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

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McCurry’s approach was profoundly influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, their paths overlapping at Magnum Photos.

“We were all influenced by people like Henri and [André] Kertész, who really blazed a trail in street photography, walking around just capturing moments,” he says. “That’s a major component of my photography which formed the basis before we went off and photographed in our own way. Henri was always genuinely complimentary, but if he didn’t like something he didn’t spare you. I guess I wasn’t looking so much for advice as just approval — to have somebody I knew had a great eye look at my work and comment. That was really what was important to me.”

Of course, now McCurry is the one whom unseasoned young photographers look to for honest counsel.

You really have to look at it as a marathon,” he says of a career as a photographer. “It takes you a while to understand the craft and hone your eye. There’s a tendency in the beginning for an artist to copy or borrow from one of the masters, and as time goes on you get your own voice.

“It’s important to photograph things that have meaning. You want to photograph things you care about and enrich your life, rather than just trying to please the client or make a living. Go to places you think are interesting, even if you didn’t have your camera. It’s more about the pictures, not the assignment.”

stevemccurry.com

From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail by Steve McCurry £39.95 / €49.95, Phaidon 2015