Steve McCurry's photographs reveal the beauty of India while highlighting the extraordinary contradictions
Man with many bells at Kamakhya Temple. Guwahati, Assam, 20011/4photos
Crowd carries a man during the Holi festival. Rajasthan, 19962/4photos
Bicycles hang on the side of a train. West Bengal, 19833/4photos
Reflections of the Taj Mahal. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, 19994/4photos
Steve McCurry has been coming to India for more than thirty years, knows it intimately, understands its charms, and has seen it change. These magnificent photographs, some justly famous, many new and revelatory, reveal the beauty of the country and highlight its extraordinary contradictions. Perhaps most stark among the extremes McCurry illustrates are those between India’s rich and poor. We see the landowner with his hunting trophies pinned to the wall, and we see the beggar dying beside the railway tracks, invisible to the passengers on the train; we see the soaked beggar children fingering desperately at the windows of the taxi; we see the Bombay elite, coiffed and laundered, with their fleets of vintage cars and uniformed chauffeurs, and we see the Mumbai slumdogs in their tin-roofed shacks and stinking wastelands.
McCurry is also alive to another of India’s most paradoxical contradictions: that this graspingly materialistic country, the middle class of which is obsessed with brands and Bollywood and ostentatious extravagance in all its forms, is also one of the most spiritual countries on earth. For all the silliness and vulgarity that McCurry photographs in modern urban India, he never forgets that India is still a profoundly sacred land...
McCurry has made many of these holy treks himself, and the rich tapestry of India’s different faiths is one of the enduring themes of his work.
From William Dalrymple’s introduction to Steve McCurry’s India (published by Phaidon/ Roli Books, 2015).
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