Steve McCurry‘s ‘Trains’ photo series is a beautiful portrait of one of the British Empires legacies from the Raj. A network that spans the sub – continent, connecting people, villages, towns and cities.
McCurry, a World renowned photo-journalist, has done a remarkable job of capturing the warmth, vibrancy and colour of Indian life on the railways. His pictures of commuters and travellers, hopping on and off, riding atop, packed inside and moving their animals is quite a contrast to the Western notion of what a railway is. It’s quite clear from his pictures that there is a marked cultural and economic difference between the functions of a railway here and there.
Here’s how McCurry describes it:
Ever since the British built the railroads in India that stitch that vast subcontinent together, trains have been the organizing force that unify all of its disparate parts. As I tried to tell the story of the community that inhabits the depots, I would go to the train station every day and wander around the platform. Each time a train would roll in, while carefully stepping over bodies and around huge mountains of luggage, I would start to photograph the swirl of life that assaults and saturates the senses.
What’s truly outstanding about these images is the way in which McCurry seems to be absent. There is no sense that he’s present, that people are posing, preening for his camera, instead he manages to work under a cloak of invisibility that allows him to capture unaffected moments, life going by, the essence of the human condition captured in a single shot.
Needless to say this skill comes with decades of experience and McCurry has an abundance of it having found himself in numerous war zones since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. His work has been published in Time, Newsweek, Life and has had 18 photo stories published in National Geographic, including seven covers.
He’s been arrested in Pakistan and Burma, mortared, shot and robbed in Afghanistan, beaten up and nearly drowned in India and almost killed in a plane crash in Bosnia. He has the scars of war and yet still manages to remind us, through his photos, of the dignity and humanity that holds people together in the worst possible times.
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