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Steve McCurry

“Hasselblad is the best medium-format camera in the world.”
Steve McCurry, Photographer

Beggar Girl, Bombay, India 1993 ©Steve McCurry

Girl with Green Shawl, Peshawar, Pakistan, 2002 ©Steve McCurry

Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India 1983 ©Steve McCurry

Hasselblad Captures the Big Picture
H3DII-39’s Unparalleled Image Clarity, Super-sized Files, Ease of Use

Steve McCurry (www.stevemccurry.com) is a master image-maker renowned for capturing the human consequences of war and civil conflict in color-soaked portraits and photojournalistic scenes. His award-winning portraiture showing war's impact on the human face has appeared in most major magazines worldwide. McCurry has published many books, including In the Shadows of Mountains, Looking East, Steve McCurry, The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage, Sanctuary, South Southeast, Portraits, Monsoon, and The Imperial Way. Between assignments, he conducts international workshops and prepares large prints for his exhibitions around the world. McCurry photographed with film for over 30 years, but today he takes his Hasselblad H3DII-39 and his Nikon D3s on assignments. His 800,000 slides keep his Flextight 848 scanner busy.

For the thirty years I’ve been a photographer, I have always shot with Nikon and always will, but late last year I began to also use the 39-megapixel H3DII in specific situations. The learning curve is virtually nonexistent. I was able to use it on an assignment in India in March-April and in Finland in June. It’s an amazing camera. The clarity and quality are superb.  

The H3DII takes your photos to another level. The camera is versatile, and less cumbersome than I had anticipated, and the fact that the camera and the back are integrated and manufactured by the same company adds another level of value. 

This camera captures a lot of information, so we can capture Kodachrome-type colors and the rendering is beautiful.  Ironically, since getting the H3DII, we have been working almost exclusively in black & white on a worldwide project for a multi-national company. The large file size means the information is much, much better, as are the transitions between the tonalities of the gray scale, so the images are much better. With the H3DII, the images have much more information and much less noise. 

For exhibitions, I was used to making prints up to 30”x40” from my DSLR files. With the H3DII-39, we output prints 40”x60” and even larger. The clarity and quality are wonderful. We output most exhibition prints in our studio on the Epson 44-inch Stylus Pro 9880 on Epson’s Premium Luster Paper.  

For me, the joy of photography and where I want to spend my time, is the experience of being in the field. Exploring the world, experiencing places and people, and photographing them, is what’s important.

I have a range of assignments and need a camera that’s versatile, portable, and capable of virtuosity.  I do lot of work for National Geographic, and have several premier corporate clients I work with on annual reports and advertising assignments. I have worked in Italy for Lavazza, an Italian coffee company; I’ve done annual report work for  FedEx, and Boeing; and ad campaigns for Toyota, Barclay’s Bank, and HSBC. 

My main body of work is from Asia. Many previously unpublished images will be in my next book, scheduled for publication by Phaidon in the spring. 

Over the years, I’ve shot most of my film images with Kodachrome. My studio has used the Hasselblad Flextight 848 scanner to scan and backup my 800,000 transparencies. After the images are scanned, we archive them and post them to our online database. My work is distributed by Magnum Photos.

Worldwide Workshops
Every year for the past 10 years, I’ve conducted photography workshops all over the world—Burma, India, Tibet, Morocco, Tahiti. I organize them personally. We have a two-week workshop coming up in March 2009 in India. I’ll be taking my H3DII and Nikon D3s. 

The people who come to our workshops have a passion for photography and want to take their work to another level. We show them how I would approach a place or subject, so they can learn to develop their own approach. We go over the principles of how you work in this or that light, and work with shapes and forms, etc. It’s about discovering what is unique about a place and how to get a sense of the place in pictures. Everybody has a different idea of what an interesting picture looks like, but I think we know an interesting picture when we see it.  

Some people don't really understand the level of commitment that's required at the workshops. We go out and shoot in the morning, have lunch, shoot after lunch, and keep shooting until it gets dark. Once they’re actually there on the ground working with the people, things start to make sense and the message starts to emerge.

Each day, we put together a slide show and look at everybody’s work together on our laptops, talk about what’s good, how it could have been done better, and so on. When we look at the pictures, hopefully, we’ll be amazed and moved. Emotion. That’s what it’s about.

Text: Alice B. Miller