McCurry has witnessed photography morph and evolve in front of his eyes. Surrounded by searing images from the Vietnam War from the likes of Nick Út and Eddie Adams, McCurry grew up in the era where magazines such as Time and Life reigned supreme. With the medium now digitised and democratised, is the role of credentialed photographers like McCurry diminished?
He’s skeptical. “If every Afghan has Instagram and takes pictures, that’s a good thing,” he says. “But just because people use Instagram and take cellphone pictures, it doesn’t mean the pictures are meaningful, anymore than a text someone sends a friend is great literature. Is it something that’s going to remain? Is it going to inspire us? The phones we’re using take excellent pictures, as good as some of the great cameras of the past. Somebody could say ‘I’m gonna go out and do a photographic project’, but [most] people don’t have the discipline, skill or inclination to do that.”
McCurry’s new book, From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail, a collection of photographs of coffee-growing communities around the world, is one such example.
“I started doing some documenting coffee farmers for a project with Lavazza Coffee, photographing how these people lived, who were they, what do they look like, going to their homes,” he says.
“I realised this could possibly be a book, then I started to go back and on my own time and on my own expense started to complete what I thought was an interesting body of work. Some of these areas — Burma, India, Honduras, Indonesia — I’ve been travelling to for 30 years, so I had kind of a pretty large archive of pictures from these regions.”