Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Renowned Photographer Recounts Experiences

World-renowned photographer and photojournalist Steve McCurry, spoke to students as part of the Lecture Fund’s Arts and Politics Lecture Series in the ICC Auditorium on Wednesday. The event was jointly sponsored by the Lecture Fund, the Office of the Provost, the Center for Social Impact Communication, the Center for Social Justice, Georgetown University Art Aficionados, Asian Studies Department, Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship and the South Asian Society. Michelle Yaw (COL ’15), a Lecture Fund member, introduced McCurry, giving a brief overview of his life and work.

Before the presentation, McCurry held discussion and photography workshops for students who had applied ahead of time. McCurry also sold posters and postcards after his presentation, the proceeds of which went to Imagine Asia, his non-profit that helps provide health and education services to children in Afghanistan.

McCurry is perhaps most famous for his December 1984 National Geographic cover of a young Afghan girl with striking green eyes, in a torn shawl. “
“His work spans political conflict, social issues, cultural diversity, but at the same time the photos retain a very powerful human quality that touches so many people around the world,” Yaw said in her introduction of McCurry.

McCurry first showed a short video featuring some of his photos, as well as a list of his maxims. According to McCurry, passion is what drove him to be a photographer, and his favorite photos are those he is most passionate about.

“One of the most important points that I should remind myself of when doing a story is to look for situations that I passionately care about,” McCurry said. “At the end of the day, the pictures that I care about and that are interesting are pictures of stories that I thought very deeply about.”

He also stressed the importance of being part of the conversation, or using his photos to create change. McCurry spoke specifically about his experience during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Through filmmaking and photography, I thought, this is something I can do with my life;,travel, photograph, document and tell stories around the world,” McCurry said. “Take Sept. 11 as an example. I was in New York and realized this situation is something that we want to remember and is going to be a landmark of world history, and this was something that absolutely I felt I had to be a part of.”

McCurry then showed the audience a selection of his photos in detail, telling short anecdotes about each. He spoke of his travels to countries including India, Burma, Cuba and Afghanistan. One particular anecdote dealt with his most famous picture, “The Afghan Girl.” The photo, which was on the cover of National Geographic, soon became an international phenomenon, and was renamed the “Afghan Mona Lisa.”

“I saw her and she was a little bit shy and reluctantly photographed. … She dropped her hands and I shifted my camera a little bit to the left and I got this picture, which is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime picture,” McCurry said. “The background was perfect and the light was right, and the expression and emotional component were there. There’s a rip in her shawl, and she’s really pretty, but you can see that she’s poor and her face is a bit dirty.”

Karen Zhang (COL ’17), an attendee of the event, enjoyed McCurry’s humor throughout his explanation of his collection.

“I thought it was a very entertaining presentation, and it was refreshing to see how optimistic and humorously he viewed all these major world events and cultural customs,” Zhang said. “I thought he was a very genuine person because he didn’t hesitate to admit that maybe there wasn’t an epic significance of certain photos, but just that something or someone caught his eye and he just wanted a picture of it.”

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