The Challengers
of the World
Deserve Witnesses

Steve McCurry

Photography is literally about wandering.

I think that travel, seeing the world and experiencing the planet we live on, is one of the most important things we can do. I love revisiting places and seeing how a country has evolved since the last time I was there. I’ve been to China many times for different photographic projects. In the early 1980s, it was really off-the-grid in terms of its interaction with the rest of the world. Fast forward 35 years and it’s unimaginable – the change, the transformation, it’s an economic powerhouse. It’s a visually rich country, with great traditions, art and culture. And the people are open to being photographed. This picture was shot in 2019 and, for me, it captures China perfectly: a modern country, deeply rooted in tradition. I was impressed by the agility of those Shaolin monks practising – you had to be quick to capture them almost flying.

The Challengers of the World Deserve Witnesses

I’m a visual storyteller.
Steve McCurry

I started from scratch, finding my own way and my own resources. It was hard, but I was completely free. I felt like I had all the time in the world. Everything was fresh and new. It was very exciting to go out and photograph something for the first time.

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One of my first overseas trips was to Mexico. I enjoyed being able to walk around and photograph without any deadlines, any assignments, or any pressure; the world was my blank canvas. My career really started when I managed to cross the Afghanistan border in 1979, disguised as a Pashtun. It was there that I took what became an iconic picture: SHARBAT GULA. For more than four decades now, my work has spanned conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary cultures. I have evolved into what I call a visual storyteller. Most of my images are grounded in people and stories. I look for that unguarded moment and try to convey some part of what it is like to be that person – or in a broader sense, to relate their life to the human experience as a whole. The choices I make when photographing are influenced by the stories I want to tell.

A strong image is the one with rhythm, harmony and full of emotional content.

I tried many cameras and decided to adopt the Leica SL-System for several reasons that were immediately evident. First of all, the image quality is unbelievable; I’ve never seen anything comparable. And the EVF screen is very bright, large, and of exceedingly good quality. This was the only mirrorless camera that looked right and felt right when I put my eye on the viewfinder. Secondly, the quality of the optics. I had no doubts about this, but personally testing the files allowed me to understand its full potential. And finally, the camera’s usability. Leica cameras are exceptional.