Cultures on the Edge

Vanishing People, Vanishing Livelihoods

Rabari Shepherd, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Rabari Shepherd, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Since the beginning of time, nomads have roamed the world and have been an essential part of economic and cultural activity around the globe.

Ladakh, India, 2008

Ladakh, India, 2008

Nomad boy Tibet, 1999

Nomad boy Tibet, 1999

South Asia has the world’s largest nomadic population.

Tibet, 2008

Tibet, 2008

Tibet, 2001

Tibet, 2001

Nomad Girl, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Nomad Girl, Rajasthan, India, 2009

In India, there are more than 500 nomadic groups, roughly 80 million people, but every day their traditional ways of life are disappearing.

Lhasa, Tibet, 1999

Lhasa, Tibet, 1999

Tibet, 2001

Nomad Children, Tibet, 2001

The diversity of the livelihoods of each of these nomadic communities is staggering.  Each one fills a particular socio-economic niche, fulfilling a specific need of village or sedentary communities.

Srinagar, Kashmir, 1995

Kuchi Shepard, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1995

Lhasa, Tibet, 2000

Lhasa, Tibet, 2000

Rabari woman, Rajasthan, India, 2010

Rabari Woman, Rajasthan, India, 2010

The Kuchis of Afghanistan have to travel long distances to avoid drought, dust storms, and wars. They are about 10% of Afghanistan’s population and are an important part of the foundation of Afghanistan’s exports of wool, carpet, and animal hides.  Because they travel to remote regions, the Kuchis have been instrumental in taking manufactured goods to remote areas, and rather than being a relic from the past, they are relevant, but drought and social pressures are impacting their way of life that has survived for centuries.

Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

Kuchi Nomads, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

Rabari woman, Rajasthan, India, 2010

Rabari Woman, Rajasthan, India, 2010

00365_12, Gao, Mali, 1986, MALI-10006. Tuareg woman. The Tuareg are a semi-nomadic tribe who live within the Sahara desert. For much of the year they move with their herd, but they often inhabit regions for fixed periods when they grow crops. Traditionally, the tribe is very insular, and one can detect wariness in the way this woman returns McCurry's gaze. Magnum Photos, MCS1987002 K500 final print_Milan book_The Unguarded Moment book_Iconic Photograhs book_PORTRAITS final print_Genoa final print_Perugia retouched_Sonny Fabbri 03/14/13

Tuareg Woman, Mali, 1986

Each of these groups is threatened by a variety of factors:  urban sprawl, cheaper factory goods, modern technology,  stringent wildlife laws and governmental pressure.

Young pilgrim child, Lhasa, Tibet, 2001

Young Pilgrim Child, Lhasa, Tibet, 2001

Nomads, Lhasa, Amdo, Tibet, 1999

Nomads, Lhasa, Amdo, Tibet, 1999

The fate of all nomadic peoples is precarious, but it is vital to recognize that their way of life has served them and their regions well for centuries, and that perhaps it is worth a Herculean effort to help them survive.

About Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry, recognized universally as one of today’s finest image-makers, has won many of photography’s top awards.
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70 Responses to Cultures on the Edge

  1. Anonymous says:

    You were on my school webquest!
    Love your blog

  2. Pingback: “Vanishing People” – Nomad

  3. gaiainaction says:

    Very happy I discovered your blog this morning, I just love your photos and write up, the earth is so full of beautiful, beautiful people, such a joy to even just look at them. Thank you. Will follow.

  4. Amanda Ricks says:

    As a long time fan of your incredible photography, I am thrilled and humbled to find your blog here, on, the home base for me too. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible work.

  5. AMAZING!! I loved this!!!

  6. ostendnomad says:

    awesome portraits!!!

  7. Aneesha Constant says:

    Dear Mr. McCurry, I recently saw your exhibition in Bangkok. I am sorry that I missed meeting you when you visited! Your photos moved me & are such an an inspiration! I have a private question…please email me. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for this awesome post. Most people don’t even think about these vanishing people. Beautiful work, great colors.

  9. Je suis fan de vos photos !

  10. Very beautiful pictures, a reminder about how much more is going on in the world outside of our home offices and cubicles.

  11. Ester says:

    Amazing portraits!!

  12. shift_tomove says:

    Recently visited Xiahe, a Tibetan town outside of Tibet. Heartbreaking to see the plains dotted with fences.

  13. says:

    how to tske this picture? very Amazing photo

  14. Reblogged this on RIVERS OF INDIA and commented:
    GURU Steve knows the planet earth

  15. Rich Pa says:

    An incredible view on life – Thank you

  16. I really liked your blog. In my views we should promote nomadic groups for better understanding about culture.As the culture is disappearing with growth of time. these are very ethnic group and have survived so many years. we should promote these groups .

  17. Pingback: Cultures on the Edge — Steve McCurry’s Blog | A Better Tomorrow

  18. Pingback: Cultures on the Edge — Steve McCurry’s Blog | Breaking down barriers

  19. phoebedem says:

    Beautiful Pictures

  20. Just amazing Sir! A picture speaks a thousand words!
    Regards from India!

  21. It’s a joy to meet these people through your images, they are so accepting of outsiders in my experience as well. I can’t wait to get back to Gujarat but would love to visit up north as well. Love India and love photography……thanks for your inspiring images.
    Regard, John.

  22. Norma Lewis says:

    Thank you so much Steve, once again, for these beautiful and invaluable pictures. ….bringing such strong memories for me of my traveling days in these regions……

  23. Martine says:

    inspiring photographs, thank you as always Steve! Not only great images, but a powerful story too.

  24. Anonymous says:

    steve is a stunning photojournalist

  25. Wonderful images that make think about the variety of ways of living and their rich cultures!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Amazing and inspiring as always. Thank you

  27. oracleofeerwah says:

    Takes me back to Nepal in the 70’s, the cold and dry dust and a people doing it tough… no different to the aboriginals in Oz. Things are changing so fast. People are losing their culture, their purpose. I see it all the time in North Queensland, in the aboriginal communities; nothing to do except drink and drugs and fighting each other. You take great picky’s… the new cameras help, point, snap and photo-shop edit. I take a hundred snaps for one good one. It’s all there in a face, ya just got to take the snaps; people are getting wise to the camera, they know it looks into their soul… and the camera-man don’t care; they take something away and don’t pay. Take a look at my page; quid pro quid.

  28. Thank you for your beautiful pictures ..

  29. Michael Warman says:

    I am always amazed at the powerful photos you take. Eye opening and emotional. Keep up your fantastic works.

  30. excelente como siempre mefasinan eso colores felicidades maestro

  31. Thank you as always. I just shared you at Face book.

  32. Niranjan says:

    Lovely portraits.

  33. Jane says:

    Amazing! It’s like Christmas or a birthday opening up your latest photos album. A wonderful gift of a glimpse into lesser known peoples, places and cultures! Thank you for sharing!

  34. Such powerful humanity you see and document for us.

  35. skriteman says:

    What a resume of wonderful life in our world. Thank you for sharing.

  36. nenny says:

    Reblogged this on Nenny's Corner Photography and commented:

  37. habner1 says:

    Even the youthful faces have indications of a life being lived which seems to only come through into your lens. Thank you – again.

  38. Marji says:

    I am awestruck by the power you captured in each face and all the details you captured that combine to tell the story. What an amazing photojournalist and artist you are!

  39. susana denda says:

    I love your pictures!!!!thank you very much.

  40. paula graham says:

    Stunning, stunning series and yes, nothing new about very painful for many.

  41. psakreff says:

    Fabulous! Thank you so much!
    My best wishes!

  42. It is worth a thought and a Herculean effort to help these wonderful beings survive. Such ache in my heart for what is endangered.

  43. Stunning as always. Thanks again for sharing this beauty and this wisdom that you convey with words and picks. Respect.

  44. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This is a stunning photographer. Each picture tells a story.

  45. Max510 says:

    Stunning Shots ! Thank you for sharing !
    Ciao ciao

  46. Pingback: Cultures on the Edge — Steve McCurry’s Blog – (Art)iculate Culture

  47. Absolutely love each one of them.. … the way you capture the emotions and expressions in each image is pure genius sir….

  48. Hakkı Ünlü says:


  49. Pingback: Cultures on the Edge — Steve McCurry’s Blog | mmsylvia

  50. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. I look forward to your blog each time I receive the email announcing it’s arrival. I feel as though I have traveled to far off places that I will never see in my lifetime.

  51. Spectacular images! Do you ever lead photo trips to India?

  52. I’m amazed that no-one has entered a comment yet! Superb photography and much food for thought, as always.

  53. Marilee says:

    Your photos are poems

  54. Nancy M. Koos-Bennett says:

    The skin on the children’s faces is to sad for me. I feel for the pain they must feel for what the way of life and weather has done to them. i pray that they have a good diet. Your skill and relationship with the people tells a story and one that the world needs to see.
    Thank You.

  55. ancestreats says:

    These beautiful environmental, ethnographic portraits render each subject with an intimate moment; yet as a collection they offer a larger view of cultures that are among our world’s vulnerable. Thank you for valuing and seeing these ordinary people as worthy subjects and for the masterful frames that encourage us to learn more.

  56. Pingback: Nomads | jgdshares

  57. cecile53 says:

    I am silenced by this post. It is so beautifull… and so painfull

  58. Anonymous says:

    Fabulous photos.

  59. I photograph and write about vulnerable sea turtles, and you photograph and write about the plight of nomadic people. I am humbled and grateful.

  60. Linda says:

    Thank you. Always a good day when you send out photos. I am learning from you.

  61. Mansukh says:

    Things you own, end up owning you (Fight Club)

    Although not nomadic at first glance, this quote is all about the logic behind a nomadic lifestyle. We usually become slaves to our attachments, to what we have. Nomads are about breaking free, being flexible, starting from scratch time after time.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Great pictures, Thanks.



  64. Carol Fagan says:

    I just love getting your blogs. Each photo tells such a poignant story and I am envious of your ability and the opportunity to capture those images. Keep cataloging these amazing vistas

  65. dy123 says:

    It is always a special treat to see your email in my inbox. God Bless you and beautiful sensitive work that you do in showing the world very special souls. Thank you!

  66. Jay Ahuja says:

    Thank you Mr McCurry for reminding us of the power of our diverse humanity.

  67. Carmen Blake says:

    Loved it…It was spectacular…..Thanks so much. a wonderful gift to us all.

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