All is not lost for anyone who might have missed the exhibition by the renowned American photographer at the gallery of Chris Beetles Fine Photographs in London. The exhibition has been extended until 15 October.
A Magnum photographer since 1986, Steve McCurry has made his reputation with images from Afghanistan from before the Russian invasion, Burma, Sri Lanka, Beirut, Cambodia, the Phillipines, the former Yugoslavia and the Gulf War.
McCurry is, perhaps, best known for his striking image of the Afghan refugee girl, Sharbat Gula. Against a green background, the girl’s green eyes stare out, her head shrouded in a tattered red robe through which fragments of green clothing can be seen. It’s a powerful but understated image of someone in a troubled land who has known hardship.
Look around this exhibition of around 40 images from the centre of the gallery and McCurry’s palette of vibrant reds, greens and blues leaps out from almost every one of his images. His street scenes are richly-coloured, with bright red and green headgear, vibrant oranges in the trunk of a car, blue walls, faces covered in red powders and red hand prints; red jackets punctuate the grim brown smoke clouds of the 9/11 image and red prayer flags stand out from the snow. Everywhere in these images are bright costumes, sails on boats, the walls of brick and plaster buildings. The colours are rich, saturated and immensley powerful.
Yet, in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, McCurry says, “Most of the time I’m not looking for colour pictures...Colour is secondary...colour alone...does not make a good picture. For McCurry, a powerful image is one that “reveals a deeper truth”.
However, McCurry is, in the true sense of the word, a colourist. It is not, as he says, that he searches out colours. He simply seems to have absorbed the colours of the lands in which he has extensively travelled and they permeate his images, but only as one of a series of compositional elements which help him to say something about his subjects. The key is in his comment: “As I reflect back, I see that the vibrant colours of Asia had a big role in teaching me to write in light”. Colours in McCurry’s hands become an organising principle, around which other elements fall into place.
This exhibition is an opportunity to see the work of one of the world’s finest image-makers and is well worth the trip.
Chris Beetles Fine Photographs
3-5 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DE