Iconic Photographer Steve McCurry ‘Likes Kolkata’


New Delhi: Photojournalist Steve McCurry, noted for his thought-provoking pictures including the iconic ‘Afghan Girl’, says he undertook several train journeys across the length and breadth of India in search of the perfect photo and “liked Kolkata a lot.”

“Train stations are a microcosm of life. Like people living on the platform. The stations are full of activity, they are so crowded, so lively. When I was here in 1985, most of the people travelled through trains,” McCurry told PTI in an interview here.

The photographer, whose picture of an Afghan refugee girl in 1984 made it to the cover of the National Geographic magazine, has collated photos taken across the country, capturing lives of everyday people in extraordinary settings into his new book titled “India by Steve McCurry”.

During his sojourns, McCurry visited cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but admits it was the city of Kolkata, which caught his eye. “I liked Kolkata a lot, there is a whole lot of culture, art, photography, poetry, the colonial architecture. The city has a lot of characters. It has a lot of activity on the streets, it is always a wonderful surprise whenever you visit Calcutta,” he said.

The prolific photographer who first came to India in 1978 pointed out that in a space of over 30 years the country had changed a lot and change was but inevitable. “Nowadays you have cell phones, all those Ambassador cars are gone,” he said, adding “Progress is unstoppable, it is inevitable, it’s the way things evolve.”  The illustrious photographer said that while photographing in India, McCurry observed that people “lived their lives in public. Children playing, people working in the street, I think it’s the people living their lives in public, in most part of the world people’s lives are private,” he said.

McCurry’s “India” explores the lives of everyday people in extraordinary settings: from the Ganesh festival on Chowpatty beach in Mumbai to the Kolkata railway station before dawn; from the flower markets of Kashmir to the streets of Old Delhi; from the mountains of Ladakh to Bollywood. The book has reproduced in a large format with captions 140 images taken across the Indian subcontinent, many previously unpublished and is accompanied by an introductory essay from historian and writer William Dalrymple, who hosted the photographer at the just concluded Jaipur Literature Festival. The tome has been published by Phaidon, UK who has partnered with Roli Books to bring the book to the Indian sub-continent.