Book Review. Monsoon by Steve McCurry.

During Tuesday’s session, we were asked to bring in a photobook somehow relating to the theme of ‘Human presence.’

I chose ‘Monsoon’ by Steve McCurry.

“For many months there is no water. Then, suddenly, there is too much. This is the cruel paradox of the monsoon.”

Good monsoons bring prosperity and life, but bad ones result in famine and death.  Immune to control by the government and technology, the monsoon chooses at random who to save stuttering in on showers or raging across the landscape in a fierce howl.

The book starts with a 24 page account of McCurry’s journey through India, encountering the wild monsoons, the inhabitants, and some detailed and interesting stories of the people he met with the problems and dangers he faced.

He tells us how he shot in the rain using a large golf umbrella, spending fifty per cent of his time keeping his lens dry, he states how he thought that his lens was the only thing still kept dry in a fifty mile radius, he was always soaked, whilst his lens was always dry.

His stories are captivating, detailed and so interesting, McCurry takes you to where he was at that very time, but of course we cannot begin to imagine the extreme weather conditions and they effect it has, until we see it for ourselves later on in the book.

His account progresses on to ‘The Meteorology of The Monsoon’ then a map of where the monsoon hits, continuing to a list numbering his photographs. It provides detail to where each one was taken and a small few word summary of what the picture is about, i.e. Number 5- Women cluster together for protection during a dust storm, Rajasthan, northern India.

The images begin with documenting the drought before the storm. The hot dry conditions, sand storms and the cracked red soil dehydrated, this chapter ends with a landscape taking up 2/3 of the page, providing a break in the usual structure of the book, causing the viewer to pause to anticipate the brewing storm.

A new chapter begins with striking portraits of people sheltering from the rain with umbrellas/ leaves and cloths, contrasted by others having to evacuate their homes due to severe flooding and the villager’s waist deep in water. These images are shocking and insightful, perfectly composed/lit and their content being fascinating, transporting us to a situation we may never experience or see ourselves.  Every picture just as amazing as the last.

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