Something I'm going to try to be better about on the blog this year is writing about some of the photography books that inspire me. I love flipping through the pages of good monographs and I want to share some of the ones that I find draw inspiration from in my collection. This time I thought I'd talk about a neat little book by Steve McCurry called Portraits. While it's a smallish book, it is quite thick and packed with nothing but full page portraits and spreads. I'm betting a lot of people who don't recognize the name Steve McCurry will certainly recognize his iconic Afghan Girl photo on the cover.
While Steve is known for his photojournalism work, he's also quite an accomplished portrait photographer. Most of the photos in this book aren't photojournalistic per se, rather they appear to be posed shots of interesting people that he encountered in his travels. The reason this book is so inspiring to me is that the images cover decades and were taken across continents, countries, and cultures. Yet, there is a consistency to Steve's portraits. A lot of the look in many of these images comes from that wonderful Kodachrome film that he liked to use. The lighting is usually natural, taken in shade, maybe some fill here and there with a small flash - nothing fancy. As a photojournalist he wasn't running around with a studio strobe and soft box. The eyes are what are so amazing in his portraits to me. His lens seems to look deep into people and invites the viewer to linger. You want to meet his subjects.
Portraits is certainly a great book for anyone who photographs people. Even if you don't, it's a great example of how a photographer produces a unique look with simple gear. Steve is one of those photographers that when you see one of his portraits, you recognize his work.