Steve McCurry: McCurry’s India

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National Geographic and Magnum Photos legend Steve McCurry talks to AP Editor Nigel Atherton about his work and his love of the Indian subcontinent

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Steve McCurry needs no introduction to most AP readers. He is a legendary multi-award-winning Magnum Photos and National Geographic photographer and author of its most famous cover photo: the iconic ‘Afghan Girl’. The Philadelphia-born photographer has spent the past 40 years photographing people and cultures in every corner of the world. But there’s one place that Steve has returned to time and time again: India. It’s a country of unparalleled richness and diversity for the photographer, which perhaps explains why Steve has travelled there more than 90 times during his career. Now he has collected some of his favourite images of the subcontinent, many of them previously unpublished, in a beautiful new large-format hardback book. AP was given the rare opportunity to interview Steve in front of a live audience in association with Nikon School Live. Here’s what he had to say about his life, career and, of course, the country that is so close to his heart.

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Why India?

If you could go back one more time to only one location, where would you go?

How has India changed since your first visit?

What sort of planning do you do before you travel?

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What percentage of your time has been on assignment compared with being free to do your own thing?

What types of subjects catch your eye? What makes you take the lens cap off?

Some people only shoot candids or posed portraits, but you seem happy with both styles. What’s your philosophy on interacting with your subjects?

You have described yourself as a shy person. Do you find stopping people gets easier with practice?

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There are certain motifs that occur frequently in your images. One of them is the perfectly framed moment where someone is walking past a gap between two buildings, or framed in a doorway. How much time will you put into waiting for that perfect moment?

Most readers are familiar with your Afghan girl portrait and admire its intensity, but looking through your work, there are many equally powerful portraits. What’s your secret?

Have you had any disastrous or near disastrous events in your career?

Are there countries where photographing people is more challenging, where they're less keen to be photographed?

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What’s your attitude toward paying for pictures?

What do you consider to be the ingredients of a successful picture?

When you’re editing, do you often find that you’ll reject pictures and then go back to them later and see one that stands out, and you think, ‘Why did I reject that?’

One of your claims to fame is that you shot the last roll of Kodachrome 64 ever produced, and I was wondering how that came about?

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Steve on his gear and career

What was your first camera?

When did you switch to digital?

Do you tend to travel light or with a bag full of lenses?

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How has your job as a photojournalist changed over the years?

What advice would you give to somebody starting out now?

Reader questions

Do you post-process your own images?

Which was your favourite assignment and why?

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At which point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a photographer?

Do you find it difficult to persuade people to let you photograph them?

Do you use flash or is it all natural light?

Do you only ever shoot in colour, or do you also shoot in black & white?

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Do you keep all your rejects?

How do you prevent your images from being published online without your permission?

India by Steve McCurry, published by Phaidon Press, price £39.99

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Reproduced in a large format, this new portfolio of emotive and beautiful work by Steve McCurry features 96 previously unpublished photos taken across the Indian subcontinent, along with images that have become known across the world.

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