Born in Philadelphia, McCurry graduated from the Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture with a B.A. cum laude in cinematography and history. After working for a newspaper for two years, he left for India to freelance. It was in India that McCurry learned to watch and wait on life. If you wait, he realized, people would forget your camera and the soul would drift up into view.
His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian Invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes - images which would be published around the world as among the first to show the conflict there. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise.
Since then, McCurry has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Characteristically, though, he does not describe himself as a war photographer. Rather, he focuses on human reality of war, showing what it impresses on a landscape and, more importantly, the human face.
His awards are numerous and include Magazine Photographer of the Year, awarded in 1984 by the National Press Photographers Association. This was the same year in which he won an unprecedented four first prizes in the World Press Photo Contest. His most recent award was in 1998 when he was named Life Magazine's World Photo Winner.
McCurry has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. He does not describe himself as a war photographer. Rather, his focus is on the human consequences of war.
McCurry has had his share of close calls. Arrested and chained in Pakistan, nearly drowned in a plane crash in Slovenia, beaten up and nearly drowned in India by zealous crowds at a religious, and nearly killed by a mujahadeen faction, he has been reported killed twice.
Winner of most of photojournalism's highest awards. Including twice receiving the Olivier Rebbot Memorial Award, McCurry has published three books: The Imperial Way (1985), Monsoon(1988), and Portraits (1999). His next book will be published in the spring of 2000.
Recently, McCurry has covered Bombay, Burma, Sri Lanka and India's fiftieth anniversary of its independence, Yemen, Cambodia, and most recently, the conflict in Kashmir."Most of my photos are grounded in people," he says," and I try to convey what it is like to be that person - a person caught in a broader landscape that I guess you'd call the human condition."