“Readers are seldom lonely or bored, because reading is a refuge and an enlightenment,” writes Paul Theroux in the foreword to the new Phaidon book Steve McCurry: On Reading. “This wisdom is sometimes visible. It seems to me that there is always something luminous in the face of a person in the act of reading.”
That luminosity appears throughout the book, whether in the bowed head of a woman at a museum in Italy or the intent expression of a street vendor in Kabul. Over the past 40 years, the Magnum photographer has amassed a collection of images showing people engrossed in the printed word.
McCurry was inspired by a great Hungarian pioneer. “I met the legendary photographer André Kertész shortly after I moved to New York in my early thirties,” says Steve McCurry in the book’s introduction. “Some of his most intriguing pictures were photographs of people reading. They were taken over a 50-year period, and were collected in his book On Reading, published in 1971.” McCurry’s new book is, he argues, “my homage to Kertész’s talent, his influence, and his genius”.
The beauty of McCurry’s photos are those moments, glimpses of people absorbed in a book, unaware they were being photographed.
Most of us can relate the above picture. Our earliest memories of reading would be of our grandparents and parents reading to us.