Steve McCurry: Capturing a Dust Storm

07th June 2024
Steve McCurry, 'Dust Storm Rajasthan India 1983'

One of Steve McCurry’s most recognisable photographs is of a group of women, dressed in striking red sari’s, protecting each other from a dust storm by huddling in a circle. McCurry took this photograph in Rajasthan, India, two years before the photographer joined Magnum Photos.

Of this image, McCurry recalls, “I was in a taxi in 1984, driving through the desert in Rajasthan in north-west India. It was June, the hottest month, and this sandstorm whipped up. It went from a clear, sunny day to dark and dusty, with a very strong wind. My first inclination was to protect my equipment, but then I realised I should get out and take some pictures because the storm was so dramatic. You can always buy a new camera, after all, but good pictures are few and far between.”

Steve McCurry: Dust Storm, Rajasthan, India, 1984

    “I started looking around, and I passed this group of women. They had been working by the side of the road, and once the storm began they huddled together for protection. So I ran across the field to where they were standing. They were singing a song, oblivious to me, but anxious because of the wind and the dust. This is when most people run for cover as it was hard to breathe and you couldn’t see. But I ran across the field and took maybe a dozen pictures— it was very exciting. In a situation like this, sometimes you’re not really thinking, you’re just reacting, your brain is on automatic pilot and you just shoot away.

    I think there’s a nice feeling in the picture of what it’s like to be in a sandstorm. There’s good movement to it, the composition is strong and the colours are interesting. It looks as if you’re looking down on those pots, so I must have used a slightly wide-angled lens – I just grabbed whatever I had and dashed across that field!”

    Steve McCurry: Capturing a Dust Storm as featured on The Guardian as ‘My Best Shot’.

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    The ArtistSteve McCurry is best known for his evocative colour photographs that document social issues in wider global geopolitics.

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