Steve McCurry Retrospective in Berlin | Asia – A Life in Pictures

© Steve McCurry. Girl with green shawl, Pakistan.

The Steve McCurry retrospective Asia – A Life in Pictures presents 130 sublime portraits, landscapes and street photography of the people and cultures of Asia.
Rich, vibrant colours, arresting portraits and fascinating daily scenes are his trademark. Magnum photographer Steve McCurry has travelled the world for more than 30 years, documenting conflicts, poverty, and disappearing cultures, as well as joy and contemporary culture ‐ yet always retains a human element. His subjective compositions are of painterly beauty, his portraits full of dignity and grace. His most famous work is the portrait ‘Afghan Girl’, which he took in 1984 during the Afghan War.

Starting on October 6th, 2016, 130 of his most remarkable works, which were shot between 1979 and 2013 in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Kashmir, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Vietnam as well as the Philippines and Yemen, will be exhibited in the atrium of Berlin’s Palazzo Italia.


in Berlin


A retrospective exhibiting 130 selected works of a remarkable photographer


Special Invitee

Berlin Foto Biennale 2016

4th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography


 6 – 30 October 2016

On October 6, 2016 the first Berlin Foto Biennale – and 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography – opens its doors at the elegant Palazzo Italia. Alongside the comprehensive exhibition Emotions and Commotions Across Cultures the Biennial also contains a retrospective with 130 selected works by Steve McCurry. With his first solo exhibition in Berlin titled Asia – A Life in Pictures (‘Asien – Ein Leben in Bildern’) McCurry forms part of the Biennial as special invitee.
logo-magnum-jpgCurated by Magnum Photos and Steve McCurry himself, this retrospective invites visitors to discover the very best of the extensive and diverse body of work of one of the most important visual storytellers of the Far East and Asian cultures. Titled “Asia – A Life in Pictures”, the exhibition presents 130 of Steve McCurry’s emotive and beautiful photographs taken in Asia between 1979 and 2013. The iconic Magnum photographer takes visitors along a supremely colourful journey to some of the poorest and most crisis-torn countries in the world. Starting with the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, where he took one of the most famous colour photos in history – ‘Afghan Girl’ – in 1984, we follow the photographer to discover the lives of the nomads of Tibet, the stilt fisherman of Sri Lanka and the Buddhist monks he encountered during his most recent trip to India – a country he has visited countless times.

© Steve McCurry, Magnum Photos. Stilt Fishermen, Sri Lanka, 1995

© Steve McCurry, Magnum Photos. Stilt Fishermen, Sri Lanka, 1995

For McCurry, who says that the vibrant colours of Asia “had taught him to see and write in light”, his work was always about creating timeless documents of poverty and suffering but also of hope, joy and beauty, and about depicting the flow of time. Playing with the palettes of different cultures, McCurry evokes a wide range of emotions in the viewer. In Cambodia luminous orange monk robes light up the dawn. In Afghanistan oranges radiate in flourishing colours out of the desolate ruins of a decades-long war.

“McCurry’s images take the viewer by the hand and touch his soul at the same time”, said the American arts critic Anthony Bannon so accurately about the excellently composed, colour-indulgent photographs that have the power to transcend boundaries of language and culture and to blur the line between the strange and the familiar.

© Steve McCurry, Magnum Photos. HOLI MAN, INDIA, 1996.

© Steve McCurry, Magnum Photos. HOLI MAN, INDIA, 1996.

Some of his photographs depict the wounds of a war, others disappearing cultures and traditions or the consequences of globalization. Fathoming the facets of the human condition, he does so by putting the dignity of his subjects first. McCurry is searching and finding encounters at eye-level and so the visitor’s eyes meet a gaze that is open, sometimes intense and other times curiously inquisitive.

With a single photograph McCurry captures, it seems, the story of a whole life: There is the young Buddhist monk with a Coca-Cola in his hand, the bright red brand name flaunted above him. There is the young boy posing with father’s AK-47, still taller than him, and the child soldier posing armed to his teeth with a mixed expression of pride and doubt. There are the stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka, floating seated in the air and the Indian tailor caught up to his neck in the monsoon floodwater, smiling as he is carries his vintage Pfaff sewing machine.

And thus Steve McCurry’s photographs are never mere portraits or reportage pictures, but epitomize archetypes that are strange and familiar at the same time. From behind his lens he brings the icons of humanity and of everyday life from the collective subconscious into the light. This retrospective therefore not only gives a comprehensive overview of Steve McCurry’s powerfully colourful compositions but is also an ode to the universal depth of human emotions.

Author: Kristina Thomas
This retrospective is a collection of sublime portraits, landscapes, and street photography taken by Steve McCurry over 34 years. Children and shepherds, warriors and labourers are presented alongside striking views of sandstone cities, mountainous landscapes, and ancient temples. Included in the exhibition are several unpublished images as well as images taken during his most recent trips to India and Tibet that have never before been seen. Evocative and timeless, these lyrical images capture the enduring spirit, grandeur, and beauty of the land and people.

- Magnum Photos


Steve McCurry was born in 1950 in Philadelphia, USA. In 1974 he graduated from the Pennsylvania State University. In 1979, 29-year-old McCurry was one of the first photographers to report from the Afghan conflict. He is a member of Magnum Photos since 1986. McCurry has been awarded numerous times. His photo reportages have appeared in TIME Magazine, the New York Times and National Geographic. He has been selected as Photographer of the Year several times and since 2006 he has been an honorary member of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.

 You can download the full press release here.

Find all press releases about the Berlin Foto Biennale 2016 and Steve McCurry’s retrospective ‘Asia – A Life in Pictures’ here.