Piano^Graphy: McCurry and Mozart
Sunday Magazine

Piano^Graphy: McCurry and Mozart

Siddharth S Kumar

On the cover of the June 1985 issue of ‘National Geographic’ was published the face of a girl which was termed as ‘the most recognized photograph in the history of the ‘National Geographic’ magazine. This photo was taken by Steve McCurry when he was in Afghanistan. You have guessed it right – it was his most acclaimed portrait, ‘Afghan Girl’. This was the first time that this 12-year old orphan in a refugee camp, with incredible eyes had ever been photographed. The story goes that the identity of the mysterious ‘Afghan Girl’ remained unknown for many years – till McCurry and the ‘National Geographic’ team located the now-grown up Sharbat Gula in 2002.

Copyright Steve McCurry | National Geographic

Interestingly before he landed in Afghanistan, in his earliest assignments McCurry visited India to freelance. The laidback way of life in India taught him the virtues of patience. Reportedly, he said that,” if you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view”. Despite this stance, McCurry also has the reputation of covering intense international conflicts such as the Gulf War, Iraq-Iran War, as also the Civil Wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Cambodia. His evocative photographs are not really about spaces but the faces that capture the agony of such conflicts.

The photo gives an unusual perspective of the the much photographed Taj Mahal. The human element adds a story to the photograph and acts as a point of interest while the reflection of the monument gives context.

Copyright Steve McCurry

In September 2001, the world woke up to a new word, ‘Ground Zero’, symbolizing the place where the World Trade Centre Twin Towers once stood—which was razed to the ground by a devastating terror strike. Of that horrible incident, where 3000 people died in a short time, McCurry who rushed to the scene had this to say, "In a situation like that, as a documentary photographer, you had to keep a cool head. Do your job. Document this tragedy in the best way you possibly can. You tell yourself to not overthink things. You have to go on autopilot to some extent, just go on your instincts and intuition and not allow your nerves or your emotions to overwhelm you. “

McCurry’s portraits are often composed right in the centre of the frame to emphasise on the subject’s characteristics. His subjects tend to have a unique characteristic and they are captured in their natural environment.

Copyright Steve McCurry

There is no doubt that McCurry has encapsulated the essence of the joy and agony of the human condition in the finest documentary tradition. Almost every major publication in the world has featured his works, and he is acclaimed as one of the iconic living photographers, known especially for the vivid use of colour, and the bond he is able to forge between the viewer and the subject.

Photo by Ahmed Arup Kamal

Says McCurry “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that some of the great pictures happen along the journey and not necessarily at your destination”.


Imagine composing music at five, public appearances at eight and writing almost 600 musical pieces, most masterpieces in a brief span of 35 years. Such was the genius of Mozart, about whom his friend Joseph Haydn wrote, ’posterity will not see such talent again in 100 years’.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was brilliant, be it operas, piano concertos and chamber music to Masses, symphonies and wind serenades. As he traversed different countries he mesmerised one and all, as his music evolved with the passage of time – from formal and melodic fluency to a textural richness and an emotional profundity which was unheard of during his times.

Tracking his extraordinary musical journey, starting his career as a freelance composer, pianist and teacher, connoisseurs refer to his first great opera.’ Idomeneo’; and his memorable operatic masterpieces – ‘Cosi fan tutte’, ‘Don Giovanni’, ‘Fiagro’, and his last opera, ‘The Magic Flute’. Actually much earlier, Mozart had hallmarked his genius as a great keyboard player and composer with the opera, ‘Die Entführung aus dem Serail’.

Just five years before he died, Mozart got inspired with the works of Bach and Handel and he composed in baroque style leading to the evolution of his distinctive musical language. It was during this phase that he composed one of his timeless pieces,’ Mass in C minor’ ; and also befriended Haydn, so much so that Mozart dedicated the six quartets to Haydn.

Mozart - Mass in C Minor 427: Kyrie - A mass is a sacred musical composition involving choirs usually written for liturgy. The movement begins solemnly with the entire orchestra and eventually leads to soprano solo.

Mozart is among the most admired of classical composers, who is credited with the unique Shakespearean craft to bring about an amalgam of tragedy & comedy, confidence & vulnerability, beauty & truth… No wonder his works are considered as the ultimate in symphonies, chamber music and operas; his concerts & concertos are acclaimed as musical benchmarks; and he towers like a colossus who is unrivalled. Without question, one of the greatest musicians, if not the greatest.

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21, K.467 - The concerto switches between playful, lively, and subtle moods in it’s three movements unlike the dark Concerto No. 20.

Like great artists, Mozart is modest about his worldview, when he says,’ I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings…Music even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear, but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music”.


Siddharth S.Kumar curates SIDART PHOTOGRAPHY, and his creative interests include Photography (named Best Photographer in Mindshare World network in 2014) & Piano (pursuing Grade 8 - Trinity College London). Professionally, he is Director (The Exchange), Mindshare, Chennai. Views are personal.

Check out Siddharth’s portfolio at http://www.sidartphotography.com/