Legendary photographer Steve McCurry on the beauty of responsible travel

Legendary photographer Steve McCurry on the beauty of responsible travel

With more than five decades of experience under his belt and one of the world’s largest portfolios, Steve McCurry has revolutionised travel photography, shooting far and wide around the globe.

McCurry’s iconic photography style showcases the human elements of the destinations he ventures to and has scored him some of the most prestigious awards in the industry and an induction into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

Recently, McCurry has been exploring the world with Silversea Cruises allowing us the chance to spin a yarn with him about responsible travel, understanding foreign cultures and what destination he was recently surprised by. Read on to find out what he had to say.

Travel Weekly: Your relationship with Silversea–tell us about it…

Steve McCurry: The collaboration with Silversea has been a remarkable opportunity to not only make photographs in amazing locations but to have the privilege of contributing to local organizations which are committed to improving education and long-term opportunities for local youth and families.

Both Silversea and I share the same goals, which is leaving a very light footprint while reinforcing our commitment to improving the lives of the people in the communities we visit.

TW: How has your collaboration with Silversea enabled you to practice your unique brand of photography-focused travel?

SM: I have been travelling and photographing for the past four decades, but the photographs I make for Silversea provide unique opportunities to support local communities in ways that are sustainable and long-term.

How can the industry help make travel a force for good?

I have been impressed by Silversea’s strong commitment to providing assistance to people and organisations in the destinations to which they travel.

They started an initiative in the Galapagos that aims to preserve the fragile environment by supporting groups that help protect and sustain the unique animals and habitats for future generations.

What role does imagery play in promoting responsible travel?

Responsible travel includes learning about the place, striving to understand the culture, and being aware that the traveller is a guest in someone else’s home.

I think the word respect sums up the attitude that all travellers need to demonstrate, especially when visiting a place in which there is a clear disparity between the economic level of the visitor and the visited.

Is there a destination/culture you’ve shot that people can see in a low-impact fashion?

I think any destination can be visited in a low-impact fashion as long as there is a conscious decision by the visitor to be aware and sensitive to the local people and their environment. That means leaving a place better than you found it.

Where do you recommend travellers go before it’s too late?

Perhaps those are the very places to avoid so we don’t add to the disintegration of a particular place or culture which may be on the edge of elimination or loss.

Where do you love to holiday?

I find myself returning to Italy over and over again. Its beauty, culture, history, people, and food are as good as any other place in the world.

When you travel, it’s the people and local communities that really make the trip or bring the destination to life… what is the best way to capture the human side of a destination in photos?

Shooting the human side of a destination means to take pictures that reveal the truth; the truth of the location, the truth about the lives of the people, and the truth of the situation in which they live their lives.

Tell me about your favourite destination you visited with Silversea.

The Galapagos. I’ve travelled there with Silversea three times; it’s a time capsule and an inspiring place.

What’s a destination you were surprised by on your journey with Silversea?

Mongolia. I have been curious about the nomadic people and how they are preserving their traditions, culture, and lifestyle within the global and modern environment. I met inspiring people who are living comfortably in the most extreme conditions.

Mongolian woman photographed by McCurry

How can travellers best engage in environmentally conscious travel?

I think the advice which originates from a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which says that we should leave the world a little better than we found it. That advice is especially relevant to anyone travelling in a place that is someone else’s community.

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