Steve McCurry: It’s important to photograph things that have meaning”

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“Raghu Rai was a Magnum photographer, and Raghubir Singh worked with Life magazine and was friends with international photographers. In Allahabad, I was watching these Indian photographers work and I didn’t see anything different than anybody else, even though this is basically their culture.

“Whatever nationality you are, you see the world in your own way with your own cultural background. The world is starting to look like one big airport — all this aluminium and steel, it all starts to look the same. The way traditional cultures dress, their architecture, the food, the music. These are wonderful things that needs to be documented and remembered. It would be a pity to lose that history, that heritage.”

One particular photo of McCurry’s is remembered across the world: Afghan Girl. This month marks 30 years since it graced the cover of National Geographic. “These kinds of pictures, you can’t force it, it’s like a gift, you just have to accept it,” he says. His pictures of Afghanistan and India have cemented his reputation, and he continues to revisit them to mine new insights.

“When you’re interested in a particular region, you get to know the people, you get taken in by the story and it becomes important to you. The situation is always fluid; it’s an ongoing drama. You want to go back and see what the next chapter looks like.”