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Masters of Photography

Lesson 6 of 25

Tell A Story

Steve McCurry

Masters of Photography

Steve McCurry

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Lesson Info

6. Tell A Story

Lesson Info

Tell A Story

(gentle piano music) So I was just walking down the street in Old Havana and it like, so many great things happened. Within just 100 meters of the street just like in five or 10 minutes there were like three great situations. Guys playing dominoes, a woman invited me into her home, there's kids playing on the street. A lot of action. It's a really visually rich environment here. Once you get into sort of a certain zone, sort of a meditative state almost, great things start to present themselves and you get into some sort of a great space where things sort of magically happen. But you have to be open and ready and become part of the street. Meet some people. Talk to some people. Make some friends. And I think from there you'll be surprised at how many great situations will present themselves. Well, here we are in Cuba. Cuba's one of my favorite places to travel to. It's my favorite place to photograph. I think Cuba has a great sense of style. It's a great vibe on the street. Very frie...

ndly people. It has a great charm and it's in a different place than much of the other parts of the world. One of the great things about Cuba is that there's, like, no advertising anywhere. The streets are sort of clean. People, children play in the streets which is unlike most other places in the world, at least in the U.S. Kids where I live all are inside on video games or watching TV, but here children tend to be outside. They're playing with their friends. And it's much more, I think much more vibrant. Reminds me much of my childhood. There's this wonderful patina of age. There's this sort of great texture which you see everywhere. It's like a grand old lady. I think that whether you're a photographer or a traveler interested in cultures and people I would highly recommend you come to Cuba as soon as possible because Cuba, like the rest of the world is changing rapidly and you don't want to miss Cuba as it was at this period in its history. I think there's a lot of great things to see and to photograph and it's gonna change. And we love it the way it is now, but progress, it's unstoppable. We want Cuba to be as best as it possibly can be, but it's an interesting place to come to any time, particularly right now. (gentle piano music) We often talk about street photography and how do you move, how do you operate, how do you move around? I think the first point about walking around the streets with your camera is that it's not only about photographing. I think at first you need to be, meet people, talk to people, get inside the environment. You need to really sort of become one with the street. I would say it's more akin to working in Burma or India or someplace where it's fun to go up and engage people, talk to people. You know, explain who you are and ask them about their lives. Maybe ask them if you can see their home or whatever. I think you have to really feel comfortable and it's not sort of you and them, it should be you're part of the scene, you're part of what's happening on the street so you want to break down that separation between them and us. And where it's more friendly, you're kind of engaging people as you walk around. And you have a sense of confidence because your intentions are honorable. You're not afraid to look people in the eye and ask people permission, perhaps, if you want to make a portrait. I never, I try not to work too much at arm's length. I think if you want to photograph somebody, a portrait of somebody, on the street you should go up and explain that you find them interesting and you wonder if you could spend a few minutes and photograph them because you find them fascinating or whatever. I think that's a much better approach than trying to sort of surreptitiously trying to work around and photograph them secretly. I think if it's a portrait then let's go ahead and confront them in a friendly, respectful way and then see what happens. (gentle piano music) I think it's always better to photograph alone and to follow your own nose and to go, you know, walk down the street, you know, do I go left, do I go right? I think it's better to develop that instinct for how to move. I think your mind should be kind of clear, and you should be kind of taking in all the sights and the smells and sounds. I think when you're with somebody else you tend to get lost in conversation and you start talking about things which take your mind off of where you are at that very moment so I think it's better to really work by yourself or with a translator, interpreter, whatever that's fine. But I think it's better to not to go with a friend or another photographer because you really have to follow your own nose. You have to decide what's interesting for you and if you're with somebody else, you might be following what's interesting to them and waiting for them to finish their shot and then so it kind of throws you off balance. I think you're better off, better just pleasing yourself and going and photographing and if you want to stop and play with a dog or talk to somebody you're not slowing somebody else up. You're able just to go at your own pace. It's really important to find your own pace, your own zone and do that sort of on your own without somebody else, the distraction of somebody else with you. (gentle piano music) A lot of people don't want to be photographed and that's their right and we shouldn't worry about that. I think you have to really look at it as a percentage basis and if you can get 80% or 90% success rate then I think you're doing great. There's always gonna be somebody who, for whatever reason, doesn't want to be photographed and I think we move on. I think rejection is part of, all of our pictures aren't great, but if you come back at the end of the day with a couple good pictures I think that's been a very good day. But it's really important to be in a good place a good location that you enjoy so that even if at the end of the day you come back without many great pictures you've enjoyed your walk and you're meeting people and you've been in a great environment. I mean here in Havana I could walk around for days with or without the camera. I think that you have to always be okay. You have to be accepting of people who don't want to be photographed. (gentle piano music) There's a couple Cuban pictures I'd like to show you, which I made on the street here in Havana and I think they're, for me, an example of the way I like to work on the street. One is, I saw this lady who had this incredible face. She had this purple hair. I was really intrigued by her look. We started to talk and I asked her, you know, about her life. She told me she'd actually lived in New York when she was a young lady. So here's the picture. She has this really very stylish hair and this really serious look, very dignified. Very beautiful. I've always kind of loved that picture of this person who's full of life and really still wants to present herself in the best possible way despite whatever age she happens to be. Another picture is of young boys playing football or soccer on the street really close to the capitol building. So you really get a sense of where you are. You're just near very close to the capitol building. These boys having this very kind of serious game of football or soccer. I think it gives a really good sense of life on the street in Havana. People are out with their friends talking. There's all this activity going on. I think it really says, I think it really shows what life is like here in Havana. (gentle piano music) I think one of the great pleasures in photography is simply walking around the streets of a city or a village or your town, and photographing whatever strikes you, whatever you find interesting. I think it, I think you get into another kind of zone, almost kind of a meditative place, where you start, you're much more hyper-aware of sounds and what you see and details and architecture and whatever you see on the street.

Class Description

Steve McCurry has been one of the most important voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years. Masters of Photography is bringing Steve’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his iconic career. Steve will teach how to:

  • Find a subject to photograph
  • How to shoot in all types of weather condition
  • Understand the light at different times of day
  • Improve your compositional skills
  • Blend into the environment so that you can capture impactful street images
  • Use his 8 key tips in order to capture the best portraits

Watch and learn with Steve as you accompany him through the fishing villages of Portugal and in the vibrant streets of Havana. See for yourself how he creates images, as he shares ideas and experiences, and explains how to make great photographs. Steve will also suggest some projects for you to try for yourself.

You can use any device from camera phone to’s all about the image and storytelling.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Adriana L-G

For me this is not a class, is more the photographer talking about his photos and his experience. It is a little repetitive but I enjoyed. From Masters of Photography I loved Joel Meyerowitz's class and I recommend it strongly. In case you need to choose.