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The unseen India: Photos by Steve McCurry

Iconic and celebrated photographer, Steve McCurry, will showcase some of his finest works captured from his many trips to India, at an upcoming exhibition at New York’s prestigious Rubin Museum of Art

  Q. According to your biography, after years of freelance work, you decided to travel all the way to India. What inspired you to take this decision to head across to a faraway land?
A. I had been photographing parts of Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and India was a part of the world that I hadn’t yet been to. I knew it was vast and there would be so much to see and respond to, so I felt drawn to it not only as a photographer, but as a traveller.


An elderly man from the Rabari tribe, Rajasthan, India, 2010. Pic Courtesy/Steve McCurry

Q. Did you have any preconceived notions about India? If yes, then how and in what manner were these impressions changed to something else, if at all?
A. I knew India was a densely populated country but I had no comprehension of it until the moment I stepped off the plane. I was immediately struck by the number of people everywhere, and while my first impression was one of shock, I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of magnificence that it evoked. It felt both chaotic and connected.

A boy in mid-flight in one of the narrow alleyways in the Blue City, at the foot of Mehrangarh fort, north of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2007
A boy in mid-flight in one of the narrow alleyways in the Blue City, at the foot of Mehrangarh fort, north of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2007

Father and daughter on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996
Father and daughter on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996

Q. Your photographs of India reflect a different, refreshing outlook, when compared to clichés that we come across at times, with international photographers. Tell us about the experience of capturing India each time you visited.
A. Each time I return, I fall in love with India all over again. It’s one of best places to travel as a photographer because there is so much variety in terms of religion, ancient traditions, festivals and geography. I have gone back more than 80 times and am always finding inspiration and something new to experience and capture. I’ve done stories on train journeys, the monsoon, the dynamic city of Mumbai and many others, and I know there are still so many stories to be told.

Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983
Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983

Q. As a photographer, what are some of the challenges that its diverse landscape and burst of colours put forth?
A. The challenges are no different than anywhere else but having patience is the key to a successful image, especially when there is so much colour and so many extraordinary visuals to take in. I’ve planted myself in one spot for hours, waiting to get that shot that seems almost impossible, and it is always worth it to take that extra time.

Young girl walking past a movie poster
Young girl walking past a movie poster

 Women climb up stepwells
Women climb up stepwells

Q. What are your lasting memories of India — its people or places that have left an indelible impression on you?
A. I find the people to be some of the most outgoing, warm and inviting people on the planet. The richness and depth of culture in India is unsurpassed and celebration is abundant, exuberant, dramatic and colourful. There is a vital spirit that is alive and continuously connected to the ancient history of the country. In terms of specific places, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Ladakh and Kolkata are extraordinary spots, where I want to return to.

This photograph recorded in 1983 shows the contrast between a mighty technology — the steam locomotive — and the transcendent aesthetic of the Taj Mahal, with its light-reflecting surface
This photograph recorded in 1983 shows the contrast between a mighty technology — the steam locomotive — and the transcendent aesthetic of the Taj Mahal, with its light-reflecting surface

Tailor in Monsoon, Porbandar, India, 1983. PICS COURTESY/STEVE MCCURRY
Tailor in Monsoon, Porbandar, India, 1983. Pics Courtesy/Steve McCurry

Q. Is there any region or community in India that is on your wish list to document?
A. In some ways, I feel that no matter how many times I have visited India, I have just scratched the surface. There is an infinite number of stories and places I hope to photograph as I return, over and over again.

Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry

Log on to: www.mid-day.com for a slideshow of Steve McCurry’s images

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY/ STEVE MCCURRY

About the exhibition

The Rubin Museum of Art will present ‘Steve McCurry India’ in its first partnership with the International Center of Photography that will open on November 18, 2015. The exhibition will showcase McCurry’s photographs of India in a museum for the first time. It will feature a selection of 37 photographs of intriguing scenes of everyday life, including his early projects, India by Rail and Monsoon. This selection will, for the first time, showcase McCurry’s photographs of India — a combination of portraits, landscapes, and documentary imagery that express his curiosity and commitment to capturing unexpected moments. Objects from the Rubin Museum collection of Himalayan art will be selected to complement the photographs on view and to illustrate
the connections between ancient and contemporary India.

Information courtesy: Rubin Museum of Art, New York

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