Silversea’s Silver Dawn Poses for World-Renowned Photographer Steve McCurry and the Images Will Amaze You

In August of 2021 internationally renowned photographer Steve McCurry traveled to Fincantieri’s shipyard in Trieste, for a rather unusual assignment. The award-winning photographer, who is in a global creative partnership with Silversea since 2017, has since been documenting the destinations of the world’s leading luxury and expedition cruise line. Never, however, had he focused on a shipbuilding project in drydock. And this wasn’t just any other ship: it was Silver Dawn, Silversea’s newest high-tech jewel – the tenth to join the fleet.

Over the course of a few days, McCurry shot a vibrant portfolio of the ship’s body and the highly specialized electricians, painters, carpenters, welders and engineers at work on it. The result is a rather unique mix of the striking, evocative portraits McCurry is famous for along with images of the ship’s silhouette, reminiscent of the most sophisticated architectural photography. I caught up with McCurry while he was on another assignment, in Naples, and we revisited his memories of those days spent photographing Silver Dawn.

Was this your first time visiting a shipyard?

I had been to a shipyard before, in Rijeka, Croatia, but as far as a drydock goes, this was a first.

What was your favorite part of the ship to photograph?

Photo by Steve McCurry.

When I was there the interior was in progress, so there wasn’t a lot to see yet. The exterior, on the other hand, was so graphic and visually captivating. For instance I was struck by the propellers and the anchor. They’re so massive and majestic.

The portfolio is spectacular, at times moving, something I didn’t quite expect. There are so many memorable details, like the wooden blocks.

Yes, those struck me too. It was fascinating and surprising to see this enormous ship rest on a series of wooden blocks: I figured it’d have more of a structure supporting it, but evidently it works. I photographed a lot of the wood: it had interesting discoloration, because it had been under water for some time; it gave it character. It was like driftwood, but it also had an almost sculptural quality to it. And it felt rock solid.

Something else I found quite surprising was seeing the ship’s draft marks (the vertical line of numbers indicating the distance between the waterline and the keel, ed’s note) being hand painted. I mean, this is not a gondola we’re talking about!

At Fincantieri’s shipyard in Trieste, where Silver Dawn has been built, a worker is handpainting water marks onto the hull. Photo by Steve McCurry.

I don’t know how many people would expect to see painters at work on a ship of such magnitude, with actual brushes and paint cans. That’s why I photographed them. It was incredible.

How would you describe the shipyard’s atmosphere?

It was interesting to see how everything functions, the flow, the rhythm. There are so many variables, so many components. There was a great mix of nationalities, European, African, Asian, and in a way, it was like a symphony orchestra: it was clear everybody had a part to play, and they were playing together beautifully.

What was the people’s attitude like?

Roberto Martinoli, president and CEO of Silversea Cruises. Photo by Steve McCurry, Trieste 2021

They were proud, good humored, extremely willing to participate in the project. The most congenial atmosphere, really.

Is photographing a ship like photographing a building, a landmark piece of architecture?

Photo by Steve McCurry.

It is much like photographing architecture. You’re looking for a particular kind of light, you’re looking at shapes. You tell yourself you have to make a decision. Are workers going to be small in comparison to the ship or are you going to focus on them, so they’re large and the ship is small in the background? Maybe you find a balance, and mix the two approaches. You can also mix more dynamic photos, with people performing different activities, and more classic posed pictures. I went for a little bit of both.  

You started collaborating with Silversea in 2017. What has the experience been like for you?

One of the most enriching things with the time we have in this world is to experience other cultures: this is what travel is about. The relationship with Silversea has always been about exploring the world, particularly places that are changing or disappearing.

I guess this philosophy is the reason why you’re starring in Silversea’s first television ad (“Letter to the Curious”) celebrating the global return to travel.

Look, at the end of the day, it’s a question of where your priorities are in life. There’s enormous value in meeting people in different places, whenever there may be sharing of ideas, perspectives, experiences. It’s shared humanity. You laugh, you exchange stories. It helps bring us together. So often you have misconceptions about certain places. Travel is the antidote to misconceptions.

What are some of the favorite places you traveled to with Silversea?

Well, I love Asia. The religious festivals of Mongolia, Tibet…. Venice too is high on the list, as is Easter Island. But Antarctica is number one. And Galapagos is a close second. Or maybe first! I guess depending on the day of the week, they’ll trade places!

Silver Dawn will make its debut in March 2022. Explore its destinations and read about its unique features including Silversea’s new Spa concept, Otium and S.A.L.T.