A Tibetan Pilgrimage: Steve McCurry, Religion and Tibet
07th August 2021
Steve McCurry first visited Tibet in May 1989 and made eight trips over the following two decades, resultantly publishing a book, The Path to Buddha: A Tibetan Pilgrimage. The religious rituals and traditional dress of the country fascinated him. He has said: ‘there is something deeply appealing about Buddhist countries. I am endlessly intrigued by the way the monks live and by the way Buddhist philosophy emphasises compassion, as well as the iconography. The ethics and the aesthetics of Buddhism are melded in a unique way’. The images he captured whilst in Tibet have become invaluable records of how social, political and cultural elements were and the way they have transformed or vanished. In each of his images, he transcends cultural boundaries to create a captivating timelessness and encapsulate the essence of human struggle, joy and unguarded moments.
For over 50 years, Tibet has undergone tremendous political upheaval and occupation causing Tibetan religious freedom and traditions to become steadily eroded. McCurry has visited the country on multiple occasions to record this tumultuous Tibetan life. McCurry’s photographs from Tibet are full of exuberant outfits and local customs, resulting in compelling and natural snapshots, free from backgrounds or captions. In other images, we see prayer flags that designate places of spiritual significance, local belief stating that the blessings on the flags are carried by the wind across the country.
The strength of the Tibetan faith in Buddha and in the Dali Lama, even in the face of political turmoil and change, reigns true throughout every aspect of Tibetan life. McCurry’s eye captured this permeating Buddhist spirit rendering through the stillness of his compositions and his reliance on a colourful simplicity. This presents works that carry astute observations of ancient cultures on the brink of change, in conjunction with intimate portraits that offer a unique insight into in the dignified culture of Tibet.
The ArtistSteve McCurry (born 1950) is best known for his evocative colour photographs that document both human struggles and joy. Having travelled the globe for over thirty years, McCurry has photographed warzones, burning oil fields, refugee camps, ship breaking yards and monsoons all over the world. A member of Magnum Photos since 1986, many of his images have become modern icons.Artist Page