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Book Bag: 'Steve McCurry: A Life In Pictures' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

20 November 2018

Forty years of photography, over 350 images, 100 previously unpublished, on everything by one of the biggest names in the game and yet we have to tell you this is not just a picture book.

It isn't a eulogy either. Steve McCurry is still alive and well. But it is certainly intimate, getting a bit more personal than most big books.

And that would be because McCurry's sister Bonnie put it together, writing the introduction to each chapter. She was at his side at the start of his interest in making pictures and, after retiring from teaching, she managed his office operations.

She admits the book is a tribute to her brother but, she adds, it's "also an opportunity to get to know him as I do."

To accomplish that she collected personal notes, telegrams and ephemera from his assignments to go along with her reminiscences.

Here's just one anecdote:

One time, when we were talking on the phone while he was back on a rare visit to the U.S. and just getting ready to leave again for Afghanistan, he was talking to me in what I thought was a very disrespectful tone, so I hung up on him. Immediately, I said to myself, "I may never talk to him again' he may be killed this time. I better call him back." I called him right back, and I said, "I'm sorry I hug up on you." He siad, "You can't hang up on me -- I'm famous." That was his humor back then, and that's the way he teases me to this day. In all seriousness, though, it was one of those periods too numerous to count when I was aware that every time I talked to him could be the last.

And then you see the work.

The images are printed on large 9.5 x 13-inch pages in a very halftone screen. If we have a complaint, it's that they tend to be high contrast, the blacks a bit too enthusiastic. But that doesn't spoil the fun.

You may know McCurry from his piercing portrait of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl, that he took in 1984 and that subsequently appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic. And you may recall he tracked her down in 2002 to update the photo. They appear side-by-side here.

Bonnie didn't realize how important his portraits were, she writes, until her late husband pointed it out to her.

She was very much engaged with her brother's work, she explains, but mainly the logistics of getting film to him and developed, getting invoices sent out and bills paid. She had little time to appreciation the work. It was her husband who spent time looking at the work.

The middle section of the book is devoted to McCurry's portraits and a spread four-pages wide opens up with four you won't easily forget.

Or you may know McCurry from the war reporting that won him the Robert Capra award for his work in rebel-controlled Afghanistan producing the first images shown from that conflict. Or the Gulf War or Sept. 11.

And you may even know he has won four first prizes in the World Press Photo contest along with the Olivier Rebbot Award twice.

But you won't know him like his sister. Until you read this book.

Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures by Bonnie McCurry, published by Laurence King Publishing, 392 pages, $70 (or $43.40 at

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