Musings about early retirement with no fixed address

The Iconic Photography Of Steve McCurry

While you may not be familiar with the name, you almost certainly know the images. Steve McCurry is a renowned professional travel photographer, and his most famous photo of “The Afghan Girl” made the cover of National Geographic in June 1985. Recently we attended a special exhibition of his work spanning his entire 40 year career as a photojournalist. Titled Steve McCurry Icons, the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City offered a stunning hand-picked collection of 100 of his best photos.

It was pretty fortunate that we got to see this exhibit. We learned about it when we happened upon a random bus stop shelter advertisement with a picture of The Afghan Girl. Thinking it looked interesting, we went home and looked it up. It turned out that the exhibit was ending the next day! We immediately made plans to visit for the final day of the show.

When we showed up to the Franz Mayer Museum around 1pm, it was kind of a zoo. There were people everywhere with multiple lines stretching well outside of the museum. Once we got to the front, we learned that we had to buy a timed entry ticket in order to see the Steve McCurry photos. We got extremely lucky here as well, as the first available time slot left was 6:30pm. The museum normally closes at 6:00pm, but they were staying open late for the last day of this special exhibit. Whew!

I can definitively say that it was worth the effort. The exhibit was very well done and quite breathtaking at times. We knew it would be impressive, since he’s a highly decorated photographer, but it was even better than expected. Most of his photos are portraits and his knack for capturing emotion was on full display. We were really moved by the show. I haven’t seen art this powerful since we saw the In Search of Humanity exhibit from Ai Weiwei when we were in Vienna.

I imagine it must’ve been quite challenging to narrow down all of the photos taken over his multi decade career into just 100. On a similar, albeit much smaller scale, I had to choose 25 of those 100 to show you. Obviously a blog post format doesn’t quite convey the same experience as seeing these large format photos in person. And the popularity meant that it was sometimes hard to get a shot at a perfect angle. But despite this, I hope that this post will give you a taste of just how impressive and powerful McCurry’s work is.

Miner smoking, Pol-e-Khomri, Afghanistan, 2002
Nuns in procession, Yangon, Myanmar, 1994
Elder of the Rabari tribe, Rajasthan, India 2010
Clover pickers, Wadi Hadhramaut, Yemen, 1999
Holy Week ceremony in central park, Antigua, Guatemala, 2017
Bicycles on a train, West Bengal, India, 1983
Scrapping yard, Karachi, Pakistan, 1981
Syrian refugee, Petra, Jordan, 2019
A boy rests leaning on a cow, Katmandu, Nepal, 2013
Camels in burning oil fields, Al Ahmadi, Kuwait, 1991
Man on horse, Father Tembleque Aqueduct, Central Mexico, 2016
Rat riding on a boy’s shoulder, Chennai, India, 1996
Man hunting with eagles, Mongolia, 2018
Geisha on the subway, Kyoto, Japan, 2007
Boys playing with hoops, Morondava, Madagascar, 2019
The old train station of New Dehli, India, 1983
Collapse of the north tower, New York City, 2001
Girl transporting a rock, Rajasthan, India, 2008
A widow returns to her ashram, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1995
Duck farmer goes to the market to sell them, Hoi An, Vietnam, 2019
Kids in the trunk of a taxi, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992
Train passing in front of the Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1983
Boy pointing a toy gun at his head, Alto Churumazu, Yanesha, Peru, 2004
Afghan women at a shoe store, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992
Man covered during Holi, Rajasthan, India, 1996


  1. Jason Hull

    We saw this in Buenos Aires. The kid crying with the gun pointing at his head was devastating to see. Did you see the video towards the end of the exhibit where he talked about his experiences? We thought that was a very interesting insight as well.

    • Eric

      Hi Jason,
      Unfortunately we didn’t get to see it. The setup was such that only about 30 people could be in the room with the video at a time and since we visited on the last day of the exhibit, it was packed to the gills.

  2. Jill Bobalik

    Powerful images, Eric-thanks for sharing.

    • Eric

      Hi Jill,
      It was definitely quite the collection. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Mary Bowman

    Eric, I always look forward to your posts as I feel like I am being transported to parts of the world I will never visit. With this montage of amazing art, I feel like I have experienced a cross section of life and emotions of people around the world. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

    I am your mom and dad’s friend Kalamazoo.

    • Eric

      Hi Mary,
      I’m happy that you enjoyed the experience. Thanks for reading!

  4. Lynne LaFleur

    We caught the last day of The Power of Photography at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Ca which included the extraordinary photograph of the Afghan Girl. Lucky indeed, there was a virtual talk with him that afternoon. He spoke about being at the refugee camp, hearing girls talking in the green tent and meeting her as well as his approach to his work and his respect for each of his subjects – a truly wonderful fellow and a very nice day! I knew from before that he and others had searched for and found her after many years, and that she had no idea of the photograph or how “famous” her image had become. Thank you so much for posting these photos from the Mexico City exhibit! I look forward to following your blog.

    • Eric

      Hi Lynne,
      I’m jealous! They were playing an interview with him at the end of the exhibit we saw, but the room was tiny and super crowded so we had to skip it.

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