Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War

I visited the Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London last weekend. Beaton has two quite distinct sides to his work, fashion and war. Beaton always longed to be in the world of theatre, but it seems he was never quite good enough to fulfil his dreams, and increasingly turned to photography to make a small living. This turned into a prosperous career with him going on to shoot royal weddings and many celebrities of the era. However he now claims that his less known work as a war photographer is his most important body of work. During the Second World War he was stationed across parts of the Middle East and Asia to record the impact of war.

I found his work to be far more documentary than that of other well know war photographers like Don McCullin or Larry Burrows tending to record the people rather than the fighting and many of his photos still retain portrait like qualities. Beaton’s work is an interesting alternative to a lot of the images we’re probably more familier with from theatre’s of war. His interest in theatre and fashion come through with some of his shoots retaining quite a stylised and almost glamorous look.

The exhibition only runs until December 31st 2012, so you need to be quick if you do plan to see it.

Steve McCurry

Portraits

Portraits - Steve McCurry

Magnum photographer Steve McCurry (@McCurryStudio)never set out to take portraits. Critically acclaimed and recognized internationally for his classic reportage, over the last 20 years he has worked for the “National Geographic” and other publications on numerous assignments: along the Afghan border, in Baghdad, Beirut and the Sahel. McCurry’s coverage of the monsoon won first prize in the World Press Awards, and was part of his portfolio when he was named Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1984. In 1985, McCurry photographed an Afghan girl for the “National Geographic”. The intensity of the subject’s eyes and her compelling gaze made this one of contemporary photography’s most celebrated and best-known portraits. McCurry is now equally famous for his other portrayals of memorable faces that he has encountered while travelling throughout the world. Compelling, unforgettable and moving, McCurry’s images are unique street portraits: unstylized and unposed snapshots of people that reveal the universality of human emotion.

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The Unguarded Moment

The Unguarded Moment - Steve McCurry

The title of this book is a phrase that Steve McCurry uses a lot when talking about his work – he is always trying to capture those ‘unguarded moments’ when people are at their most unselfconscious and natural. McCurry takes photographs all over the world, for National Geographic magazine and his own projects, so this book includes the places, colours and forms of Yemen, Mali, Niger, Chad, India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), France and the former Yugoslavia, among others. “The Unguarded Moment” is the same size as South Southeast, but apart from the wider range of countries and continents covered, another key difference between the two titles is that all the images in this new book are landscape format. In “The Unguarded Moment”, people go about their everyday business in extraordinary circumstances and settings, like the young tea vendor wading through the waist-deep monsoon waters in India, the fishermen casting their nets in the Niger river in Mali’s Sahel Desert and the boy working in a candy factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. This book includes striking portraits of a Tuareg woman in Mali, an intense you ng gypsy boy in Marseille, France and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. There are children paying close attention to their teachers in school rooms in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, as well as five young monks happily playing with computer games at a monastery in India, just like any other boys their age would.

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In the Shadow of Mountains

In The Shadow Of Mountains - Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines and the Gulf war, but his continuing coverage of Afghanistan is perhaps his greatest achievement. It was with his first images of Afghanistan that McCurry established his reputation as a photojournalist. In 1979, disguised in native dress, McCurry crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan, shortly before Soviet troops invaded in support of the failing Marxist government. 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 him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise. Throughout his career McCurry has returned to Afghanistan time and time again – under different regimes and at times of civil unrest – to document the people, the landscape and the heritage of this troubled, yet captivating, country. Each image is accompanied by a brief text providing geographical and historical background.

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