The piercing, green-eyed gaze of Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl created a sensation in 1984, and 36 years later the portrait is still compared to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The photographer’s signatures are all there: rich color, a far-flung location, and an embracing humanity, which Air Mail columnist Pico Iyer, writing in the foreword to Steve McCurry: In Search of Elsewhere, discerns as “the heart of his work.” Publishing next week from Laurence King, this new volume collects 100 previously unseen images by McCurry, photographs that span four decades and countless countries including Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, Italy, and India.
The pictures—a treat when traveling is at a standstill—take you to places you’ve never heard of while giving you that distinct sense of what Iyer calls “finding the human behind the headlines.” A farmer takes his ducks to the market. In a makeshift barbershop on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar, young boys are at work cutting hair. A runner races his shadow on a cliff overlooking Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. Nurses wait to transport ill and frail pilgrims to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, in France. And two young boys roll hoops in Morondava, Madagascar, the island’s larger-than-life baobab trees behind them. Some of the oldest trees on earth, baobabs once covered Madagascar; today, few remain. “Sometimes I think his work is at heart a meditation on what endures and what does not,” writes Iyer. “In so many of these images there’s a backdrop of ruination—poverty, war, decrepitude. Yet what shines out is something indomitable, the undying light in all those eyes.” —Julia Vitale