Steve McCurry – Afghanistan

On another very quick stop in London recently I was able to check out a couple of newly opened exhibitions, firstly this one, Steve McCurry – Afghanistan. A celebration of McCurry’s ongoing relationship with the people, culture and landscape of the country. It was at the Beetles + Huxley Gallery, a place I haven’t been to before but found it to be a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, perfect to view the legendary photojournalist work of Steve McCurry. Showing his work from 1979 to 2006 this retrospective that documents the hostile and beautiful landscape and the fascinating people that live within it. Taking in the images on show at the exhibition its apparent that I am looking at greater insight into a country that is now synonymous with the ongoing conflict.

The most well known of his images is the iconic portrait of the young green eyed Afghan girl which is now instantly recognisable. What I go on to learn and see throughout the exhibition is his varied ability that covers many aspects of Afghan life from farming, religion, town life, and of course war.

The strongest compositions of the exhibition for me are ‘Children Work in Opium Field’ taken in 1992 the central focus point is accompanied by two figures either side. Her contrasting blue jumper against the green poppies stands out and the subdued expression on the girls face looking down at her work is very poignant with a element of nobility and stiff upper lip. Another photograph, this time taken in 1991 shows a women dressed fully in an olive green burkha surrounded by white pigeons which she is feeding. The balance of stillness and movement between the lady and the pigeons is a wonderful element of the photograph. Taken in 2006 my third stand out image of the exhibition that grabbed my attention was the beautifully observed and considered image, ‘Man in Bamiyan Mosque’ the brilliant repetition of colour and architecture really creates a dynamic photograph while the solitary figure reading gives the image a calmness, we in the west perhaps do not appreciate. Finally considering Steve McCurry’s most iconic image I felt it was interesting to look at another portrait, taken 8 years later ‘Farmer in Jalalabad’ is another very strong atmospheric portrait. The warm natural sunlight lighting the mans dark skin and white beard really gives a texture to the image while the mans dark eyes pierce the image almost as much as the young girls green eyes.

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