“It was in June and as hot as the planet ever gets. The rains had failed in this part of Rajasthan for the past thirteen years. I wanted to capture something of the mood of anticipation before the monsoon. As we drove down the road, we saw a dust storm grow, a typical event before the monsoon breaks. For miles it built into a huge frightening wall of dust, moving across the landscape like a tidal wave, eventually enveloping us like a thick fog. As it arrived the temperature dropped suddenly and the noise became deafening. Where we stopped, women and children worked on the road— something they are driven to do when the crops fail—now barely able to stand in the fierce wind, clustered together to shield themselves from the sand and dust. I tried to make pictures. The road workers didn’t even notice me. In the strange, dark-orange light and the howling wind, battered by sand and dust, they sang and prayed. Life and death seemed to hang in precarious balance.” (Steve McCurry quoted in ‘Go Behind the Lens with Steve McCurry’, Rubin Museum, 17 December 2015, http://rubinmuseum.org/blog/go-behind-the-lens-with-steve-mccurry)
This photograph was captured during McCurry’s 1983 photographic venture in India for National Geographic. On a taxi journey between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, the photographer witnessed a group of women become engulfed in a wall of dust. Struck by the instinctive way in which the women huddled together and protected one another amidst the deafening sand storm, McCurry sought to capture the moving scene. In the current work, the haze of the dust is dramatically contrasted with the crisp and vibrant reds of the women’s saris. The dark trees and indistinct horizon line lend the photograph a haunting quality.