Through Steve McCurry’s Lens

Steve McCurry for National Geographic

The photojournalist explains the art of capturing a perfect moment in an excerpt from “Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs” (Phaidon, September).

Sharbat Gula in Nasir Bagh Camp for Afghan Refugees, Near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984 (right)

I guess she was as curious about me as I was about her, because she had never been photographed and had probably never seen a camera. After a few moments, she got up and walked away, but for an instant everything was right—the light, the background, the expression in her eyes.

Dal Lake by Steve McCurry

Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996 (above)

I knew there was a great picture in the scenes of flower vendors plying the lake in the mornings, so I met them every day for around two weeks and went with them as they sold their flowers. One morning, very early, I found myself in a particular channel, in a beautiful light—and I got my picture.

Rajasthan dust storm by Steve McCurry

Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983 (above)

As we drove down the road, I could see a dust storm growing, moving like a tidal wave, until eventually we were enveloped in a thick fog. The noise was deafening. We stopped the car. Some women and children were working on road maintenance, and they clustered together to shield themselves from the sand and dust, singing and praying and barely able to stand.