Sunday, November 27, 2005

Independent on Sunday: Fishing For Time

The Broader Picture, by Keith Laidlaw
Photograph by Steve McCurry / Magnum Photos: opens in a new window

The stories behind great photographs almost always involve an element of chance. Steve McCurry knows this well. He made his name in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in 1978, but says it was "coincidence" that he found himself working as a photographer there. "I hadn't really planned doing that kind of work but I just sort of fell into it, then got intrigued and ended up 25 years later having been there 20 or 30 times."

He has won numerous awards in his career since, and created iconic, unforgettable images, such as the green-eyed Afghani girl he photographed in 1984 for the cover of National Geographic. But he maintains it's all unplanned: "When you leave yourself open to experience a place, magically things happen. Some of the best situations I've photographed are things I've kind of stumbled upon " I don't really think it's much more complicated than that."

Indeed, the image on the right, taken in Sri Lanka in 1995, was a "surreal vision, these little shapes" that McCurry only spotted while driving past, but perhaps it serves as the best metaphor for his technique. "It's a unique way of fishing," he says. "But I was struck by how quickly they can catch fish."

'Steve McCurry' by Anthony Bannon (Phaidon, £14.95) is out now. Face of Asia, an exhibition of McCurry's photographs is at Asia House, 35 New Cavendish Street, London W1 until 31 January, tel: 020 7307 5454