Photojournalist Steve McCurry’s Advice: “Don’t Forget to Say Hello”

Renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, the man behind “Afghan Girl“, offers this piece of advice regarding photographing people in public: “don’t forget to say hello”. It’s part of one-minute masterclass series by Phaidon Press.

(via Eric Kim)

  • Dave Land

    So wise. Treat your subjects as people, first. “Hi, I’m a person. You’re a person. I would like other people to get to see you. May I take your picture?”

  • patrick

    Eric Kim would disagree:

  • Jrl

    Really? I heard that this gentleman was not very polite to his assistants and people around him (to say the least…)

  • rollingblue

    Well, that’s one approach – for a portrait photographer. But you can’t get a real candid that way. If you’re a street photographer -and I’ve heard this from other Magnum photographers too – you have to be a little stealthy and somewhat aggressive.  

  • Ethan Frank

    There are situations that allow for this approach, sure. There are other situations, ones that I would call ‘candid’, where, if you have time, a little nod or a smile will do wonders to positively affect how you’re perceived both as a photographer and a human being by your subjects. Sure, Gilden and the like get some fantastic shots, but I for one prefer not being regarded as an ass by those I photograph. That’s not to detract from Gilden’s methods, it’s just not something I’m comfortable with.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    This advice is so poisonous. I don’t agree with what he says AT ALL.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    I think so many people confuse being a likeable person with being a good photographer. If you’re concerned with being a likeable person, go join some self-development group or something.

  • Guest

    If you’re going to take candid photos at a close distance, the VERY LEAST you could do is go up to the person and inform them that you took the photo.. Or, I don’t know.. Smile at them? Acknowledge them in some manner?
    I was walking in SF one weekend, and some idiot with some entry-level DSLR around his neck was walking in the opposite direction towards me. When he got up to like 4 feet away from me, he started taking a ton of photos obviously pointed at me–while still walking. I was too shocked to do anything, and continued walking. Douchebag probably has some tumblr devoted to his “street photography” ‘works of art’.It’s incredibly discomforting, and not the least bit flattering. Some acknowledgement of some kind would have made the situation a little bit better. Or better yet, made minimal conversation and say “I’m sorry, I hope you don’t mind, I just saw a good photo op and didn’t want to miss it”. It’s really not that hard.I think it’s especially horrible when people indiscreetly take photos of homeless people a foot away from their face, like they’re interesting scenery or vegetation. Or, you know, when some rubbernecker buzzes around an injured person being strapped to an ambulance, to get a ‘cool picture’ (which I actually have seen before).

    Is it so hard to be civil?

  • Through Painted Eyes

    Moron. Why in the hell should someone apologize for taking a photo on a public street? It’s also incredible that you are able to judge someone’s photographs based on the fact that they had an entry level DSLR.

  • Guest

    You’re being ridiculous. It’s a little thing called social tact. But in your eyes, buzzing around a young woman being wheeled away in an ambulance after feinting is fine because it’s on a public street. And sticking your obnoxious camera in the face of a homeless guy for a “hey cool, I can capture his misery!” photo, that’s totally fine because they live on public streets.

    Somehow, I have no right to be annoyed when literally someone shoves their camera in my face and takes like 30 photos, but doesn’t acknowledge me? But hey, anything on a public street is fair game. I just can’t grasp how you think it wouldn’t be annoying–but I guess that’s the sort of photographer you are, given how opinionated you are about something you didn’t witness.

    Stop being so heinous and attacking me for things I didn’t write. It was an entry level camera–but stating such automatically means I judge the worth of a photograph by its camera? Really now. I was judging the asshole by being an asshole.

  • Guest

    Oh wait.. That IS the sort of photographer you are, no wonder you were so sensitive about it. I would hate to have a picture of me doing god knows what, taken without my awareness or consent, and published. But all in the name of your own photography, I suppose.

  • Guest

    I feel like he doesn’t necessarily disagree, because he’s treating his subjects like people. you know, acknowledging them with even just a “hello”. 
    Different from a “going to stand two foot away from this old woman, take a photo without her knowledge, walk away as if it never happened, then upload it onto my series of amazing candids”.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    You still don’t get it. Why can’t you separate the two? You have the right to be annoyed. The photographer can have no tact. The photos can be amazing. All of these things can co-exist. And wow, you put a lot of effort into online replies that don’t really matter.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    “buzzing around a young woman being wheeled away in an ambulance after feinting is fine because it’s on a public street.”

    PS, I also laughed at this. No idea where you came up with that one.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    you got it right! ;)

  • John

    Does steve ever even interact with his subjects? I have a feeling he only speaks english and is just gifted with a very talented translator. if you are ever interested in volunteering as an intern, just check craigslist, anyone can apply! Clerical work and errand running for the master.