If I’m going to recommend a $70 book to my followers, I want to be damned sure it is worth every penny. So I’m going to say this as convincingly as I can: Steve McCurry: A Life In Pictures is worth every penny of its $70 cover price, and then some.
A Life in Pictures is far more than a pretty book of Steve’s classic images, although a staggering 380 of them are included. Written by his older sister, Bonnie, who is President of the McCurry Foundation, the book is a comprehensive story of Steve’s life, from his birth to the present. And, let me tell you, there are lessons galore for every level of photography.
I have been a fan of McCurry’s for decades. As a former photojournalist myself I have admired McCurry’s work from afar. So this 6-pound book (!) is a welcome addition to my photo library. Throughout, Bonnie McCurry gives us the candid, detailed back story to virtually every one of Steve’s most dramatic images, from his work in war-torn Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent to the now famous green-eyed Afghan girl. The images she curated for this work are incredibly informative and insightful. I found myself pouring over them for hours. For anyone considering photojournalism, street photography or travel photography this is a can’t miss work.
Don’t think for a second that McCurry’s career has been an easy one. The book describes several near death experiences that McCurry miraculously managed to walk away from. As Bonnie McCurry states: “Twice, we - his family - were warned that he was probably dead.” Both incidents occurred while he was on assignment in Afghanistan, and these two incidents do not include a plane crash in a Middle Eastern desert, or a bomb outside his window.
One of my favorite sections in the book is when Bonnie gets Steve to share some tips for photographers, something he is typically reluctant to do. For one, McCurry recommends leaving home, getting out of your comfort zone and seeing the wider world. Developing an unquenchable curiosity is another one of McCurry’s suggestions. A third is to be patient with yourself and find the subjects you truly love, then stick with it, digging deep to create your body of work.
My favorite of McCurry’s suggestions is to to “…evolve, reinvent yourself, and grow.” That is a good piece of advice that I have tried to follow on my own personal and career path. When you look back on your photography, can you trace its evolution? I’m not speaking about gear, of course, but how your creative vision has evolved. Have you grown so that you approach your photography differently?
So why did Bonnie McCurry feel the need to write this book and curate the images in it, an enormous task by any measure? “My goal”, she says at the beginning of the book, “is to ensure that there is a record of my brother’s life, of the brave and driven man who has shared his vision of the world with so many millions of people and who has shown us windows into the human condition that few of us would ever have found on our own”.
Thanks, Bonnie McCurry. This inspired work will benefit all of us who strive to achieve our creative visions.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review. I am an independent reviewer and always give my honest opinion, whether positive or negative. All such books are then placed in my studio library for my students and clients to reference.