Exhibition review: Steve McCurry ICONS, Seaworks Maritime Museum

Over 100 well-known Steve McCurry images are brought together at the Seaworks Maritime Museum this February.
ICONS. installation view of a black walled gallery with large colourful photographs hanging on the walls.

The appropriately named Steve McCurry ICONS exhibition at the Williamstown Seaworks Maritime Museum brings together over 100 highly acclaimed photographs from McCurry’s four decades of experience. 

Photos are large-scale, which lends to greater impact, but not at the expense of clarity. Sold Out, Sudest57 and Fever have curated an exhibition spotlighting the photos against black walls, which contrast well with the vivid colours typical of McCurry’s work. This creates a favourable environment in which to not only appreciate the photography techniques used, but also to be immersed in their stories.

A phone camera is held up to a photo of Steve McCurry's famous 'Sharbat Gula' (Afghan Girl) photo
The famous ‘Sharbat Gula’ photo at the Steve McCurry ICONS exhibition. Photo: Fever.

ICONS comprehensively presents McCurry’s storytelling ability, with images of conflict, tradition and contemporary culture aplenty, all of which revolve around central ideas about the human condition. Visitors can enjoy his most famous ‘Sharbat Gula’ (Afghan Girl) image, in addition to other popular pieces from across the globe. 

The exhibition is loosely organised by themes of climate, youth and animals – as opposed to chronologically ordered – allowing for photos to be viewed in no strict fashion. Visitors are able to weave between walls and revisit their favourites as they please. The relaxed layout complements the exploratory nature of McCurry’s style.

Two exhibition visitors regard two well-known photographs by Steve McCurry in a dark gallery space.
Photo: Fever.

Another atypical feature of ICONS is the use of QR codes in favour of plaques or detailed labels alongside the photos. Visitors can scan to hear McCurry’s commentary on both specific images and his work more broadly. This encourages visitors to focus on the photos with minimal distraction and allows for a more personal touch. However, this format may be limiting for those who are hard of hearing or who prefer their information in writing and immediately available. 

Read: Exhibition review: Uncertain Contours of Images: Sayoko Suwabe, SOL Gallery

For select Steve McCurry fans, ICONS may not scratch the surface of McCurry’s work enough. Yet the QR codes, seamless and engaging set-up remain strong drawcards to visit nonetheless. Ultimately, this exhibition successfully presents McCurry’s photography in a format that inspires reflection on the state of the world and human persistence within it.

Steve McCurry ICONS is at the The Main Shed, Seaworks Maritime Museum, 82/82 Nelson Place, Williamstown until 19 May 2024; tickets.