An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Papua New Guinea
Lured by the promise of exceptional landscapes, a stimulating culture and a fascinating history, Steve McCurry recently traveled to Papua New Guinea with Silversea as part of an ongoing partnership. His experience was more memorable than anticipated, his photographs more breathtaking and his interactions more rewarding, as the legendary photographer traveled deeper in search of authenticity.
With a penchant for capturing compelling portraits, McCurry had a real interest in visiting the famous, but enigmatic, Asaro tribespeople. Enshrouded in mystery, captivating and intimidating in equal measures, the Asaro people live near Goroka in the rural highlands of eastern Papua New Guinea, relatively isolated from the prying eyes of mass tourism and the infringement of modernity. They inhabit modestly constructed mud huts and live in small patriarchal communes, which are governed by the village’s elders and often lack running water and electricity.
Nowadays, the tribespeople are more commonly known as the Asaro Mudmen – so named because of their enduring cultural tradition, which involves smearing the body in mud, donning a heavy clay mask and lengthy bamboo fingers and performing a ritualistic dance. The origin of this intriguing tradition remains unsettled: some claim that, in ancient times, an unfortunate hunter fell into a muddy pool of water, only to incite fear among his counterparts when he emerged amid an unnerving mist; others believe that, during a battle with a neighboring tribe, retreating Asaro warriors took refuge on the clay verges of the Asaro river, only to alarm their enemy when they reappeared.
While the origin of the tradition is still disputed, the beguiling charisma of this magnificent destination is most certainly not. McCurry was greeted with smiles, warmth and enthusiasm wherever he traveled, in spite of the existing language barrier. It is little wonder, then, that Papua New Guinea has won a profound place in the photographer’s photo album, his memories and his heart.
Capturing the Authentic Beauty of the World
Steve McCurry needs no introduction. He is most probably the greatest living photographer today. His iconic “Afghan Girl” image has captured the hearts and minds of thousands – the eloquence of her haunted expression, telling the world of her fate through her vivid green eyes – is simply stupendous.
So, when considering our new direction, Steve was a natural choice for us. He is a born storyteller with the soul of an explorer. His unique ability to capture what is left of the authentic beauty and truth in the world and express it with clarity and emotion is just brilliant. A McCurry image not only takes you on a journey, it inspires you to travel the world.
Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than 30 years. His work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike – yet always retains the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl such a powerful image.
McCurry has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, the National Press Photographers Award, and four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest.