Steve McCurry’s fame drew me to an exhibition (just down the road from home!) of his photos from South Asia, set up as part of the International Journalism Congress that begins here tomorrow.
The photos covered mainly India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afganistan, Yemen, Tibet and Nepal. They were spell-binding. Each of his photos told a story vividly that you could sense the minute you saw it. His use of colour and light is very easy to appreciate as he brings out the best of everything in it’s natural surroundings – be it a wall, a tree, a person, or an animal.
Having said that, something that confused me about what I felt of his art was that all his pictures were so familiar to me, especially the ones from India. Naturally, I am Indian – but every picture – be it from Bhopal, Jodhpur, Varanasi, Bihar, Delhi or Mumbai, made me wonder how he saw modes of real human suffering (eg poverty, homelessness, floods, desert-storms) and normal existence (eg a full train, tea-pickers, farmers plowing a field, street children playing Holi, a lady in her chaniya-choli walking into her house, a child sleeping) and turned them into photographic art that today people pay money to see and pay a fortune to own. Surely these people have absolutely no clue that they are familiar faces to every other educated person in the world. They will die never knowing that some dude saw in them what nobody else did, captured it and framed it. That they, in a way will always be immortal.