Photographer Steve McCurry on Shooting Documentary Portraiture

Here’s an interesting video in which renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry shares some thoughts on documentary portraiture. Titled Close Up: Photographers at Work, the video takes us behind-the-scenes with McCurry as he shoots some candid portraits on the street and then reviews some of his most prized shots captured over the course of his career. (There’s a brief glimpse of the original film slides of his iconic Afghan Girl photo.)

McCurry says that his goal is to capture a truthful portrait of humanity:

I think people, when you first encounter them, they try and put on a particular mask. I don’t want people to try and look a certain way. I want them to be complete natural and just themselves, without grinning, or smiling, or putting on some kind of silly expression [...]

There’s this commonality of humanity, which comes through. Although they look different — they may be a nomad living in a tent — fundamentally they’re just the same as you or I.

We noticed that McCurry has an interesting way of holding his DSLR: he has handle mounted to the bottom, and often presses the shutter with his left hand when shooting in landscape orientation:

If you want to see a gallery of some of McCurry’s best work, CNN has just published a gorgeous slideshow featuring his images, titled Curiosity inspires iconic photographer.

Update: It appears that McCurry’s method of holding cameras is due to necessity rather than choice. Also, we just discovered that this video had already been featured once here before. Apologies!

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  • Mimyofoto

    the colours in those shots on CNN just POP! All stunning images

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I noted McCurry’s unique way of holding his camera a while back when people were going nuts over the Justin Bieber photographer and the way he holds his camera – there is not “right” way to hold a camera – whatever works.

  • mh

    He holds the camera that way because he does not have full use of his right hand; it’s less of a choice than a necessity.

  • 9inchnail

    Ah, okay. I was wondering myself why he was holding the camera this way. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Matthew Rogan

    Is that Albert Maysles at 2:03?

  • monteraz

    Curry FTW. I like that of using an “””old””” D3, while there are some amateur photogs who never would use such an obsolete camera (ironic again). Is that a 50 mm 1,4 or what else?

  • Scott Hutchison

    Is there any more to that Doc or is that it?

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for that :)

  • Vlad Dusil

    35mm f/2.0 D lens. An obsolete, cheap prime. Sharpness masturbators are outraged!

    Gear doesn’t matter to the greats.

  • Michael Zhang

    Oh shoot. You’re right… Sorry guys

  • lucas

    It would be funny if he said he shoots in jpeg. Then we would have a shitstorm.

  • Steve Stevenson

    Wonder if Chris Weeks has watched this, since only a Leica can be used for this kind of photography.

  • Vlad Dusil

    Judging by the small LCD on the back of the D3, he shoots RAW+JPG.

  • JosephRT

    I watched it when you guys had it in a post a while back, but no worries, a refresher didn’t hurt. McCurry is one of my favs