STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Steve McCurry, a famous photographer, graduated from Penn State University in 1974.
He has spent most of his career traveling the world and documenting history.
“When I went to Penn State I started taking various courses,” McCurry said. “I started studying cinematography at Penn State and that kind of led me to still photography.”
McCurry learned the basics while working for Penn State’s campus newspaper, The Daily Collegian.
In 1978, about 4 years after graduating, he got a one-way ticket to India and never looked back.
It was his published photographs during the beginnings of the civil war in Afghanistan that started to get him worldwide recognition. He crossed into the country, disguised, fully aware his life wasn’t guaranteed.
“Bombs and bullets were flying around,” McCurry explained. “But you are young and you are adventurous and ambitious and I thought this was a great opportunity and an important story. I decided to just go ahead and let the chips fall where they may.”
McCurry has been known to capture areas of conflict overseas, but on September 11, 2001 he didn’t travel far. He captured the World Trade Center collapsing from the roof of his building. He would then spend the rest of the day in the middle of ground zero.
He’ll tell you he thinks of his photos like children. He doesn’t have a favorite and loves each one for different reasons.
However one of his pictures would become one of the most famous images ever. It’s a portrait that was first featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. It shows an Afghan refugee with piercing green eyes.
“There’s a real quality of her in that picture of her not giving up and kind of moving forward despite all the adversity that she had to suffer,” McCurry said. “I’m very proud of that picture.”
McCurry told WTAJ that he often thinks back to the classes he took at Penn State. He told us they inspired him to learn and appreciate the world in different ways.
He is still engaged with the university and offers internships and talks to students about their work. He said he is always looking for ways to inspire the next generation.