Steve McCurry’s hymn to life on show in Vene...

Steve McCurry’s hymn to life on show in Veneto for the first time

He took the shot that has become the symbol of the Afghan people and the difficulties faced by women and children more than any other: two green eyes and a red veil frame the face of a 12-year-old girl immortalised by photographer Steve McCurry in 1984. Many years have passed since the famous portrait of Sharbat Gula, who fled to Italy in the last few weeks to save herself from the conflicts in Afghanistan, became the “Mona Lisa” of contemporary photography. Yet even today Steve McCurry’s images have not lost their charm and continue to attract the general public to admire his unmistakable style up close.

Presented for the first time in Veneto with Steve McCurry. Icons, curated by Biba Giacchetti and organised by Artika in collaboration with SudEst57, the American photographer boasts a long career made up of trips all over the world. On show there is a selection of 100 shots, starting from the travels in the 1980s to the more recent ones in the 2000s, distributed in the rooms of Palazzo Sarcinelli in Conegliano, telling faces and significant moments of people, landscapes and animals.

Born in Philadelphia and educated in film and history at Pennsylvania State University, Steve McCurry began his self-taught career as a freelance photographer in India, with a backpack and a few rolls of film behind him, and a lens in his hand which, during his subsequent stay in Pakistan, would enable him to immortalise the lives and faces of refugees from Afghanistan, bringing the whole world face to face with the cultures and problems of unknown people.

The photographs impress us with their immediacy and humanity: an old man enclosing a young man in a peaceful and tender repose (Afghanistan, 1980); a Buddhist monk engaged in the study of sacred texts with a cat in the monastery of Aranyaprathet (Thailand, 1995); a boy covered with coloured powders during the Holi Festival to celebrate inner rebirth (India, 1996); a group of monks from a Shaolin monastery hanging from a metal beam with great dexterity and physical strength and just as much serenity (China, 2004); a Bengali woman and her son look curiously out the window of a train, both wrapped in red clothes like the dark crimson of the carriage (West Bengal, India, 1982). India is the first stop on this artist’s incredible journey, the beginning of a path that will see him discover many parts of Asia, an invaluable source of shots, “because – as McCurry himself said – just like the light that gives life, Asia is an inexhaustible resource”.

In the exhibition we rediscover memories from Tibet, China, Thailand, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New Guinea, Ethiopia… Each image represents for the visitor an unexpected expedition to distant corners of the earth, such as the Mingun pagoda, the Golden Rock of Myanmar in Burma (an imposing boulder said to be balanced on a lock of Buddha’s hair) and the monumental complex of Angkor in Cambodia (now one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations).

The large photographs thus become windows opening onto remote destinations, from which we can look out accompanied by McCurry’s attentive gaze, which has managed to capture the truest humanity in every moment and in every country. Emphasising how each people, with its own traditions and facets, is able to excite and reflect, Steve McCurry’s images appear as a true hymn to life.

Paola Natalia Pepa


Steve McCurry. Icons
curated by Biba Giacchetti
06/10/2021 – 13/02/2022
Palazzo Sarcinelli
Conegliano –
Exhibition organized by ARTIKA, Sudest57 production in collaboration with Comune di Conegliano

Steve McCurry, Rajasthan, India, 2009 © Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry, Sharbat Gula, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984 © Steve McCurry


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