Steve’s Oriental Curry

Long before the term was invented Indians got to see “pink slime”. That’s because in India, McCurry preceded Mcburger.

Steve had beaten McDonald’s to it by at least a decade and a half.

It so happens that I have come across his latest offering (INDIA: Steve McCurry) thrice in the drawing rooms of three friends recently, and can’t help releasing a long-suppressed sigh.

Intent to turn the world into his design studio, the 1950-born, world-renowned freelance photojournalist, a Doctor of Humane Letters, Hasselblad Master, Robert Capa Gold Medalist, Leica Hall of Famer, Member of Magnum Photos, says:

I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.

That would beat Rumi, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Dostoyevsky, Balzac, Tolstoy, Kafka, Tagore, Neruda all put together. This sort of courageous self-definition and confident vision could only belong to a copy-writing aesthete for the McDonald’s establishment describing its pink miracle or an American photographer with biblical powers.

His work is a demonstration of how to rescue inauthentic from the jaws of reality. How to make ‘spontaneous’ look orchestrated and vice versa – an art where so many rights are turned into one big wrong. He has mastered the skill to turn all conversation into a monologue, and then ignore one’s own voice, remove irresolution, and erase all personal music in the service of his war-like ‘humanism’ … and oriental ride. His one touch is enough to turn a photograph into an anti-photograph.

The theatre in his pictures is ridiculous, his choreography disgusting. To me it always looked like, at best, assisted brilliance, and, at worst, staged journalism.

William Dalrymple calls it ‘a testament to a long-standing love of India’. Well… on him, later.

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Asad Zaidi Written by:

Asad Zaidi, born in Karauli (Rajasthan), has lived in Delhi for the last 35 years. He has three books of poems: Behnen aur anya kavitaen (1980 & 2008), Kavita ka jivan (1988), and Saman ki talash (2008) and has edited a number of collections including Das Baras: Hindi kavita Ayodhya ke bad (2003). His interests extend to education, literary criticism and occasional social commentary. He is the founder of Three Essays Collective, an independent publishing house.

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