Influences: Steve McCurry
One of the most iconic photographic portraits is that of the Afghan girl that featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine back in June, 1985. It certainly is a striking image, but the photographer who captured the image is no one-hit wonder. One of the photographers whose images are always at the back of my mind when I’m out shooting is Steve McCurry.
I always find myself gravitating more towards interesting characters in a given setting than the setting itself, and Magnum member McCurry is the master of colour environmental portraits. I enjoy the strength of his images which I think comes from the inherent character he sees in his human subjects, along with his masterful use of colour. Most of my favourite images produced by McCurry are his portraits, most of which are simple in their uncluttered composition, allowing the inner beauty of the subjects to shine through.
Below are just a few of the hundreds of great images McCurry has produced (click on the images to view larger size on the Steve McCurry website)
I remember looking through Steve McCurry’s galleries and being in awe of the beauty of what I saw, and it made me realise that if you can see the inherent beauty in an individual, there’s no need for any amazing camera tricks or techniques (I remember reading somewhere that McCurry talked of generally shooting in Program mode and just letting the camera take care of the technical side of things). The character of the person themselves can be enough to tell more than any setting or background could ever do.
I realised that there was a distance (both physical and emotional) in my own photos, and it was the closeness – the direct eye contact, the proportion of the photograph taken up by the individual/s, the detail visible in the face and particularly the eyes – that often struck me when appreciating McCurry’s images. So I set out armed with my camera with the mission of getting closer. I tried to minimise the other elements and let the people I photographed tell their own story. Although not worthy to be compared with McCurry’s better images, I was pleased with some of the results, and from that time, I have found I take home more images that I’m happy to call my own. Here’s a few from the first two times I went out with the aim of getting closer…
I share my influences here on this blog as I think an important way to find direction as a photographer is to find what inspires you. What images really move you and make you want to go out and photograph? If you can find those things, isolate them and then work on them to make them your own, you are more likely to become the kind of photographer that takes the kind of photos that affect others – for if you take images based on what moves you, the resulting photographs are more likely to in turn move others.