At the January 14, 2016 meeting of the Thursday Rotary Club of Hickory, Thursday Rotary Club of Hickory Rotarian and Hickory Museum of Art Executive Director Lisë Swensson shared “behind the scenes” experiences of the exhibition “Unexpected Beauty: Views from the Lens of Steve McCurry”, as well as last weekend’s “Evening with Steve McCurry” featuring a reception, a conversation with McCurry and WHKY’s First Talk Host Hal Row in the SALT Block Auditorium, and a Barnes & Noble-sponsored book signing in HMA’s Coe Gallery. Presented by Catawba Valley Camera Club and the Museum, this exciting exhibit features the works of award-winning photojournalist Steve McCurry. The 69 photographic images span McCurry’s extensive career. They are installed in the Museum’s first floor Entrance and second floor Coe galleries and may be viewed at no charge through May 8, 2016.
This project was sponsored by Shurtape Technologies and the United Arts Council of Catawba County supported by a Projects Pool grant 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. Individuals from the Catawba Valley have also contributed to this multi-faceted project through their sponsorship of individual photographs in the exhibition.
Additional contributions have been generated through the “Fund-a-Bus” initiative created by HMA’s Guild Education Work Group to pay for school buses to transport children to the Museum so they can interact with and learn from the McCurry exhibition, especially as complements to units of study in cultures, geography, political sciences and languages arts. The Hickory International Council also assisted with educational and program support and WFAE Radio was the Media Sponsor.
Steve McCurry’s stunning images tell both the beautiful and the tragic stories of cultures and conflicts around the world. They include McCurry’s most recognizable photograph of a young girl named Sharbat Gula. Taken in December, 1984, in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, and featured on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue, the “Afghan Girl” established McCurry as a force in international journalism.
McCurry has been one of the most iconic figures in contemporary photography for more than 30 years. Born in Philadelphia, PA, he studied cinematography at Pennsylvania State University, before going to work for a newspaper. After two years, the young man 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. After several months of travel McCurry 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. His images were among the first to show the world the brutality of the Russian invasion. Since then, Steve McCurry has been recognized with numerous awards including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and an unprecedented four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest. He has created unforgettable images over six continents and numerous countries. His body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike – yet, always retaining the human element that made his celebrated image of the “Afghan Girl” so memorable.