In Defense of Steve McCurry

In Defense of Steve McCurry

New York Times Magazine photography critic, Teju Cole, recently penned what could only be construed as a takedown of National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Cole is no lightweight. Since its launch, his column On Photography has illustrated his deep understanding of photographic history – not to mention he’s an award-winning writer with a PhD in Art History from Columbia.

In A Too Perfect Picture, he writes about McCurry’s photos:

Here’s an old-timer with a dyed beard. Here’s a doe-eyed child in a head scarf. The pictures are staged or shot to look as if they were. They are astonishingly boring.”

Cole laments that the homogeneity of McCurry’s latest book, India, presents a “worldview” that by settling on “a notion of authenticity that edits out the present day, is not simply to present an alternative truth: It is to indulge in fantasy.”

He offers instead the work of Ragubhir Singh whose gritty work is a stark contrast to the “boring” work of McCurry, suggesting that somehow the more edgy style is a more authentic view of the world. I object.

First, let’s dismiss the notion that McCurry is staging photos. McCurry is an award-winning photojournalist represented by the heralded Magnum Photos. The notion that he has spent a career setting up scenes to capture his iconic photos is a massive insult to a talented photographer who started his career at a local newspaper before traveling to Pakistan and sneaking into Afghanistan to cover the build up to the Soviet invasion. I cannot say with absolute certainty that McCurry has never staged a photo, but to start from the presumption of guilt is nearly libelous.

Photo by Steve McCurry

Photo by Steve McCurry

Just because a photo looks staged (i.e. too perfect), doesn’t mean it is. James Nachtwey’s 9/11 photo of a falling WTC behind the cross on the Church of Saint Peter quickly comes to mind as a “too perfect” photo of an incredible tragedy. But that image was a combination of luck (Nachtwey is rarely in the city) and skill (while everyone else was running, he composed an image and hit the shutter at the right moment).

Cole suggests that the perfectness of McCurry’s photos somehow invalidates them – also slyly suggesting that McCurry’s 1 million Instagram followers is proof of the eye candy nature of his images. Cole’s criticism might also imply that the whole oeuvre of National Geographic photography is boring and “too perfect.” But when you’re a highly skilled photographer taking 250,000 images over the course of 3-6 months for an assignment, and then working with a top notch editor, should anyone be surprised that the photos are exceptional?

Singh traveled across India with Lee Friedlander, who Singh commented was constantly looking for the “abject as subject,” an approach which Singh rejected as a western view. Thus Singh developed his own viewpoint that he considered to be more authentic – neither “sugarcoated” nor “abject.”

I would suggest therefore what we really have is three points of view, and one critic’s preference. All three photographers possess tremendous skill, but Cole seems to revel in the street-style photography of Singh, which is perhaps more akin to the street photography of McCurry’s contemporary William Albert Allard, whose personal work in Paris is a tour de force of multiple points of interest and timing.

Cole’s argument isn’t unique. David Shields lamented the “war porn” he found on the cover of The New York Times, which led to the publication of his book War Is Beautiful:The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict. Shields argues that because war is messy, the photos representing it shouldn’t be beautiful (i.e. aesthetically pleasing). I find this argument puerile. Photos should look the way the photographer intended them to look. The tragic loss of life doesn’t mean that a photo can’t be well-composed.

Cole’s point of view is also a bit of historical criticism with a contemporary lens. McCurry’s Afghan Girl is one of the most iconic and recognizable images of the 20th century. To suggest in the 21st century that it is somehow a vacuous, staged image is spurious. McCurry helped define a style of photojournalistic portraiture that Cole finds objectionable. Cole’s dislike of McCurry doesn’t diminish his corpus. Having an obvious subject with tack sharp focus and proper exposure doesn’t mean a photo is devoid of layers of interest and interpretation. Likening McCurry’s photos to a Coldplay video…come on, Teju. If McCurry had spent a career jetsetting into town for a day or two to make a couple of stylized images, then I would agree. But McCurry spends weeks, if not months, in the places he’s photographing.

Still, McCurry doesn’t do himself any favors in dispelling the notion that his images look too perfect given his recent commercial work with Pirelli, Dow and Valentino. But given the insulting decline in pay and job security for photojournalists, one can hardly begrudge McCurry for getting paid.

I was unaware of Singh’s work, and I find it incredible. But McCurry is no slouch either.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter. He co-hosts the "I Love Photography" podcast on iTunes.

There are 47 comments for this article
  1. PF BENTLEY at 8:34 am

    Those that can, do, those that can’t, have degrees.

    Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and Mr. Cole is entitled to his.

    What many people both in and out of the industry do not know is besides Steve McCurry being a legend in photojournalism, is that he broke his right arm as a child and it has not worked properly since, so basically he shoots with one hand. I never worked for NatGeo and both my hands work fine.

    • Gordon at 3:48 pm

      It seems that Teju Cole does do, he writes, and sounds like a very successful writer (books, NYTimes contributor, etc.). This cliche you use to dismiss or ridicule Teju is patently false in his case, and further is patently false in general. All the great teachers I have had were very much do-ers and successful practitioners of what they were teaching.

    • Daniel Ecoff at 11:40 am

      Thanks for that PF.. I remember meeting you and Eli Reed at SFSU thru Gary Fong while I was a Senior and have been a believer ever since. I couldn’t have said it better. Too many people in this world looking for excuses over accolades. The higher up the ladder you go the more your ass shows.

  2. Donna at 10:24 am

    I do appreciate your remarks about it being childish to say such things about a photographer that has worked so hard his whole life to create powerful images.
    I don’t understand this new trend in “deskilling” photography to make it more authentic. I truly believe having well composed and well-lit imagery is very impactful. Your article speaks to all the frustration skilled photographers, who spend years honing their craft, are seeing and feeling now with anti-perfection ness being pawned off as the “real” photography. Authentic is over used and sometimes, a pathetic term for not having skills. It’s losing its real meaning.
    Thank you for writing this response and defending photographers who have spent their lives developing mad skills. Thank you for making meaningful points in a very public way.

  3. Jason at 11:17 am

    My reaction to Mr. Cole’s article was more or less ‘Meh… what the hell does he know!’ It didn’t even seem to warrant a response… Just clickbait sensationalism; injecting personal taste in exchange for proper critique.

    I did not however know anything about his background or credentials, but the entire article came off as totally uninformed. Thanks for breaking it down, and filling in the backstory!

    McCurry has always been one of my favorites, despite the fact that ‘Afghan Girl’ has never been an image that I personally connect with. Still, I feel that despite (or even because of) McCurry’s technical perfection, many of his photos resonate with me tremendously. The fact that he is able to come away with photos that may seem ‘too perfect’ in what are often very adverse and difficult conditions is cause for praise, not critique. His masterful use of “layers of interest”, subtle emotion, color(!), and his long-time dedication to both his craft and his chosen subjects is inspiring. Again, just personal taste.

    -Jason Langley

  4. Andrew Molitor at 10:39 pm

    You’re absolutely right that a photograph should look as the photographer intended, neither more nor less. You’re absolutely right that if a talented guy shoots a ton of frames, you can expect to find some really exception frames in there.

    The point, though, is that McCurry selected a specific collection of frames to put into a book, and that, precisely, reveals a great deal of McCurry’s idea of India (or, at any rate, the Idea of India that McCurry wishes to present). McCurry is no ingenue, he knows precisely what he’s doing with this book.

    I certainly don’t know what the “real India” is, but I suspect that the concept doesn’t even make much sense. Cole seems to me to be suggesting that whatever it that McCurry is doing, it is far removed from anything resembling a “real India” and that it’s borderline offensive colonialism.

    I don’t know, but I suspect strongly there’s a vein of truth in there. I’ve worked with a bunch of dudes from India, and McCurry’s pictures seem to have nothing to do with those guys. Is my Idea of India somehow more authentic? Of course not, that’s ridiculous. But my limited experience suggests that McCurry’s Idea is very very limited, at best. India is a big place, it encompasses much. The very fact that McCurry’s work is so very very appealing to western eyes makes it, unfortunately, suspect right out of the gate.

    Every culture finds itself a bit discomfited by other cultures, when the latter are not safely sanitized into simple, friendly versions, compatible with a world in which the first is safely superior. Westerners are no exception.

    • Mark at 11:08 am

      Well put Andrew.

      McCurry’s pictures’ visual predictability and their content is astoundingly narrow given the significant amount of time spent. This makes them: dull, monotonous, repetitive, unimaginative… or, in a single word: boring. He’s become a victim of a trope of his own crafting. And for whatever reason (we could venture some guesses) he just keeps running with it.

      It doesn’t take a degree or portfolio to question how someone so revered can portray a place the same way for 30 years. Raising this question isn’t any more wrong than it is for McCurry to photograph and publish whatever he wants. BUT, raising the question is absolutely more constructive and infinitely more interesting than another technically perfect image of a bearded Indian in a turban.

      The things Mr. Cole adroitly points out and the “defense” (as though McCurry or his career needs defending!) miss each other completely, passing an opportunity for constructive discussion only to park on technical and subjective nonsense.

      But it did spur me to comment — which I genuinely appreciate. So thanks for diving in Allen!

      • Allen Murabayashi Author at 11:54 am

        Anything I can do to have a civil discussion!

        Andrew’s comments weren’t lost on me, and I certainly contemplated the westerns/colonialist POV that Teju argues against. What I don’t completely buy is the notion that McCurry’s work was awesome in the 20th century (i.e. he built his reputation on what has become his style; and I’m not sure any sizable group was calling McCurry’s work “boring” in the 80s and 90s), and now with a more global point of view, some people are ready to dismiss it. It seems like a bit of revisionism. Colonialism, for better or worse, is a part of India’s past, and it’s still an aspect that is embraced in some quarters of the country.

        Secondly, you seem to imply that there is something inherently wrong with doing “your thing” for 30 years without evolving. Would you say the same about, for example, a Japanese craftsman? I wonder if the nature of everything from social media to the 24-hour news cycles has led society to believe that we must evolve or be irrelevant.

        These are certainly more rhetorical queries than anything else. Andrew’s comments certainly caused me to think about the issue again, and for that, I’m thankful.

        • Andrew Molitor at 12:40 pm

          Thanks! I too am all for a good discussion, and in this case I think all sides have really interesting things to say.

          I wrote something lengthier and more tedious on my blog, but I think I can boil it down to something shorter and clearer here. McCurry strikes me as guy who, essentially, tries to give a clear picture of a narrow slice of something. He finds something interesting, and gives us a deep, but narrow, view of it. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, of course, and it’s arguably what journalism ought to do.

          At the other end of the spectrum we find more a more “gestalt” approach, where the artist, author, photographer, essayist, tries to gives a wider view, less self-contained, a view that contains multitudes and contrasts, that hints at even greater vastness.

          I think perhaps Cole’s problem is simply that he (not unreasonably, to my mind) felt that a book entitled “India” ought to be more gestalt, ought to be seeking something about the breadth and bigness that is India. Had McCurry entitled it “Indian Photographs” or “Steve McCurry’s India” or something, perhaps Cole would have liked it better.

        • Eli Reed at 9:24 am

          There are at times those who become temporary amateurs at certain points in this brave new world of visual observation. Fortunately you are not one of them. Thank you Allen for your thoughtful take on this whole back and forth. Bravo!

  5. Sean at 9:44 am

    I see nothing wrong in saying that McCurry’s photos don’t capture the essence of day to day life in India, but this just seems like the same old bash down of discrediting someone as not being an “artist” because they have reached a point of success in their careers and have sold out to commercial interests. McCurry has a style and a formula that has become iconic. Cole seems to want to educate the plebes on what real photography is by bashing someone that has accomplished what many photographers yearn for… a recognizable style and market for their photographs that will make them money while they are alive. Putting Steve’s book in my Amazon cart now.

  6. Richard at 10:02 am

    Right on brother. You nailed it with one word: “puerile.” Thanks for defending a photographer who should need no defending.

  7. Pingback: Defending McCurry | Visual Journalism
  8. Renzo at 10:42 am

    Both McCurry and Singh worked for National Geographic in the past. Singh, an Indian, was accused by his critics for having an orientalist vision of his own country. Meanwhile Steve McCurry…

  9. Bobby at 2:01 pm

    Sick of this and of people who assume things. McCurry is selfish businessman more and artists less. He stages photographs (especially the one from India/Asia). Search on net for his workshops review to get some understanding. Arif Iqball reviewed him and probably got in trouble.

  10. RD at 7:05 pm

    One thing I’d like to say for some balance: pedestals are not advised. I have been in the field and have seen a Magnum photographer stage photographs (not Steve McCurry, but one nevertheless revered); this photographer also was yanking people around and yelling at them for not taking orders while the subjects were in the middle of an intense, reverent highly-religious pilgrimage. I have never been so angry. Just because one is represented by a legendary agency doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t behave badly (or selfishly, or without certain necessary ethics) when others’ heads are turned. I know many photojournalists and photographers from the best agencies, and thank goodness most are damned honest and have ethics. But some, especially who have begun to believe in their own hype and care more about their shot than their subjects need to be taken down a peg or two. I don’t care how talented someone is–you treat people badly, especially subjects in the field, and in intense situations, and in my eyes, you’ve lost all credibility.

    • Allen Murabayashi Author at 7:13 pm

      Totally agree. Bad behavior is bad behavior. In my limited experience with him, I’ve found McCurry to be pretty humble and almost shy.

  11. Hector Muñoz Huerta at 1:52 am

    The guy dislikes Mc Curry’s images because they are too perfect, he dislikes them as well because they don’t represent the mundane aspect of contemporary India. He accuses Mc Curry of promoting a Disneylandificated idea of India.

    He has the right for his own taste and ideas but putting down a photographer’s career as Mc Curry’s is disrepectful and arrogant.

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  13. Deirdre Ryan at 6:13 am

    Let’s also get to how McCurry gets to these “perfect” images. How many shots does he take to get these? You already said over 250,000 per assignment and that’s an estimate.

  14. marco at 6:50 am

    Opinions are opinions, and everyone has his own taste in art, so I’m not going to enter the discussion on whether mccurry’s pictures are nice/likable or not. What I’m sure of (sorry for this mr. Murabayashi) is that mccurry DOES stage his photographs. Or at least he has been doing so in the last ten years or so. I have first-hands accounts of this fact from people who have worked with him on the field. In Italy he did a documentation on Umbria for the region which was completely staged from beginning to end. Probably his first journalistic essays on afghanistan and india were not staged, but now his style has completely changed. I mean, this guy is a powerhouse, he is maybe the biggest mainstream photographer in the industry in this moment, doing fashion shoots for valentino or pirelli calendars. If once he was a photojournalist, now he is a fashion photographer, so photojournalistic ethics do not regard him anymore!

  15. Richard at 1:02 pm

    This is an old, old debate, but suffice it to say that India is a land of many, many sides. And if it were me, I’d send him to expose the inexcusable racism against the dalits and the general oppression of the lower classes by the elites, but maybe those aren’t subjects that get his creativity going, or perhaps those topics don’t have clients willing to pay what it would cost to send him.

    And why does it so offend people that this man has focused on one side of such a huge country? He only has one lifetime and who are you to fault him for pursuing his personal vision.
    Do you have the same criticism of Eugène Atget, August Sander, Peter Henry Emerson, or even Gary WInogrand? What is the difference here?

  16. Lou Korell at 1:37 pm

    As a photographer I contend that a great image is a great image. If you also have a story to tell, tell it. What remains is the fact that no matter how many “dramatic” images we see of war, poverty, and other atrocity, nothing changes as a result. Photojournalism existed to inform and hopefully raise a greater awareness of the issues in our world that needed to be addressed. With advances in technology, there is a tendency to “create” the image based on the story. That is a sign of the times. But, in no way does that invalidate the point of telling the story itself. Steve M has been a master at photography and story telling for decades. If others appeal to some in a more impactful way, I say that’s awesome! Photojournalism is a magical field and there is room for everyone to express a point of view. Why do we think that it is totally immune to today’s methods of communicating? Just as we watch television news with its biased point of view, the dependency on media to give us absolute truth is unwarranted. If we are interested in a story because someone has exposed us to it, the onus is up to us to dig deeper and do our own homework to discover the truth.

  17. Graeme Outerbridge at 6:22 pm

    McCurry’s pictures are excellent and very revealing. His portrait work is his strongest body of work. It seems somehow this critic just does not like the photographer in question. The measure is a personal dislike rather than a true examination of his actual work.

  18. Jim Colton at 10:36 pm

    Just as Teju Cole feels Steve McCurry’s images “are astonishingly boring,” there are many people who think Teju Cole writes like an astonishingly pompous ass. That’s the beauty of opinions. We are all entitled to have one. And I am of the opinion that Steve McCurry’s remarkable body of work will long outlive the verbal diarrhea of Mr. Cole’s assessment.

  19. foljs at 11:07 pm

    > Cole suggests that the perfectness of McCurry’s photos somehow invalidates them

    And indeed it does. Perfect can have many meanings. McCurry’s photos are more Thomas Kinkade perfect than Bresson or Winograd perfect.

    And, yes, people have different tastes etc, but art is not just all about personal taste like food. It’s an intellectual endeavor, and as such, it’s amenable to critique, based on ideas and concepts about how it should be and how it should not be. Which we might not all share, but we should lay out and discuss nonetheless.

    I, for one, don’t think photography should be sugarcoated, picturesque, selectively exotic, etc., and I don’t think such work makes my understanding of the world better.

    Nice to hang on a wall, maybe. Significant life affirming/changing art, no.

    “Staged” to me is also waiting for 10 hours in the same place for some non-representative moment that fits your prejudices about a place, instead of capturing as best as you can what the play really is and looks like.

    With a cute exotic local girl, a shallow DOP lens and a standard technical expertise, anybody can take a “masterful” photograph of the McCurry type — and still say nothing about the experience of living in that place.

    > Cole’s criticism might also imply that the whole oeuvre of National Geographic photography is boring and “too perfect.”

    Which is also true.

  20. Simon Grosset at 5:35 am

    It’s not the definitive work illustrating life in India – it’s one photographers version of life as he saw it. As someone else commented, if it was called “Steve McCurry’s India” there would be a whole different argument going on.
    As an aside, I was visiting NYC recently, and went to see his exhibition at the Rubens Gallery/Museum. It was well worth it – most photos I’d seen before in a book, but there are some that had never been seen before, and the prints were huge! It is also worth reading the introduction to McCurry’s book, written by William Dalrymple.

  21. Neil Buchan Grant at 9:21 am

    This whole controversy comes around because one man who has a platform to talk from expresses his preference and in doing so criticises a well liked establishment figure in photography. His viewpoint is valid. There is room in the world for all types of photography, be it clever, ugly, aesthetically pleasing or deliberately drab. Photographs motivated by one persons idea of beauty clash with other images motivated by concepts, ideas or the search for truth.

    Just as people embraced punk rock which rebelled against its harmonious predecessors, tastes change and currently it seems as though beautiful, aesthetically pleasing photography is less in vogue than other styles.

    One view is not more valid than the other, it’s not a bloody political ideology, it’s an artistic preference.

    Personally I love McCurry’s work. I saw his touring exhibition in the modern art museum in Dubrovnik and each of the 4 floors it filled just blew me away. But I’m sure he’s not crying in his sleep over one man’s preference to another style of imagery..

    Saul Leiter still trumps them all tho…;)

  22. Giorgio Scala at 9:27 am

    Luciano Pavarotti, the famous Italian tenor, used to say: “Who knows about music, makes it; Who knows it a bit less, teaches it; who knows it so-so, write critics about it”
    I may think that it applies to almost any field of the human creativity.
    Being generous, I assume that critics are bored by the quatity of items which they review and they are hit only by something new. In my personal opinion, it’s a a very narrow minded attitude.
    But the guy is paid by a famous paper, therefore he must not be the last of the idiots.
    I admire and I have taken as an example Mc Curry and, being ignorant, never heard of the other two guys.
    It’s my eye and my brain to give a value to what I see, not what somebody else write. Otherwise, I should think that all that crap which win the Oscar are masterpieces.

  23. Dave Block at 10:05 am

    Very well written post, Allen. Some very interesting comments as well. Cole’s CV is certainly impressive and as a writer for the NY Times, his words carry weight. The problem that I have with his criticism is that it borders on sensationalist and verges on a personal attack of Steve McCurry. Perhaps that’s the world of modern journalism – measured arguments don’t drive clicks – but it feels like it lacks a certain degree of restraint and integrity. As a piece of art criticism, it would have been far stronger had it been less of an attempt at some kind of “takedown” of someone who is worthy, regardless of like or dislike of him or his body of work, of respect.

  24. patrick at 2:35 pm

    Mr. Allen Murabayashi:

    I think you should reconsider and perhaps state your boundaries or definition of manipulation.
    If the subject is aware of the photographer, of the camera, then you might argue the scene has already been manipulated out of its natural state, as the subject is now reacting to the camera and the photographer. And you must know that every (or practically every) Steve McCurry portrait is with the subject’s eyes gazing directly into the camera. It is his statement that the eyes are the key to the essence of the portrait. Other signature statements to his portraiture include deep colors and shadows, a strong relationship between the colors of the clothes and the colors in the background, freqent use of pets or animals to lend an exotic or emotional statement, and costume whenever possible. The combination of these signature elements repeated throughout his global portfolios should tell you that his portraits are arranged – as are many of his environmental street shots.
    I have seen the photos McCurry took before and after the famous photo of the Afghan girl. He worked the scene and her expressions are dramatically different. Does this constitute manipulation for you? What if he works a street scene, positioning multiple subjects, getting them to perform physical movements that lend to the strength of the composition? And what about the post-production staff he employs to ensure all McCurry photos look like all McCurry photos?
    I think in your defense of McCurry, what you have really shown is that you have not deeply considered what manipulation actually means, and where you draw your own line as to acceptable or genuine, undisturbed natural moment. Tack sharp and proper exposure – what exactly do you mean? McCurry will shoot with a shallow depth of field and underexpose for deeper color, no? (BTW, in a course I took with Steve McCurry, he was asked about his settings. He recommended shooting on Program and said trust the camera’s judgement- which is not to say that is how HE shoots, but interesting that this was his advice).
    And sorry, but I must say, that for the chairman and co-founder of Photoshelter to be strong in a defense of McCurry but then admit to not having seen Singh’s work before – well, it suggests you are surrounded by photos yet surprisingly limited. I might also suggest Paul Strand with his fake lens camera to ensure his subjects remained in their natural state, Marc Riboud, and Alex Webb to compliment Singh and others you have brought up – all have extremely strong compositions from traveling the world, and all shoot in a less directly manipulative style than McCurry (even Lartigue’s people at play were shot more freely), though you may come to wonder if some shots you see have not been arranged however slightly. The question then becomes: how much does manipulation matter?
    And this question is being hashed out here by other contributors, so no need to get into it now.

  25. Jim Richardson at 9:00 am

    Thank you, Allen. Let it not be lost that one of the reasons that all of us seem to have such sophisticated views on what is “real” in India is that Steve McCurry has been bringing India to us for 30 years. Thank you Steve. To dismiss him because he has covered a certain segment of India is akin to dismissing Ansel Adams because his pictures only included nature, with nary a power line to be seen.

    • Michael Rubin at 11:13 am

      Jim Richardson nailed it.

      Like you, Allen, if you’ve had a chance to speak with Steve, you will come away knowing that Steve’s shots come from reality and research. He knows his subjects because he’s immersed himself wherever he goes. It’s his hard work, dedication and time that gets these shots, on top of being a fantastic technical photographer.

      The Afghan Girl, had never been photographed before. He found a stunning subject in the middle of a war and documented her. He put a face on a country few people in the U.S. had heard of prior to the Soviet invasion.

      This is a sad attempted takedown of a great photographer in order to boost the stature of the writer. Contrarian views get page views but that doesn’t mean they are correct.

  26. TJ at 10:02 pm

    Allen’s statement: “Colonialism, for better or worse, is a part of India’s past, and it’s still an aspect that is embraced in some quarters of the country”

    This stunningly insensitive description is perhaps one reason why Teju Cole writes for the NYT not Allen. Can such a sentence like this to explain away slavery too ?

    I did not know of the existence of a pro-colonialism movement in India. Any proof this aspect exists in non trivial numbers ?

    • Allen Murabayashi Author at 11:49 pm

      I never stated that there was a pro-colonialism movement. I stated that it is a part of India’s past – and thus influences aspects of the culture today. For example, caste stratification that was highly influenced by the British. Or, visit an Oberoi hotel and see how the uniforms are informed by the colonialist history. It’s not meant to explain away anything. It is a historical fact.

      And really, resorting to ad hominem attacks?

  27. Prabhat Singh at 10:03 am

    After reading Teju’s article, I was reminded of a post in social media. This was after the day ‘India’ was released ceremonially in Delhi. The post quoted Raghu Rai mentioning the images as ‘Staged Candid’. Steve’s experience or his contribution is inarguable but why his work should be beyond comment or criticism.
    OK, this is William’s stand in defense of Steve McCurry but that doesn’t invalidate the arguments put forward by Teju. William writes, he is unaware of Raghubir Singh’s work. I wish he had flipped pages of few of Raghubir’s books.

  28. Robert Jones at 3:56 pm

    Steve McCurry has been making a very good living of exploiting Third Worlders for decades. THAT is what the real scandal ought to be!

  29. ge.or.ge at 2:34 am

    Steve is a dedicated photographer but his pictures of Geisha on subway steps in Kyoto, Rolls Royce/Hand Cart in Hong Kong, Helping guy with umbrella with waterfall in the background in Goa, Monks in Angkor Wat and several others are all very likely staged or somehow manipulated

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