your images are truly captivating.

  46. Truly amazing photographs.

  47. The way you perceive, and capture life through the lens is so astonishingly influential to so many people. You are truly doing a deed for humanity just through your photos. I aspire to reach some of the places and things that you have seen. Keep it up man!

  48. Alan Parsons Says:

    Only the politicians can solve these problems. If we do not buy the clothes then they do not have the work, if we do not use the shops that sell them then they lose the work. The purchasers have no influence. Like many I would be happy to pay more if I thought it was going to those that need it and not greedy middlemen.

    Alan Parsons

    • Alan… we need to think who are these politicians? Are they different than the civic population? May be as an individual we may not affect the system as a whole.. but as a single individual.. you and I can definitely reflect upon our actions and see how they are connected to miseries of the world out there… and take corrective measures… initiate discussions around these measures and lead these discussions to a sustainable change… I am sorry but putting it on just politicians is a little lame😦 Please don’t get me wrong…

  49. Every photo tells such a story! Beautiful images.

  50. Norbert Kraas Says:

    Reblogged this on und kommentierte:
    Phantastische Fotoserie

  51. This is so good. I’ll think about throwing away my camera.😉 Thanks for sharing your work with us. Greetings from Tuebingen, Germany

  52. Poignant and topical.

  53. Just beautiful.

  54. Anonymous Says:

    Steve…stunning as usual…Can’t get enuf…

  55. Katherine israel-Koedel Says:

    Thank you for showing us the world with your eyes, Mr. McCurry!

  56. Speachless… This is amazing photography…

  57. Saud A Faisal Says:

    Reblogged this on Around us.

  58. Connie Post Says:

    This blog must be a labor of love because it’s truly a work of art!

  59. Mehdad Says:

    Dear Steve, would request you to go to Bangladesh and take some photos there. Trust me the country has so many things that you would love to make part of your astoundingly rich portfolio. Your camera might tell the story of Bangladesh the way it has never been told before! Hope to see your Bangladesh shots soon.

  60. Patricia Rios Says:

    Gracias por retratar (y mostrarme) el alma de estas personas. Ud. es maravilloso. Sus fotos son conmovedoras.

  61. Moving and important topic. Thank you for showing us the spectrum of working lives with your stunning images, Steve.

  62. Beautiful photos and great commentary.

  63. Beautifully represented its just right . Not to much or to little. every shot is interesting and captivating. Thank you !

  64. Awesome stuff steve

  65. The Indian pickaxe image is reminiscent of Sam Abel’ s branding cowboy shot: impeccably layered and complex. Brilliant.

  66. Wow, this is wonderful post and i love your thoughts about people and their jobs. the quotes, i love them. about people in Japan that was i thought when i was there. i just came back from my trip and that’s what i saw about them in train especially when they go and back to work. i think they are really trying hard to work. mmm.

  67. Oh how I love to view your images from around the globe. So captivating and inspirational. Blessings, Robyn

  68. […] Steve McCurry’s Blog: Grief, Grind & Glory of Work […]

  69. crazyaboutfeetz Says:
  70. Thank you. Your work always makes me pause, take a deep breathe and listen!

  71. This is extraordinary fascinating and tell-tale pictures of the real world – more important than any news brought to us in the telly or web from CNN or BBC or what have you. Incredible how you have captured all these situations and the people. I love your style of photography and story telling!

  72. Marcelo Regua Says:

    Splendid, excellent work!!!!

  73. Reblogged this on onethousandandtwo and commented:
    A picture is worth a thousand words. Love Steve McCurry’s pictures.

  74. Mona Currey Says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your work. Whenever I recieve an update in email, I stop what I’m doing and take a moment to enjoy.

  75. Reblogueó esto en X O R N A L E I R Ay comentado:
    Fotos de otros mundos

  76. Not too many people could raise labor to such an inspired level. It helps knowing that this comes from someone with a legendary work ethic though, too.

  77. As always, superb work. The emotion behind each photograph is astounding. Thank you, Steve.

  78. Steve

    Can I re-post some of your photos? I’m assuming they are your photos.


  79. You have captured the real price of everything we buy – the human cost of our consumerism! They are all mesmerising but my favourite has to be Landi Kotal, Pakistan ….

  80. Reblogged this on Ash Priom and commented:
    Steve McCurry is amazing and so inspirational. Somehow, Steve McCurry breaks the barrier between abstract art and straight forward storytelling of documentary photography. What makes his works so adorable to me is his ability to touch your heart.

  81. Anonymous Says:

    We as americans know the stress all of these country are under, but greed keeps them working it is so sad what they have to go through, thank you for sharing you photo. I just wish we could all get along and stop the insanity.

  82. Amazingly fine pictures – a tribute to all the world’s hard-working people.

  83. that final image is a stunner! grrrrrrrrracias! z

  84. Beautiful and moving pictures at the same time!
    Sadly it’s true that almost everything that we buy, is made by someone who does not earn enough.
    I hope that by bringing it enough attention, like this, it can change in the future!
    Keep it up!

  85. Moving post and absolutely stunning captures. Thank you for giving me something to ponder and beautiful images.

  86. Rusco Says:

    your photos are always amazing… the warmth of it all and the stories they tell…

  87. Reblogged this on Neverending1's Blog and commented:
    I love these photographs. I’d thought you’d like to see them.

  88. Anonymous Says:

    I love the Serbian steelworks one!! But I generally love all your posts.

  89. Superb and moving photographs.

  90. Outstanding as usual!

  91. Thanks for share your fantastic photographs Steve. Is great can enjoy them.

    In my webpage I have a gallery called “Working”, which is similar to this one.


  92. just the topic for today…and as always the images enlighten

  93. Kev Ryan Says:

    Many reflections on your words and images Steve. Thank you not just for sharing them but the way in which you chose to share them!

    bw Kev

  94. Thank you, Steve, for including that magical shot of the flower vendor on Lake Dal:-) My Mom and a friend rented a houseboat there back in the 50’s when they were teaching in the Middle East. It was magical, they thought.

  95. Fantastic !
    Thanks !

  96. This is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  97. Fantastic collection and such amazing photos!

  98. Really like your work!

  99. Anonymous Says:

    this is just amazing…humanity…

  100. Absolutely Wonderful.Thank You so much for sharing these amazing photographs,Steve!

  101. Nice! 👏👏👏👏🙏🙏🙏

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