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If someone gave me a blank cheque and asked me to go to any city in the world, I'd go to Calcutta," said celebrated American photojournalist Steve McCurry. He was in the Capital for the Hindu Lit for Life 2013 to present "Picturing the Indian Sub-continent". This was his 86th visit to India but there was a first to this event — he had never made a presentation in the country before.
The photographs, shot over 30 years, were taken in India and across the world, themed on different cultures, monsoons and Buddhism. "As I travelled around the world, I had about 20 different themes in the back of my mind," he said. One of McCurry's Mumbai monsoon shoots was that of an old man trying to save his sewing machine by holding it above his head, while he stood neck deep in water. After the photograph was published in National Geographic, a sewing machine company tracked down the tailor and gave him a new sewing machine.
He revealed how his encounter with immersions of Ganesh idols literally had him under water. A photograph showed a man on Chowpatty Beach during Ganesh Chaturthi facing the distant Mumbai skyline. "I was up to my waist in water when some children pounced on me and drowned my camera. Finally, some people saved me," said McCurry, explaining how his visit to the area became his last.
Inevitably, he also talked about his work in Afghanistan. "It's a place which, unfortunately, is not going to have a happy ending," said the photographer. Talking about the Afghan Girl, which gave him world recognition, he said, "It is really a once-in-a-lifetime for me. This is where the stars aligned — right colour palette and right look. She's direct and there's a sense of fortitude and confidence. I think it's a picture I'm proud to have made." He also spoke of meeting her again, 17 years later.