McCurry’s photojournalism career began with his coverage of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. McCurry disguised himself in native dress and hid his film by sewing it into his clothes. His images were among the first of the conflict and were widely published. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from abroad. McCurry continued to cover international conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War and Afghanistan. McCurry’s work has been featured in every major magazine in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic, with articles on Tibet, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Since then McCurry has published books and covered areas of international and civil conflict, including Myanmar (Burma), Yemen, Kashmir and Cambodia.
McCurry took his most recognized portrait, “Afghan Girl“, in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. The image itself was named as “the most recognized photograph” in the history of the National Geographic magazine and her face became famous as the cover photograph on the June 1985 issue. The photo has also been widely used on Amnesty International brochures, posters, and calendars. The identity of the “Afghan Girl” remained unknown for over 17 years until McCurry and a National Geographic team located the woman, Sharbat Gula, in 2002. McCurry said, “Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was all those years ago.”