To Light a Fire

To learn to read is to light a fire;
every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

– Victor Hugo


ITALY-10406    Umbria, Italy

At one magical instant  the page of a book –
that string of confused, alien ciphers–shivered into meaning. 

Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment,
whole universes opened. 

You became, irrevocably, a reader.
– Alberto Manguel

BURMA-10566 Mandalay, Burma

Everywhere I go in the world, I see young and old,
rich and poor, reading books.
Whether readers are engaged in the sacred or the secular,
they are, for a time, transported to  another world.

AFGHN-12373NF  Bamiyan, Afghanistan

We are familiar with words describing images, but not so
familiar with images describing words and the
impact reading has on our lives.

THAILAND-10147 (1)Thailand

Garrett Stewart’s book, The Look of Reading:
Book, Painting, Text, explores the relationship of

reading and art.He points out that a wide array of artists from Rembrandt to  Picasso and Cassatt
and dozens more,over the past 500 years
have painted people reading and the “look of reading” on the subjects’ faces.


RUSSIA-10075  Moscow, Russia

We read to know we are not alone.
– C.S. Lewis


A great book that comes from a great thinker
is a ship of thought, 
deep freighted with truth and beauty.
– Pablo Neruda

YEMEN-10071, Sana'a, Yemen, 1997. A man reads the Qu'ran.  Yemen

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road.
They are the destination, and the journey.
They are home.
– Anna Quindlen


I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
– Jorge Luis Borges


There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
– Emily Dickinson


SRILANKA-10087, Sri Lanka, 12/1995, Boy Reading with mother in temple.Sri Lanka

Reading is everything.
Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something,
learned something, become a better person.
Reading makes me smarter.
Reading gives me something to talk about later on…
Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.
– Nora Ephron


Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly,
into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.
– Joyce Carol Oates



UNITED_ARAB_EMIRATES-10004Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
– Joseph Addison


We invite you to download our free Portrait app
with twenty-minute video

01098_08; Rome; Italy; 10/1994, ITALY-10268

00728_128, Hazara, Afghanistan, AFGHN-13113NF3Bamiyan, Afghanistan

FRANCE-10068Lourdes, France



145 Responses to “To Light a Fire”

  1. extraordinario, se podría contribuir con fotos de otros países

  2. Reblogged this on The Ring Lady and commented:
    Beautiful and inspiring; everyone should see this

  3. Reblogged this on magpie learner and commented:
    If you’re a Magpie Learner, you’re probably also a reader. Enjoy these photos from Steve McCurry’s blog. They capture the passion of readers from around the world.

  4. Jenny Lingelbach Says:

    Will any of these be published in a book, or are they available for purchase?

  5. Reblogged this on theessenceofemotion and commented:

  6. Reblogged this on m.miscellany and commented:
    To learn to read is to light a fire;
    every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.
    – Victor Hugo

  7. Really Interesting photos!

  8. […] Speaking of tingling: enjoy Steven McCurry’s gorgeous post! […]

  9. Oh I want to be just like you! But take story telling pics in Australia!

  10. […] a beautiful thing? Photographer Steve McCurry captures the beauty of being a reader in this set of exquisite photos of people around the world engaged in the act … of reading. Curry says, “We are familiar with words describing images, but not so familiar with images […]

  11. Beautiful and touching images.

  12. Me and my family visited your exhibition in Wolfsburg.
    Thank you very much for your great work. It is very inspiring.
    Best regards,

  13. Just wonderful photography.

  14. […] has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.” To Light A Fire is a beautiful collection of photographs from around the world showing the “look of […]

  15. […] Nguồn: Steve McCurry […]

  16. Arrestingly beautiful. Steals us away on magic carpets of printed pages: giving flight to our imaginations and homes to our wildest expectations. I’m never alone when reading.

  17. […] Thai woman lost in her book is one of an extraordinary series collected by Steve McCurry at “To Light a Fire” (after Victor Hugo’s “To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that […]

  18. […] awesome thing that I found today was the series of pictures of people reading book around the world by the renown photographer Steve McCurry, the person who took picture of the Afghan Girl. Such a […]

  19. Reblogged this on mentalkibble and commented:
    This is really a beautifully simple post that I enjoyed. I hope you do, too.

  20. Ger keary Says:

    Amazing .. Well done, inspirational and touching

  21. This is a great collection of photographs. Really captures the importance of being able to read.

  22. This is absolutely awesome. Some of the pictures and quotes touched me deeply and almost moved me to tears. Being a book addict myself, I could connect to most of the statements! Oh, the feel, the touch, the smell, the look and the impact of books on us, can only be imagined and not really captured in words. With feeling…

  23. Awesome collection of photos. The quotes and poems added to these photos are well chosen. Thanks a lot for this. Very inspiring.

  24. Beatrice come sei; Says:

    L’ha ribloggato su Respiri..

  25. Anonymous Says:

    astounding photos, man!

  26. Ednaldo Roque Says:

    Lindas, Maravilhosas….exprimem o sentimento de quem as tirou….

  27. M.G.N.MOORTHY Says:

    Every school going child should see these picture ,since they are self explanatory.

  28. Bashir Says:

    Thank you for this wonderful spiritual travelogue

  29. Estelle Says:

    These photographs and comments touched me deeply . I am an avid reader. Thank you.

  30. Reblogged this on Amaalun.

  31. […] This is so beautiful. A photo series of people around the world reading. […]

  32. Anonymous Says:

    the men may come the men may go…only a brook go forever. (Tennysson’s Brook)
    n.d.r.: “also for a book”.

  33. You have done wonderful job!!!

  34. Fantastic shots and meaningful messages!

  35. Capt Saju Cherian, SM Says:

    Absolutely true, reading is a journey and a destination all in one time. A abode to flee from the clutter and the cacophony around us. The one thing that bonds my wife, my kids and me is reading. it’s a great family time that we have in reading and in our library.

  36. These photos are wonderful! They really speak to peoples’ hearts.

  37. Carole Free Says:

    Thank you…Reading has saved my life more than once…it has been an anchor I can count on when the seas of life are too stormy to be borne and a simple pleasure that is there for me whenever I can tear myself away from the ongoing fray of daily being to be only in my mind, with the authors words suggesting the movies I can see there. Soooo, thank you.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    Your photographs are beautiful and touching because it’s obvious you have empathy with your subjects and care for how you portray them. I studied your work when I did my postgrad in photojournalism and I loved it then – I love it now. In our over-photoshopped world you are still coming up with original ideas and taking pictures where patience and technical ability are to the fore. Thank you Steve McCurry for reminding how much I love photography.

  39. Sheilah Says:

    I love the photos, and the quotations. If you don’t already know of it, get your hands on “Reading for Survival” written by the late novelist John D. MacDonald, in which he engages two of his characters (Travis McGee and Meyer) in a Socratic dialogue about the real necessity of reading. Writing of it was sponsored by the Florida Center for the Book in the mid-80s.

  40. […] To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. – Victor Hugo Burma Umbria, Italy At one magical instant the page of a book – that string of confused, alien…  […]

  41. Hello Steve, I’ve reblogged this wonderful post here:
    Please let me say this: your blog has the most touching pictures and they, more than anything else, make me feel like a global citizen. Your photography pictures people who make me feel as if I’ve known them for a long time. Like brothers and sisters in so many places.

  42. […] love McCurry’s photography. Visit his page for pictures that will stay in your mind for […]

  43. […] Or share this blog with middle and high school students – To Light a Fire […]

  44. Mary P. Says:

    Literacy is so essential and should be available to every individual along with a local free library. Let’s hope that that is the case. These portraits make me hopeful that books and print materials are available and valued worldwide. Thank you for sharing.

  45. […] To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. – Victor Hugo Burma Umbria, Italy At one magical instant the page of a book – that string of confused, alien…  […]

  46. Susan from Long Beach, CA Says:

    And they say the publishing industry is dying … you have proven otherwise. Thank you for sharing our wonderful world through your heartwarming photos.

  47. Catherine Says:

    What an utter treasure…I felt like I was peering into someone’s quiet moment in time.

  48. You keep on showing us fantastic photos. I admire and enjoy every one of them!

  49. Anonymous Says:

    I loved this, It is beauiful!

  50. As an avid reader, I adore these photos.. what treasure is hidden in books……Thank you for the wonderful images!!

  51. Graciela Arata Says:

    Thank you very much for sharing such beautiful pictures and texts. I really love them.

  52. […] found a beautiful site on Twitter, To Light a Fire by Steve […]

  53. Enrique Says:

    Hi Steve! Amazing shots as always. How do you approach taking these photographs? Do you generally ask permission? Take the shot discreetly? Or take the shot without trying to be discreet? Any tips for those of us traveling, with some or no knowledge of the local language?

  54. marioruivo Says:

    Reblogged this on Mario.Ruivo Blog and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  55. […] referring you to a blog post on a DIFFERENT blog. This is too good to miss. The post is called “To Light a Fire”, by Steve McCurrry. I have to admit, I didn’t recognize the name. He’s the photographer that took the […]

  56. Fantastic, but I was expecting a photo from Finland as well. I really appreciate the Reading Culture here – and the Public Library facility!

  57. L’ha ribloggato su Il meglio deve ancora veniree ha commentato:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  58. Vasco Pinhão Says:

    Fantastic photos! Books are everywhere, they are part of our life. I loved it! Wouldn’t it be great if one could send more photos on the same theme?

    Just a thought…
    Vasco Pinhão

  59. I loved this…and a picture does indeed say a thousand words…and the words…just perfect choices from some wonderful writers! Thank you for sharing!

  60. […] è accendere un fuoco, si legge sul blog di Steve McCurry che oggi Mauro è andato a […]

  61. L’ha ribloggato su Mauro Poggie ha commentato:
    Letture, Steve McCurry

  62. Reblogueó esto en El Mirlo Rojo-Pepe Nosti Vallespíny comentado:

  63. Thank you for the app, wonderful:)

  64. Interesting post with excellent picture gallery.

  65. Reblogged this on It's Crow Time and commented:
    To Light a Fire photographs by Steve McCurry

  66. […] we are on the topic f books one post you must check out Steve McCurry’s Blog Post. And here’s a thought on probably why we get so influenced by […]

  67. […] To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. – Victor Hugo Burma Umbria, Italy At one magical instant the page of a book – that string of confused, alien…  […]

  68. Reblogged this on What She Said… and commented:
    Absolutely beautiful.

  69. I enjoyed the thought provoking statements. The post was well written and honest. Very lovely words and images.
    And they speak more than words can say.

  70. Reblogged this on j. p. bohannon and commented:
    These are beautiful, wonderful pictures that I know many of you will enjoy.

  71. Thank you for this wonderful and hopeful collection of photos. I am re blogging it on There are so many people I know that will delight in these.

  72. Anonymous Says:

    Such wonderful and hopeful pictures. I am going to reblog it on my site. Thank you. I can think of so many people who will take delight in this.

  73. What a beautiful idea for a post , and a moving tribute to words/ books and the ideas they contain. A wonderful collection of photos illuminating this.

  74. Are we really this literate? It would be heartening to believe so….Beautiful images thanks for sharing

  75. magnificent, stunningly beautiful travelogue of the gentle madness

  76. As a writer and former librarian and photographer LOVED this post and reblogged it onto Moonside. Great photos!,

  77. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and and quotations about the oldest love in my life.

  78. […] 2013 by Charles “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how […]

  79. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  80. The work of a genius. Thank you for sharing.

  81. Love, love, love this. I teach ESL- any way to download (OR buy) this images? They’d be so powerful in my classroom!!

  82. […] To Light A Fire is a beautiful collection of photographs from around the world showing the “look of reading.” […]

  83. Pictures do not need any comment. It would never fulfill the scope.
    What is surprising, to me as Italian, I could understand when the photo was taken in Italy well before reading the caption.
    This means something. Still do not know what, but it does.

  84. just awesome, recent trip to mu home town, it was even in the seargin heat of summer that i saw many in the process of reading the news paper.
    Loved your post on reading. thanks for sharing it. Any possible critique on my blog will be much appreciated!

  85. Reblogged this on NobleGrey and commented:
    By reading, the sky is the limit

  86. I enjoy all the pictures. It tells story by itself.

  87. I look out for Steve’s posts with great anticipation, and when a new one arrives in the middle of a movie on TV, I fell like hitting the “pause” button.

  88. This has to be your best blog post yet.

    Amazing images so evocative of the joys of reading.

    In every family, community and country of the world, we find people with a shared sense of enjoyment. If only the poorest of third world countries could have the most basic education and ability to read the written word, what an achievement that would be.

  89. Reblogged this on Ideas_R_Bulletproof and commented:
    Steve McCurry’s global venture exploring people’s extraordinary quest for knowledge…..

  90. With fading sight I greet these images, they are still clear to me though the script is nearly impossible for me to discern, and reading itself has become difficult which is a great sadness to me.

  91. You have inspired to read more books. Thank you

  92. I really like your vision in the capture of these photographs.

  93. Beautiful !!! As always !!!!!

  94. I am new here. I just have to say how images and the silence of your text touched me deeply. Greetings from Scandinavia

  95. Reblogged this on Caixa Negra and commented:
    Mais um post no blog de Steve McCurry, mais uma demonstração de génio fotográfico.
    Duas destas imagens foram feitas na viagem que fiz com McCurry à India. As minas versões podem ser vistas no meu site.

  96. Kim Smith Says:

    Ah, the sweet bliss and anticipation of losing oneself in a good book – which you have captured with such wonder.

  97. lucidwritingandvisuals Says:

    Loving these and most of the quotes. Thank you!

  98. errantclickings Says:

    As always, Steve, your images capture an essence honesty that is fundamental to all humanity. I thank you for making a few of the vast quantity of jewels in your library available for all to see.

  99. Roger Says:

    I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book. (Groucho Marx)

  100. Filinto Says:

    Reblogged this on Jornada.

  101. Chris Michels Says:

    I love your images week after week. Inspiring, heart warming. Stay well, Christiane Michels

  102. Beautiful photo’s, very interesting !

  103. josiane mazzella Says:

    excellent, thank you very much !

  104. My favorite is Yemen. Yemen has so much character. Even the pages of the book are dramatically lovely. I could study it for hours.

  105. You, my soul’s kin, are magic. Yes! Yes! Beautifully done.

  106. As a writer, these images particularly touched my heart — thank you.

  107. Really beautiful life moments, books are wonderful they pass the light of knowledge and you have captured the essence. Thanks

  108. rodharvey Says:

    You know Steve, one of the reasons I like your photography so much is your use of depth of field which allows us to see the details when appropriate. This is so refreshing compared to the predominance of pastel colours, overexposed images and ‘over-blurred’ backgrounds we see so much today. Thanks for keeping it real.

  109. This is just so magical and wonderful. Sitting with my granddaughter looking at your beautiful photography and singing to Etta James…kind of a perfect day! Thank you sooooo much.

  110. BEAUTIFUL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  111. Dear Mr McCurry….This is a BEATIFUL post!!! All the pics are great and the quotes, as always, make one think …I absolutely agree with Quindlen…
    A pleasure !!!!

  112. Very Awesome! Excellent story line and beautiful photos to support it.

  113. Isabelffds Says:

    Ainda bem! Passou um mau bocado ..

    Enviado do meu iPhone

    No dia 08/06/2013, às 15:35, Steve McCurry’s Blog escreveu:

    > >

  114. Reblogged this on Wonder and Beauty and commented:
    The wonder and beauty of reading . . .

  115. OMG they are ALL amazing!!!

  116. Thank You for sharing.

  117. rudina subaih Says:

    like always U ARE GREAAAAAAAAAAAAAT STEVE wish to my dream come true and meet you:)

  118. Alberto Pezzoni Says:

    Davanti a queste foto si può solo ammirare, grazie e complimenti

  119. Sharon Says:

    My favorite is the Moscow, Russia because the woman is completely lost in what she’s reading & you captured that perfectly! Love the foot.:)

  120. Reblogged this on Paranóias and commented: :)

  121. Reblogged this on Rasmines Photography and commented:

  122. Your photographs are excellent. The theme of cultures through reading attitudes, is very interesting.

  123. Anonymous Says:

    And my heart lights up every time I see your work

  124. The “look of reading” – beautiful. Thank you again for your wonderful images, Steve.

  125. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photographs.

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