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Upstairs, Downstairs

Burma

For centuries, stairs have symbolized journeys, rites of passage,
transitions,
and stages of  life in art, literature, and music.

Tibet

My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
‘Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul
William Butler Yeats

Italy

Stairs are climbed step by step.
– Turkish Proverb

Kashmir

Children’s stories tell tales of boys and girls discovering treasures upstairs in the attic and fearing what is downstairs in the basement.

Afghanistan

Faith is taking the first step even when
you don’t see the whole staircase.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Burma

Morocco

Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe,
grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts,
emerges ahead of his accomplishments.
– John Steinbeck

Jodhpur, India

My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be
through Earth’s loveliness.
– Michelangelo

Italy

Mt. Popa, Burma
The stairway climbs a 300-foot lava plug crowned by Buddhist temples.

Serbia

Mother to Son
Well, Son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
– Langston Hughes

New York, September 12, 2001 

Japan 

New York

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
it.
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!
A.A. Milne

Italy

Haiku
Steep steps
Uneven treads
Life
– bmv

India 

Iraq 

 

Afghanistan

Check out linktr.ee/stevemccurry to see what we’ve been up to!

By Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years, with scores of magazine and book covers, over a dozen books, and countless exhibitions around the world to his name.

To read more about Steve go to www.stevemccurry.com/bio

17 replies on “Upstairs, Downstairs”

My goodness, Steve, once again there is so much poetry in those images besides the beautiful words which accompany them. Thank you so much for sharing the beauty of people and places, raw and natural. You are a gift to mankind. Merci! Cécilia

I love how your work reflects thoughtful life and the wisdom in the poems imparts. As my life unfolds, I can relate to the photo and the many people I met in my work profession as a social worker. Thank you for adding to my life.

I am in love with this series. What a title “Upstairs/Downstairs” and masterpieces to form the series are all true gems of photographic history. Your work is one good thing in earth I wait for. So lucky to witness these iconic photographs and comment. Salute Sir! 🙏🏻🙏🏻❤

Steve, What a beautiful post- So many of the images and the quotes and poems resonate with me. I cannot believe it was just a year ago that we were in St. Louis to celebrate you inducted into the Hall of Fame. I was a fan of your work before that but I hear your voice now in all you post and share. Have a wonderful holiday season!

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