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The Photo Story: Steve McCurry’s Coffee Trail

Day labourers toss coffee ‘cherries’ at a plantation near São Paulo, Brazil – the wind blows away chaff, such as twigs and leaves
Photographer: Steve McCurry


Over the years, as I’ve travelled on assignments, workshops and random visits to countries that are major coffee producers, I’ve photographed the people who live and work on coffee plantations. For the last decade, I’ve also worked with the coffee company Lavazza, documenting the lives of the growers involved in their local projects. I love coffee – I’m a huge coffee drinker myself – and it fascinates me that, although coffee is so much a part of daily life, few of us ever really stop to think about how it’s made or who grows it. Once you get into the subject, a whole world opens up – it’s an amazing process. I was interested in the people who actually went out to pick the coffee and manage the trees, and was surprised to see how similar the techniques used often are around the world, and how much the growers share in common. I spent a lot of time with them in their homes, schools and villages, and those I met were good people – family people living simple lives and getting by on modest means. The project is a little insight into them – a portrait of who they are and how they live.

Steve McCurry is one of the world’s leading photojournalists. For more images, see his book From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail (Phaidon).