Steve McCurry Retrospective Offers 40 Years of Timeless Portraits

Art Scene

Steve McCurry Retrospective Offers 40 Years of Timeless Portraits

“If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.”

These words from American photographer Steve McCurry come to life in each of the 150 portraits of Oltre lo Sguardo, a retrospective on display through April 2015 at the stunning Villa Reale di Monza in Italy. The exhibition explores McCurry’s incredible body of work from around the world, bringing light to many of his newer and lesser-known images while also showcasing the iconic ones. Each image is curated to the theme of “looking beyond” and creatively installed to complement the beautiful architecture of the Villa Reale.

Even to the most novice photo enthusiast, McCurry’s portraits are absolutely breathtaking. While certainly documentary by nature, to label McCurry’s work as such would be an injustice. McCurry captures the soul of culture and conflict. He photographs to the core of photojournalism, forging a personal bond to each singular character while offering a wider perspective of humanity.

“For me, a portrait is about connection. Somehow you connect with a person, visually or emotionally,” McCurry told DesignBoom. “I’ve often believed that a person’s life stories are kind of written on their face. It’s magical; it’s mystical the way you can connect to a person. It’s hard to describe. You know it when you see it.’

McCurry was born in Philadelphia and graduated cum laude from the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University. After working at The Daily Collegian for two years, he ventured to India as a freelancer. His breakthrough came a few years later in Pakistan when a group of Afghan refugees smuggled him across the border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan as the Soviets were preparing to invade. His images there were among the first of the conflict to circulate worldwide, coverage that won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad.

Since then, McCurry’s work has been featured in virtually every major magazine. He has received dozens of awards, including the National Press Photographers Association’s Magazine Photographer of the Year and four first prizes in the World Press Photo Contest.

McCurry’s most famous image is one of the most recognized in the world. Afghan Girl, often compared compositionally to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, gained an instant legacy when it appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic. McCurry took the portrait in a refugee camp in Pakistan, and the girl’s identity was unknown for nearly two decades until he and a National Geographic team located her in 2002. The story behind the face of Sharbat Gula is truly moving and speaks to the sheer depth of a portrait.

Oltre lo Sguardo is essentially 40 years of pure greatness from Steve McCurry. Watch the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibition