Celebrate India with Steve McCurry
Remember the iconic image of the Afghan Girl? Steve McCurry, the man behind the hauntingly beautiful war imagery, brings his lens to the less-stark-yet-flavourful landscape of India. His unclichéd images of upside-down monks, Rabari tribes, and mind-bending portraits, is nothing less spellbinding than his green-eyed muse. Last night’s interaction with McCurry was enough to stir up a sense of pride, with a little help from the foreigner’s lens.
What draws you to India?
The thing about India is that it is a multi-cultural society with layers. In Mumbai, on one side you will find flourishing Malabar Hill and on the other side is a place like Dharavi. What fascinated me about Dharavi is that it seems scary on your first visit, but when you get inside, you see people playing, working, cooking lunch, and it seems like the most normal place in the world. As a photographer, dealing primarily with the surface of things, there is no richer place.
How much time did you spend with your subjects, while shooting these portraits?
Mostly, the pictures in this book are brief encounters with people. Generally they are on the way to work, are going somewhere. Sometimes, you see somebody and you go back again…perhaps the next day. But they are not studio portraits. I like to work with fleeting moments.
How do you frame a perfect picture?
It literally is a question of timing. And these are the pictures that worked. I got thousands of pictures that didn’t work.
What according to you is the most striking image in the book?
The picture of a tailor wading through neck-deep water with his machine on his head. This was during the floods in Porbandar, Gujarat. The backstory of this image is that he was a tailor whose shop had been completely destroyed. The only thing he could salvage was this sewing machine. I saw him walking towards me, and a whole other bunch of people saw him too. So they told him that here’s a tourist photographer taking your picture, smile for the camera! There was a grin on his face, and I clicked his picture. It also made it to the cover of National Geographic. The most interesting bit, is that he was carrying a sewing machine from Pfaff. And somebody from the German company recognised their machine, tracked this guy down and sent him a new one.
Anecdotes of Mumbai that you can recall…
I was going through my photographs and I saw some pictures of Shah Rukh Khan. And I didn’t know who Shah Rukh was…this was in 1992. He was making a movie in Film City, lying on a haystack with an actress. If I knew then that he was going to be a superstar, I would’ve spent more time taking his pictures!
What is your take on selfies and digitisation of photography?
I’m a firm believer in cell phones and selfies. I always take a picture wherever I go. It’s always a wonderful thing if more people take pictures of their friends and families. It’s nice to have a record of your life, and go back and say, ‘this is how we were!’.
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