Unexpected Beauty: Views from the Lens of Steve McCurry

AfghanGirl © Steve McCurry

The photographic exhibit Unexpected Beauty: Views from the Lens of Steve McCurry opens Saturday, Sept. 12 at Hickory Museum of Art, 243 Third Ave. N.E., Hickory. Presented by Catawba Valley Camera Club and Hickory Museum of Art, this exciting exhibit features the works of award-winning photojournalist Steve McCurry, whose stunning, colorful images tell the beautiful and tragic stories of cultures and conflicts around the world.

Fishermen © Steve McCurryThe exhibition includes one of McCurry’s most recognizable photographs – that of a young girl named Sharbat Gula – taken in December, 1984, in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. Featured on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue, Afghan Girl established McCurry as a force in international journalism.

“Afghan Girl is the Mona Lisa of our time, and Steve McCurry, our da Vinci,” said Mitzi Gellman, Catawba Valley Camera Club member. “Extending far beyond this one photo, his body of work captures the spirit of individuals in faraway lands and reveals to all common bonds of humanity.”

ProcessionofNuns © Steve McCurryUnexpected Beauty: Views from the Lens of Steve McCurry includes a total of 69 photographic images, spanning McCurry’s extensive career. Visitors can view exhibit images in the museum’s Coe, Entrance and Windows galleries through May 8, 2016.

“Since the Catawba Valley Camera Club’s creation in 1947, our members have been searching for great images,” added Dennis Hacker, Catawba Valley Camera Club past president. “This project allows us to partner with the Hickory Museum of Art and bring some of the best photographs of our time to the community and visitors to the region.”

McCurry has been one of the most iconic figures in contemporary photography for more than 30 years. Born in Philadelphia, PA, McCurry studied cinematography at Pennsylvania State University, before going to work for a newspaper. After two years, McCurry made his first of what would become many trips to India. Traveling with little more than a bag of clothes and film, he made his way across the subcontinent, exploring the country with his camera.

SteveMcCurry © Bruno BarbeyIt was after several months of travel that he crossed the border into Pakistan. In a small village he met a group of refugees from Afghanistan, who smuggled him across the border into their country, just as the Russian invasion was closing the country to Western journalists. Emerging in traditional dress, with full beard and weather-worn features after months embedded with the Mujahideen, McCurry made his way over the Pakistan border with his film sewn into his clothes. McCurry’s images were among the first to show the world the brutality of the Russian invasion.

Since then, McCurry has gone on to create unforgettable images over six continents and numerous countries. His body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike – yet always retains the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl such a powerful image.

He has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and an unprecedented four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest amongst dozens of others.

Unexpected Beauty: Views From the Lens of Steve McCurry is sponsored by United Arts Council of Catawba County, Shurtape Technologies and individuals in the Catawba Valley. This project was supported by a Projects Pool grant from the United Arts Council of Catawba County through the North Carolina Arts Council, with funding from the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

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