Steve McCurry's Kodachrome career, and legacy

You may not recognize the name Steve McCurry, but I bet you have a vivid memory of this photo, and maybe a vague notion of the story behind it. McCurry has made a career out of photographing the world's faces, many of which have appeared on the pages of National Geographic over the years. The Afghan girl's eyes are what struck McCurry, and subsequently, the people who picked up the June 1985 issue.

In 2002, the saga of this young woman and the mystery and enchantment she beset upon McCurry continued, when he finally found her again--seventeen difficult years later. I remember reading that story, and the fact that the first picture he took of her was the first time she'd ever seen a camera; when he found her again, it was the second time her photo had been taken. In rural Afghanistan, traditional customs still rule, and McCurry was allowed unusual access to this woman--now married with several children.

What I didn't realize until now is that McCurry's photographs are known for their very saturated color, an effect which he gets by using Kodachrome. I have sen hundreds of his portraits, of people across cultures, and never knew what was behind this rich and fascinating quality.

Kodachrome was discontinued last year, and the company gave the very last roll to McCurry. He's currently working on taking the last 36 shots with this film, and taking his time to ensure each one will live up to the responsibility he has been given. (There's only one place in the country that even develops them, in Parsons, Kansas.) Based on the book of his portraits, and his lifetime of vision, creativity, and global exposure, he's got a proven set of eyes.