Steve McCurry is one of the most prolific photographers alive today. His photograph for National Geographic’s June 1985 cover of Sharbat Gula (also know as the “Afghan Girl”) is one of the most recognizable portraits in history, and his imagery has graced NatGeo’s pages many, many times since.
McCurry has repeatedly proven himself an absolute master of the portrait. His street portraiture, especially, carries tremendous impact. He has an uncanny ability to capture his subjects’ essence, distilling it in a split-second into an image that can range from haunting to exciting and everything in-between.
Now, McCurry has taken 200 of his best portraits and rolled them into an iPad app. Along with a 20+ minute introductory video, the app shows his portraits, where they were taken, and a caption with some details.
Based on that description, you might be thinking, “What, no backstory? No technique tips? No metadata for the images?”
Well, no. And thank goodness for it.
First, many were taken with film cameras, so adding metadata would be out of the question. Moreover, the caption is all the backstory these images need; they speak reams and volumes on their own.
The simplicity and elegance of the app is actually kinda impressive. In the current marketplace, where photographers are gravitating towards apps in an increasing fashion – McCurry isn’t the first NatGeo photographer to release a portfolio on the iPad – basic things like user experience and sensible interface design often get left by the wayside. So to see a well-designed app like this one is a true pleasure.
That’s not to say that the app is a glorified photo album, however. There are some neat little things to be found as you explore it. One of these things is the map layout, which highlights where the 200 images originated.
There’s also a nice “bulletin board”-style page in the “Bio” section of the app that presents McCurry’s biography in an interactive – and interesting – way. It’s pretty cool to see things like his Afghan driver’s license, or a fax coversheet sent to an editor from Burma; it’s a paper trail documenting the travels and travails of a photographer, and it’s documentation that brings those journeys and all their attendant baggage into pretty stark relief.
Ultimately, however, it’s the images that speak loudest of all, and in that area, there’s no doubt that McCurry delivers on those in spades. This is among the most nakedly powerful portraiture I’ve had the privilege of seeing, and you’ll be hard-pressed to feel otherwise.
PORTRAITS by Steve McCurry is on sale now on the iOS App Store for $3.99.