Banner outside the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia : A COMMON FAITH/Steve McCurry's Travels through the Muslim World
I've heard of Steve McCurry and his fame as a photojournalist. We recognise the photo he gave the world - that of the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula. So when I found out that there's an exhibition at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM), titled A COMMON FAITH/ Steve McCurry's Travels through the Muslim World, I gladly wanted to find out more.
In Gallery 1 on the ground floor of the IAMM, Steve's travels through the many countries in the Islamic world unfolded before my eyes.
Steve McCurry has won many accolades worldwide for his fine photography. On the brochure is a brief introduction to the man behind the evocative images.
'Steve McCurry, recognised universally as one of the today's finest image makers, has won many of photography's top awards. Best known for his evocative colour photography, McCurry captures the human struggle and joy. He has searched for and found the unforgettable, many of his images have become modern icons...'
Brochure showing some of Steve McCurry's photos : from the top left hand corner: Agra, India, 1963/ Lal Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1996/ Uttar Pradesh, India,1999/ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1992/ Shibam, Wadi Hadhramaut, Yemen,1999/ Karachi, Pakistan,1985/ Srinagar, Kashmir,1996/ Mauretania,1986.
The photos on display show images from Indonesia, Mauretania, Mali, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Steve's interests lie in people. Images show the human face living a life in their difficult situations.
In war-torn Afghanistan, there are varied scenes of life - children playing on abandoned anti - aircraft . Where else can they play ? To climb and amuse themselves ? A photo also shows a man selling jackets titled Jacket Seller - Kabul 2002. I counted - 12 jackets on his own shoulders to sell. Young Soldier -Kabul 1993 shows the world a young man all armoured and ready to fight his enemies - children like him made to fight in wars. As with all wars, the silence of the many, many graves speak as in Snow covered cemetery - Kabul 1992.
When I returned from the exhibition, I googled Steve McCurry. I learned more about him and how his adventurous spirit took him to India. In 1979, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel - controlled Afghanistan. There he met some Afghan refugees in the small village of Chitral, N. Pakistan. They wanted him to tell the world the atrocities. McCurry moved among them in native garb and smuggled out rolls of films sewn in his clothes. It was then that news broke for the world to see and hear the conflict there. In 1980, McCurry won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers showing exceptional courage and performance.
To find out more about Steve McCurry, please visit his blog. Here he shares his views on why the US have not learned their lesson. In his words , '... That tells me that many do not understand the country, the history, the people, the terrain, the language , the religion, the culture.'
I soon came to the photo of Sharbat Gula , the Afghan girl with the sea-green eyes that stared hauntingly from the cover of National Geographic, June 1985. It's interesting to know that Steve McCurry and the crew from National Geographic Television and Film went to Pakistan and finally found her in January 2002 after some searching around Nasir Bagh, the refugee camp where the photograph was taken. Though 17 years had passed, without a shadow of doubt, Steve McCurry recognised her.The world got to see Sharbat Gula , about 30 years old, now a woman with a family. Also, the world got to know much more about Sharbat Gula and her life. She is no more a face that intrigued - we now know her name. Later high tech iris and facial recognition tests confirmed the same person.
The exhibition is on till 8 April. I'm glad as it will give many the chance to view Steve McCurry's world renowned work and his lifelong passion in depicting humanity. So hurry there...
'If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.'- Steve McCurry
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Jalan Lembah Perdana
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2274 2020Fax: +603 2274 0529