Community's reaction to Tony Northrup's attack on Steve McCurry

March 10, 2019

In my previous post titled "Is a Youtuber defaming Steve McCurry and his Afghan Girl photo?" I have written about a shocking video that was made by Tony Northrup about Steve McCurry and his famous "Afghan Girl" photo, implying that McCurry victimized the then 12-years old Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula when he took that iconic photo of her in 1984. The original video was removed by Tony shortly after a big uproar in the online photography community which spotted a lot of factual errors, and perhaps a public comment by McCurry himself that he was "working with his lawyer" on this.

Today Tony re-published the original video, as well as published a new video, where he is trying to explain himself and clarify things. Watch it first, and then read on.

In my opinion this looks like a poor attempt to do damage control, and the majority of the comments from Tony's community seems to believe the same. Below are some of the over 1000 comments (and counting) the second video received, and these represent maybe 70-80% of all opinions on this issue (at least that was the case some 12 hours after the video was published), which is pretty telling.

Community reactions on Tony Northrup

Tom Knight
Time, that is the key to this story. Applying a 2019 Politically Correct lens to 35 year old picture in my opinion is a hit job. 35 years ago he was there to tell a story. No where does it say Steve was forceful and pushed his will. He asked the teacher to take her photograph. He didn’t force her into a room or touch her. Yes it may have upset her and in todays world that would not be acceptable. Go watch an episode of All In The Family it will make you cringe and would not be put on the air today. That show did talk about and brought awareness to race and the trouble of the times. The same way this picture brought attention to refugees in Afghanistan.

I think an apology to Steve is called for. 35 years from now are people going to look at your videos and for that matter anyone’s behavior and not find something politically incorrect?

Andy Into The Wild
Hey Tony, I'm a big fan of the channel but on this point I feel like you haven't really acknowledged the damage that you could do by putting even a single video with incorrect information out to your 1.2 Million followers.

Quoting a single source doesn't necessarily mean the information is correct, so verifying from multiple sources would be recommended. Also, with regards to your 2nd point you've added your "own take on it" (in your words) which, considering the nature of what you said about McCurry is not really acceptable.

Unfortunately once the video is out there, posting corrections and redactions will only clean up the mess so far, so hopefully you'll consider that for next time.

Photo Bob
You painted a very negative picture of Steve McCurry going into detail about her being instructed to remove her burqa and how taboo that was. You made it seem like abuse. That was not true and major part of your story. I’m not a hater but this is unacceptable to me.

Xavier Wiechers
Very disappointed with this story. The damage you have done to his good name cannot be fully undone.

Mate....your first video was straight slander. Now your back peddling

And the problem was your video was picked up by all the major photo websites. And they just copy and pasted your incorrect assumptions and information. And that false information was passed on. Chances are they are not going to post this new video where you correct yourself. So all people we see is your slander/incorrect info

The most recent BBC video from 29th jan this year. You should have watched before you made this content.

Carlos Vega
This video really doesn’t make anything better. You should’ve started with a very sincere apology to McCurry, IMO. The original video you made is pretty awful. It really is a hit job on McCurry’s integrity. Even if you didn’t intended it this way, that’s the way it came out. Very easy to sit in the studio and read stuff on the internet and come to conclusions. McCurry is the one who put his life on the line for years to bring attention to that part of the world. Ted Forbes’ response to your video is pretty much all there needs to be said.

Prime Philosophy
Sounds like narcissism.

'This is a story about Sharbat' - ignores a whole bunch of stuff that Sharbat has said about her own story.

Duane Parker
“Was this a hit piece about Steve McCurry”? It sure came across that way. It is an iconic photo, it was in 1985 and it still is 34 years later. Which brings up another question; why dredge up something from 34 years ago that you could never be totally sure about what people were thinking on either side. Maybe choose a more current event to make your point. The point you made was at the expense of Mr. McCurry; that’s my opinion, that’s what I took from your first video.

“To have a foreign man suddenly enter the room would be kind of scary” you assume. “This seems to be the way sharbat was dressed in 1984.... it would be common for her to relax a little bit when she was around only girls, Steve entering the room would change that dynamic and she would want to cover her face in front of Steve... we can tell this from the photos and Steve’s story” you are still embellishing the story and you are still speaking negatively of Steve’s approach to the situation, you’re trying desperately to save face, you admitted firstly to being wrong about the request to remove her Burqa this was a recount of the repeat photograph decades later where it’s stated she removed her burqa not that he requested she remove her burqa or even that she objected to the removal of her burqa you then tried to back up your story by pointing out she’s covering her face partially in one photograph from the original shoot in 1984 as a supporting piece of evidence for your original argument, having retracted it you’re now reaffirming it?!

If I was Steve McCurry I don’t think I’d be entirely happy with this video deletion, correction and partial statement retraction, having stated at the start of the video that nobodies perfect and you’ve made mistakes you’ve done a damn good job of reaffirming a modified version of your original statement rather than retracting it entirely. Pretty poor response Tony.

More over regardless of where the sponsorship money went afterwards I’d still classify this entire saga as click bait in my opinion it’s a distasteful publicity stunt; feature one of the most prolific Nat geo images deliver a story full of plot holes and inaccuracies because you’ve misquoted and misunderstood sources and stoke controversy surrounding it in a public forum without getting both sides of the story first. Or even one half of the story entirely accurately. Yep entirely innocent of any wrong doing.

The distasteful way you cut the original video half way through for your sponsor was atrocious, if you were genuinely affected by her story you’d allow it full air time before you start talking about web development platforms regardless of your stated intentions for doing that. it’s disrespectful and a poor reflection on your character and motive for doing so.

George Karline
I think you are making it worse. For yourself and for Square Space.

IMO this whole saga is one of "intent" and "unintended consequences" while looking at events even acknowledged by Tony "with" hindsight. I do not believe for a second Steve McCurry had an "intent" chiefly to profit from this incident (accolades and subsequent fame of the photo came much later ) nor willfully hurt a little girl's privacy and impact her way of life. We are all sitting here looking and reading this in front of a screen 35 years later and making assumptions as "facts"; this is not right. If you ask me one 'unintended consequence" of Steve's photojournalism realized within the NatGeo's original article has been the unusually high level of impact and awareness for refugees across Western world and the consequent set of initiatives to assist those in need. This can't be a bad thing, as we all know Steve and NatGeo created paths for some of this success channeled back to supporting refugees. Coming back to Tony's video, I feel Tony was more accusatory of Steve in his original video than he now claims to be. Connecting dots in his comments that are both direct and indirect made me feel the original video was still focusing more on Steve's conduct than Sharbat; at least this is what I reflect on it after watching it 5 times. I respect anyone's right to voice an opinion but second video I am commenting on here feels to me more of backtrack on comments on Steve by hiding behind sets of explanation of the 1st video's facts on Sharbat; they are not one and the same. I also agree with some comments here that unless it is protected by law or some contractual obligation Tony may have, all audience may benefit from knowing how much money donated to charity via viewer donations (and whether subsequent relevant income headed there as well) AND the amount of money Tony describes as a "whole bunch" from his pocket. I like this channel, I always felt T&C expressed their position on a sponsorship issue etc clearly prior to a product review video but I still feel very confused what their actual and primary intent might be before they published the first video. And, I still do not feel whether the ripple effect of this particular "unintended consequence" is generating more good than bad... One can only hope.. Peace.

Robert Smith
So now you are going to tell us how we should be better photojournalist? This is what you decided was important to convey ? How about an apology the the Man himself?? Honestly I’ve lost a lot of respect for you Tony. Turning this around and telling us how we should do better and absolutely no apology! I’m thinking that you’re thinking a bit too much of yourself. This is yours buddy...own it !

Andrew Logan
Your "defence" is full of assumptions, interpretations and feelings presented as evidence. It is just as bad and unprofessional as the original video. I have un-subscribed.

Danielle Milazzo
You could have researched properly before your first video. That’s journalism. I am not sure you are qualified. Maybe talk about ISO and pixels next time. And how can it not be about McCurry when you last points are really directed at his work? The photoshop part, come on...Seriously.

Vadim Om
why isn't this video sponsored by squarespace?

Jonas Fjellstedt
Even thought reading your sources list very carefully, I cannot find the "smoking gun" that support your accusations. It seems more like a "smoke screen" to me...

David Walker
You might run a successful channel but you are no photo journalist. Journalist go to collage and spend many years learning the craft. Trouble is you rely on YouTube rather than your images to promote you as a photographer. In this day and age of fake news you have to double and triple check sources. In your first source you rely on a BBC article. I am from Scotland so the BBC is our main source for news and trust me the BBC is no longer a reliable source on its own. During our recent independence referendum a couple of years ago they were clearly bias and produced not factual content. You are having to rely on translations and fast food journalism to support your claims . I have a source to say that the earth is flat but hey ho that does not make it so. Tony, I'm afraid it is a hit job as you could have made your video talking in general terms rather than try to take down a legend.

Expat Photographer
"My take on this is..."
And that was, and continues, to be the problem Tony. For some reason your'e still taking facts provided to you, and then dismissing them and substituting your own.

You do precisely that again when you quote Sharbat.
"...most of my video was focused on what she was feeling at the time."

No, it wasn't Tony. You made a series of claims that were not true, and you repeat some of them again here.
"...Sharbat, in hindsight, feels that her initial fears and anger were worth it."
No, that's not what she said, Tony. It's not what she said, again, with the following quote you provide.
In fact, you went much further by stating how the girl was very scared, with Steve getting one shot before she ran out in fear.
That was, and still is, wrong. For some reason you still haven't addressed some of these issues.
I'm a big fan, and have been for quite a long time. The initial video was done very poorly.
It's disappointing that you're still committing some of the very same mistakes. There's no need for it.

Adarsh Gupta
Stop pretending like you had altruistic motivations Tony. It's all to clear that you did this for self aggrandisement. For a while you felt like you had power to judge someone you cannot touch in creative terms or for an iota of the passion and commitment he has in his life and towards his craft. This one comes across just as lame as your original post on Sharbat Gula / Steve McCurry. It was uncalled for immature judgement and slander. Teach people about photo journalism when you have learn't enough yourself. If you were to be compared with a politician, you'd make a Ted Cruise.
Hope you learn something from this experience. Bonnie McCurry was graceful and a much bigger person about it all. You got away cheap. Now don't go about flexing your moral intentions from this.

Alan McDade
A ‘white messiah’ riding to the defence of defenceless girl, oh wait he is 30 years too late. This is all that is wrong with the political correct self flagellating left in the west. Stand back and look at the big picture, photo journalists in past 40 years have done more to bring the horrors of war and particularly its aftermath to the west than any other media. You are denigrating someone who brought the story of the the Afghan plight perpetrated in our name through the eyes of a small girl. The fact that this iconic images remains as a societal meme is because of the story it tells, not because it is a picture of a pretty girl. The story of this made us question the motives of our governments and helped raise charity for those who suffered for our collective stupidity. Will this video be remembered in a month from now, I doubt it. Do photographers have to tell you anything about their images, no, posed natural, photoshopped, real it does not matter appreciate the art and the story the minutia of details do not matter.

Rodrigo Polo
I feel sad for two things, 1-I watch your videos to learn about cameras, not about "ethics" that are always subjective to each culture and perception of other cultures 2-the day you published the video, I got a Twitter notification that you started following Obama, my overall feeling is that this is becoming too political, please, don't become another SJW channel.

Dmitry Brodsky
Steve McCurry is my favorite photographer, and in my opinion, one of the best photographers of our generation. Just got his new book. With all respect to Tony, he should not even put himself in the same sentence with Steve. Steve is a brilliant photographer to begin with, but Steve is also a true war photographer, he covered actual wars unlike Tony. So there are 'photojournalists' and then there is Steve. There are few other courageous war photographers that I know and I have utmost respect for them. Steve has spent his entire life traveling to places where 99% of photographers would never go. He is a giant among men.

Tony. Your fans are putting Steve McCurry, Bill Cosby, and war criminals on the same level. (See replies to Duane Parker's comment).
Clearly you have done more damage than what you imagine.

P.S. you can add Harvey Weinstein to the list...

Eric Walker
Was the subject of photoshopped images part of the original video? If not, why bring it up here? Are you alluding to other controversies surrounding Steve McCurry to legitimize your previous hack job? Pathetic!

Keith Brown
Tony, this is just my opinion. You are very talented and good at what you do in regards to reviews, camera tests, and the like. I would suggest that you stick to in depth reviews and comparisons. Honestly, this conversation of an old story about a photograph wasn't necessary.

Kim Burke
The Soviets and then the Taliban have inflicted countless horrors on Afghan women. Steve McCurry took a picture which helped draw attention to their plight. If you want to attack the perpetrators of these atrocities you have a lot of more deserving targets. I don’t think McCurry needs to apologise for anything, even in today’s climate, nor do I think it’s helpful to attack a photojournalist who put his life on the line for decades so we could have the luxury of nitpicking his pictures.

Robby Pedrica
Tony you're still carrying on with assumptions - your original video was in poor taste and unprofessional. Your attempt to justify here is the same.

And your attempt to play photojournalist educator is again the same.

I wish I could say I was shocked, but to be honest Tony, these sort of inexcusable errors brought about by wild speculation are inevitable when you go down the 'clickbait' reactionary rabbit hole this channel has gone down over the past year or so. It makes me sad, too. You and Chelsea's channel were one of the things that got me into photography in the first place. I really hope that you use this as a learning experience and will take a step back and reevaluate the direction the channel is going.

John A Newton
When I was a kid a photographer came to our school and forced us to have our photos taken, all the kids were forced, this was in England and the teachers bullied us into taking part, turns out our parents told them to do it.only we were white and no one cared.

Steve McCurry is a seasoned vet who has put in work in some of the grittiest places on Earth, TN is a liberal pu$$y slandering people from his livingroom.

Steve Morton
You can no longer be trusted on views or reviews. Enough is enough goodbye

I'm glad you made the original video to the extent that it raises awareness about the importance of respecting culture, and I'm glad that you donated to that educational foundation for women.
But the dissonance of the commercials to the message was off-putting. It made me question your sincerity and motives. Perhaps you could have just donated your own money, and/or given us a link to donate at the end.
On another note, you characterized the photojournalist as someone who cared more about getting the shot than respecting the culture and the girl as a person. I don't know him but I wonder, in your effort to be truthful and to raise ethical questions about how photojournalists sometimes get their shots, if he deserved the black mark you smeared on his reputation. Maybe he did (though I doubt it), and maybe you carefully considered the impact your words would have before you posted your video, believing that the message was more important than the reputations that may be tarnished. But if so, how is that different than his alleged justification for having her pose? As we ask how else Steve McCurry could have managed a historically persuasive shot like that without violating cultural mores, we may also ask how you could have persuaded us about ethics in photojournalism without throwing anyone under the bus.

Melancholic Duck
So you turn what really should be an apology into an opportunity to lecture us about the ethics of photography? Frankly that's shameless and self-righteous in equal measure. You've done enough damage to one of the great photographers of our time and the YouTube photography community, the least you could do is to own up to your mistake and apologise.

I was hoping to see a public personal Apology to Steve in this video... not your style, as usual. The word Hubris comes to mind.

Excuses and a couple misdirected sources doesn't count. Just another clickbait video to sell your brand is what this feels like.

I mentioned this point when replying to a comment down below but I think it bears repeating: we have to look at the context of the time in which the photo was taken. A strange man taking pictures of someone else's children seems sinister in our modern eyes, but it wasn't always seen that way. In fact, our entire attitude about children and their personal boundaries has changed, and that tipping point is not precise but there are a few clues in pop culture. For instance, there was a time when depicting a young girl playing in the bathtub with a toy was not a concern; seeing her topless was, I suppose, not even a consideration. In the late 80s and early 90s you start to see a change; the young girl is still seen playing with the bath toy but now there are bubbles carefully concealing her nipples. In the 1978 Superman movie, a toddler Kal El is shown walking up from the crater that his space pod created completely naked. In the 1988 movie "Good Morning Vietnam" there's a montage of street scenes depicting very young boys playing in a water downspout completely naked. My point in all this is that I believe there was a time and mindset that existed at the time where children simply had no personal boundaries that adults had to adhere to, and McCurry was certainly old enough to have grown up with that mindset. That may not excuse his actions in your eyes, but I think it explains it.

Andrew Deme
You have demonstrated way more misleading behaviour than what you have targeted Steve McCurry for....nice work and you did it for clickbait and square space adverts. Super disappointing and you should be ashamed. Point Number 5 use your own photographs to use as a basis for education.

the intent of the original video imo was a bait. you decided to use this to promote your channel and get people talking but hid it by donating to a charity. there was no need to do the original video at all. you went out of your way to find sources that would reflect that everything about this photo and the story behind it was negative and everyone knows drama / negativity sells and or helps get the word spreading.

if the video was sponsored or not, all i got out of it was someone taking something that everyone liked and making it negative. legit being a Debby downer. if there was an article about someone curing cancer. would you go out of your way to find all the negatives that went into that person curing cancer and making a video about it?? but to make it seem not like a full hit piece, you say oh this video is sponsored and im going to donate to this charity to clean up my image.... legit piss off

Keith Bauer
More click bait. So sad you ever went down this path.

Bill Ferris
I watched the first 5:00 of the video and couldn't go any further. A few days ago, you published a video that is little more the character assassination directed at Steve McCurry. Now in this video, you ignore the documented record to instead rely on your personal assumptions about what may or might have happened to spin a fiction that has no foothold in reality. Shame on you.

It was tasteless tbh esp when you have to stop midway to promote Square space Jesus anyways you went woke

Craig Zilko
Page 798 of that June 1985 edition - photograph of young girls in a school room, all faces exposed, McCurry obviously in the room, go figure. Opening line of the article, females do not give their names to strangers, hence the 2002 hunt to find her, so a bit hard to benefit someone you can’t know because of cultural reasons, evidence McCurry and the lead journalist on the assignment behaved with appropriate sensitivity. No mention he sought permission to take the girls photo. Still no mention of McCurry’s charity ‘Imagine Asia’ that has been operation for some time giving to the people of this region. What about the $1m Nat Geo have donated to the region? yes you did mention some good has come from the image, that’s a bit of an understatement. Sorry I still have a hard time with someone bringing up a 35 year old photo to highlight ethical problems to us in 2019, although I do not believe McCurry breached any cultural or ethical boundaries in 1984. I will be donating to McCurry’s charity thank you. Nice walk back though.

5 Star
Tony - Sharbat had never had her picture taken before. You also did not mention the language difference and the communication that actually taken place. You created a negative video about this photo and it was hit piece and just watch the video you made about Steve. It's all about how you decided to spin "your take" on how the picture was taken. You did it. No excuses. You also didn't provide ONE OTHER example of exploited journalism photos that followed the same track as Steve photo of Sharbat. Not one. You say the video was about awareness but it wasn't. This was a hit piece. Also the color is off on this video and that doesn't represent you or Sony very well.

Tony, I appreciate you doing this correction video. But in the future, if you are going to do more serious journalistic pieces it is vital to act as a serious journalist. Not taking notes, not listing sources, and "sensationalist" headlines are not serious. It is Youtube-bull. You are better then this.

Savvy Savant
Should have started with a sincere apology to Steve McCurry, and the fact that there isn't one in this video is absolutely inexcusable. You seem to be acting like a Social Justice Warrior here. Promoting your ideals and causes at the expense of others, and not giving a damn about the reputations and livelihoods caught in your crossfire.

Melanie Thompson
Lost a lot of respect for you with this video…Seriously no apology to Steve McCurry?

Just because you can provide sources for what you said, doesn’t make it right. Checking the sources against each other and giving a well rounded picture of the story would have been the responsible thing to do.

You claim that the original video was not an hit piece on Steve McCurry, but it sure comes across as one. Out of all the information that is readily available, you pretty much cherry picked that fit your narrative, which portrays her as being unethically exploited by Steve McCurry. The video you made is an attack on McCurry’s character and reputation that seems very unwarranted. There should at least be some kind of apology!

Tom Fairley
Tony you were not there, stop this non information about Steve McCurry, I have bought your books and have now burned them. Stick to the facts, I repeat, you were not there. No more views of your click bait videos from me. You didn't play fair. You were never a photo journalist. Goodbye.

When you apply 2019 ethical standards to events from decades ago, of course you’ll find things to cringe at. It’s hard to judge a person 30+ years later, without fully appreciating societies understanding and awareness of Afghanistan, and the cultural appropriateness (like rules around wearing a Burqa or Hijab) at the time.

Seriously go watch any 80’s tv show today and you’ll find sexism, racism, homophobia, things that would never make the cut if it were created today.

I’m not saying McCurry did the ‘right’ thing. But whether we like it or not what’s ‘right’ moves with time.

It’s disgraceful the people likening McCurry to Weinstein, Cosby in the comments here, treating him as a sexual predator. Seriously...?

jwbhjb dnwjn
Hi Tony, as much as I can appreciate someone coming out and wanting to correct their mistakes, I do not find this to be an attempt at making amends. It generally sounds more like you are trying to justify what you said and how you went about gathering the information which happens to be outdated interviews. While there are so many more discrepencies from your first video that you have chosen to overlook in this follow-up, the biggest one of them all is why did you choose to base your research on outdated interviews and air largely them over the more recent ones? You created a narrative through taking bits and pieces of information and yet you call them sources? You just selectively took a couple of sentences that fit your narrative and made some outstanding claims. I could be wrong in the way I am interpreting all this and you could be right, but fact remains is that you created a narrative focusing on mostly the negatives. Had there been a balance of both sides (which simple google search results would show there is) in your video showing past and present interviews, you would not look like you were saying something defamatory. This is why you got called out because no else could find the thing you are saying because everyone else decided to read all these sources as a whole and not just simply pick sentences to fit a narrative. Anyway, If I was 10 years old and a stranger asked me to pose for a shot, I too would have felt really uncomfortable whether or not my parents or an adult I knew were around or not. It was just a normal thing that any kid would feel. Of course there are larger implication of acts like that in that part of the region but still making it seem that McCurry was violating someone's privacy, personal space and religious practices is wrong. My opinion is that you just wanted to make the video for what it was; clickbait. You ought to be ashamed for the level of insincerity displayed in this follow up video.

Mike Cloutier
What should be the big takeaway for you? An unanswered email is a not a legit attempt by a journalist to contact someone. You should make every effort you can to get comment from the subject, especially if you intend to publish defamatory information. If you want to play reporter, those are the rules.

Nikos B
First time you wear glasses as long as I remember. Cheap marketing trick to create a professional, grave look. So teenager kind of thinking.

J Hollandjr
This is what happens when egos get so huge Youtubers like Tony & Chelsea can speak of all genres of photography without being great at any genre but analytics. Stick to trashing cameras so your followers wont buy any. Connecticut people lol

Ravi Putcha
First: When someone explains their feelings to an incident that occurred when she was 7 - she wasn't giving you a fact. Human memory is not a video camera of emotions. When we look back on some day, logical biases come into play. What she said about her feeling of being photographed may not be a fact - it is just a statement.
Second: she is living in an ultra-orthodox Muslim society - she can't obviously say she enjoyed being photographed even if it were true (unless she's seeking to get socially ostracized). For her, social acceptance is more important than stating any facts. She just wants to bring it to a happy end that doesn't hurt her position in the society and she be left alone and would like to be seen by others in her society as a normal, harmless woman. For any women who attracts attention is seen as someone who needs to be punished (by Taliban) - she doesn't want to be there. Understand her social context before concluding anything about what she said.
Third: your tone in the last video was decidedly moralistic and now you are apologetic.

You dragged a photographer though mud (because he is famous like few people can dream of).

Tony, I've been a fan of your channel (and continue to be) for many years. My biggest gripe with this is that you said you contacted all parties and waited for an answer, --but only for three days! I don't think you can seriously expect people to respond to you within that time frame. What if your e-mail went to their spam? Or they are busy, or had some sort of emergency? Maybe add at the end of your desiderata: contact people impacted by your stories and wait for a prudent amount of time before releasing something controversial. If they had declined to comment that would be a totally different game, but you cannot assume that they're not gonna answer after three days. I don't think your original video was time sensitive by any stretch of the imagination. Why not just sit on it for a month and try to follow up/get an answer for McCurry for a bit longer?

How did this become a video where you try to tell people how to do travel photography right... First you dragged Steve McCurry through the mud for his supposed predatory travel photography tactics, then you admit to having taken pictures that you're not proud of for the same reasons I am assuming because you cleverly did not disclose how you "made mistakes". You can't just shit on Steve in one video, then make this video where you admit to making similar mistakes then act like you're here to give super duper advice to better the community...

Blue Newt
I disagree with using this photo as a guide to educate people about the correct way to do photojournalism today. It was 1985, we didn’t have 24 hour news and I didn’t even have a TV. I was 24 years old when this came out and was too busy working my farm to keep up on any news no less internatIonal news and many of my peers where in the same boat. The photo and article were instrumental in educating the public about the Afghan’s fight against the Soviets. And in my opinion the way it was presented made it effective for the job. It was eye catching and made you want to know more. We live in a completely different world today. Practically no one is missing out on the daily news, especially in terms of international relations. And there is much more at risk in terms of liability. Just my two cents....

Kevin Moore
I could tell from the opening moments of this video that you were going to double-down and you did. You created a "controversy" where none really existed. It comes off as ingenuous to me, as someone who has had some success on YouTube getting a little too big for his britches. I'm not sure why you think you are entitled to question the motives of established, iconic photographer who took one of the most viewed iconic photographs in history, especially when you weren't even there. If it was to give your followers the impression that you are up there with the big dogs of photography, it had the opposite effect.

I think it's only fair that you provide the proof of donation to the Sahare organisation from your Squarespace sponsor to ensure you are not benefiting financially from slandering a great photojournalists name. NGOs need to release their financial data to their donors to the donations. It would be wise for you to do so as well.

Also, mischaracterizing Steve's reputation and photography ethics by analyzing his behaviour from 35 years ago based on second hand sources is really unsavoury. If you wanted to discuss the ethics of photojournalism then I applaud you for opening a discussion on Youtube that's not simply camera reviews. I think we need more of that. Where you went wrong in my opinion, was dragging a very successful and influential photographers name through the mud to personally benefit your own social media networks thru clickbait. You judge Steve for his work, work that has brought about positive change in this world through his photography; trust me when I say your reputation will be judged based on this video.

Joseph Piotter
As I mentioned in the previous video that was deleted. I can care less about what he said, I do not know Tony or Steve but in reality only a very select few know exactly what happened that day, that's a true fact. The problem is the advertising you did for your Sponsor. Anyone who truly wanted the story to be about the horrors this young girl was facing would not have stopped in the middle of a video and mention your sponsor. You in fact mentioned them 3 times. Mention them once and how you are teaming up with them etc etc etc and then advise everyone to look in the description for all the details. Mention them 3 times are you opened it up for questioning the motive.

Mark Summers
Really? “I stand by almost everything but one point.” Your entire story has now completely changed. It was very slanderous toward Steve and NatGeo. You certainly have gotten the attention you so desperately sought. You now correct your entire premise that Steve and the teacher forced her to take her Burka off, and he framed it only as a cover shot. Therefore, profit was his main motive and she was purely an unpaid model. We would have almost no war photographs especially of children torn by war if every photographer had to be posed and paid as a model. Yes you say this but, only after you said it was necessary. The Burka issue was so important for you to mention because it changed the entire story. If you were a real journalist you would have been sued and lost your job. Lastly, breaking a story several times to sell your Squarespace time is really despicable. I’m surprised they haven’t fired you. Very poor journalism and even poorer judgement here. Your response is only because of the outcry.

Smileking40 Johnny
Here’s a thought stick to teaching photography and reviewing products! And leave the politics to other channels. Life is full of drama so I don’t need a YouTube channel that is designed to help me learn photography, become a political platform on ethics.

Jim Moyer
We all go through history looking backwards and applying contemporary values to situations from decades or centuries ago. One possible way to reframe the question here could be: did Steve McCurry, at the time he took the photo, violate either photojournalist ethics, or accepted norms about aid workers interacting with a foreign culture? The critique in the first video of abuse of power sounds very contemporary -- what were the standards for a conflict zone or National Geographic photographer at the time? Thanks for taking the time to post sources fully.

Juan Carlos Ayala
Of course it’s about McCurry. He’s the primary actor in this story. It’s tough to backtrack but sometimes you have to. The emotive position you took ignored a lot of context. No, it’s unlikely this photo would have been taken today, however that doesn’t mean he was wrong to take the picture at the time and in the context then.

George Papagiannis
You supposed to be a respectful you-tuber and photography book author. You should be ashamed that you want a bite out of an accomplished photographer in a such opportunistic way, invoking supposedly photo journalism and violation of personal freedom. I highly doubt that at 2019 you are worried about Mrs. Gula's well being, any kind of financial compensation and ethics of photo journalism, etc. Although you have 1M+ viewers, with this video you present YOURSELF as a miserable little man that you just envy another photographer, which level and class of pictures you cannot take. Pictures, that actually make can make a difference without having 100K equipment and can change the world a little bit by evoking feelings and emotions. I am really surprised from that video and i think you lost a lot of respectful viewers as well. This kind of publicity will have a negative effect to your target group.

Henry Gentles
Who do you listen to? A real Photographer out in the field for over 30 years or the guy who merchandises photographic stories and flogged squarespace for money before his latest tale of woe? The girl bought a House from all the money she has made from the photo and the most you could accuse McCurry is was maybe he was doing his job being a pushy photographer for 2 mins? The only one making money from this apparent violation is Northrup right? He is still monetising the incident with all his advertisements and product placement etc etc as his readership increases etc and he sells more product? Steve McCurry got a Wage doing his Job because the photo belongs to NatGeo! Northrup will make more from this publicity stunt than McCurry did, Northrup is still monetising these Videos etc etc selling Product off a very dubious controversy, flogging squarespace etc!

Your whole rant based on the fact that she had to remove the burka. You’re not a journalist, you’re not a camera engineer. You’re a YouTuber. So please stop spreading misinformation.

Edgar Duffy
The original video and this video are just click bait trash. Please stop!!!

Bernd Bajohr
Tony Northrup this a disgusting and pathetic statement. You become the Trump of the internet with all your fake news.
You behave like all this haters in the internet. What do you think who you are? You are not a Journalist. You are a simple Youtuber with a giant ego and a tiny brain. Stay with what you can do best. You are the King of Click Bait. Why did you start you personal war against Steve McCurry? Just to generate more Clicks on Youtube, nothing else. You are not interested in the truth or in ethics, you are interested in money and to draw attention to your channel. Shame on you for this hypocritical behavior. Shame on you for destroying the reputation of Steve McCurry just to generate more Income for you.

The original video by Tony Northrup

Gabriel Golden
I understand Mr. McCurry is currently seeking legal advice WRT this stinking heap of clickbait, and I wish him every success.

Dan Armour
And you just sold her out again. Square space should be ashamed...And you.

Curtis White
Low blow Tony not good... were you there? Total assumptions, and in a BBC video she is proud of the photo. And for one, photography is art so what if he had her pose. Stick to photographic reviews we have enough politics.

roberto posa
You are a mess - sorry never ever watching a videos from you - you have no idea what a real photographer is

Voy Toy
and Douchebag of the year goes to Tony Northrup, shame on you for trying to assassinate the character of an incredible photographer when you have no actual evidence, pretty disgusted with your belligerent behavior

Gareth Bourne
This is one of the most moronic videos I've seen on the subject of journalism and photojournalism.

Brady Barrineau
I predict you will be issuing a long apology video to both Steve McCurry and National Geographic. Steve took that iconic photo in the 1980's with a film camera - in that situation he had to pose her properly and he did just that. He was in a very dangerous part of the world and needed to get it right. After watching your video again, you make it sound like he's a predator out to frighten little girls 'fear in her eyes'. So just to get this straight, a YouTube photographer not in any class as Steve McCurry is passing judgement on a photographer who's traveled the world telling stories - he's a legend. No commenter here is even in the same class of photographer. Can you Tony please post a picture of yours as astonishing as the Afghan Girl Nat Geo cover? Man I used to really like watching your stuff, everyday I tune. I liked your ISO video but you're a YoutTube photographer, knowledgable yes but throwing a man like McCurry under the bus for helping millions of people know what was happening in Afghanistan - shame on you.

How do you know? Her fears in the eyes are caused by Steve McCurry? How do you know that?
You guys are just getting attention by controversy.
It's always the same format:
I (or we) didn't want to do a negative review. We don't like doing negative stuff, we love "x brand" we love the people at "x company) or (MCCurry was my hero). But, here is our negative review or controversial point, because controversy gets attention and we can get more followers.

You guys are such hypocrites. You're making money from this same photo that you're criticizing as unfairly commercialized.

If you're arguing McCurry was a scum, what does that make you guys?

Carmine Taverna
Maybe you can find dirt about Ansel Adams next.

Merlin Alfonso
I hope photographers stand up against Tony Northrup and this disgusting defamation of a great photographer. Any photographer who has done family portraits, school portraits, senior portraits, mitzvah portraits, etc., occasionally encounters a kid who is uncooperative and who would much rather be doing something else than having a stranger point a camera at them. It's like kids going to the barber shop, dentist, or passport office, or being asked to do test in gym class — they would rather not be there, and they might understandably be anxious about it. That doesn't mean they are being "exploited" by professionals doing their job. Steve McCurry was making a documentary portrait and it happens to be an iconic masterpiece that will be valued for generations, long after this insincere Youtuber has exploited Steve McCurry's name to deliver more viewers to SquareSpace.

Tony, I've been watching you guys for years and really enjoying your content. This video (and it's clickbaity "disturbing true story" BS title) is embarrassing (to you) and slanderous (to Steve McCurry). YOU NEED TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND TAKE THIS DOWN. PERMANENTLY. I am saying this AFTER I watched your totally inadequate no-apology "followup" video. It isn't good enough to correct a couple of inaccuracies in a separate video, you NEED to take THIS video down. It is actively doing harm and spreading misinformation, and it always will be as long as it is up. I'll have to unsubscribe if you can't see your way clear to doing the right thing and removing this content. This is so, so bad. I actually can't believe you haven't already taken this down. I don't even understand why you thought it was OK to frame the story this way as if you're some kind of expert on what happened, as if you're doing an exposé on a cover up. You're not asking questions here, you're making declarations of fact, and they are not properly supported. This is your "The Verge PC Build" moment, and you are BLOWING IT. You can't make it all OK by simply repeating that you're donating to a charity.

Edit: I decided that you've already crossed the line by making this video the way you did, failing to cite sources in the original video, and failing to take it down. So I'm unsubscribing after many years being subscribed. I have to take a stand against what you've done here, as well as your apparent failure to understand that you've done something very wrong and harmful. Look at the way your followers are attacking other people based on this video. Wake up.

Other Youtubers' reaction to the controversy

Ted Forbes from The Art of Photography channel made a long video (51 min) about the shocking accusations Tony made on Steve McCurry as well as how Youtubers should be careful with sources and content creation. It seems Tony saw his video and was not happy about it. He quickly posted an angry comment directed at Ted, but that comment was soon removed for some reason. Here is a screen shot (and more reactions further below):

Funny how you, Tony, expect a courtesy you didn't offer to Steve McCurry. You may be friends but nothing in the friendship rulebook says we should sit idly by while our friends do messed up things.

PJ Smith
@PorcelainVal According to multiple people I've talked with in the last few days, Steve McCurry was actually pretty easy to get ahold of. Either his staff, wife or himself got back to someone I know within 24 hours. Tony saying his email was lost, I mean I do believe him, but he should have sent another one or did some research and called his offices. I won't say how my friend got ahold of him, but it was very easy according to him.

John Ishii
Dear Ted, I've written to you before a few years back. I'm a photo journalist based in Asia and I watched Tony's video and was quite blown away. Just a little back story, I was in Pakistan in the 80's and have been to the refugee camp in Peshawar a few times. And I also know Steve and have interviewed him. Please remember Nat Geo is NOT a daily news media such as the many daily's around, Nat Geo is what it is a Geographic publication about the world with concentration of its content on Geo, hence the name. In the 1980's the world was a very different place Steve had a job to do and was given the task of getting a front cover for the month. He saw this young girl and like all of photojournalist you identify the subject and try to get the shot needed for the cover. Now going back to Tony who was only 11 years old at the time has no idea what its like to be in the shoes of Steve or as an assignment photographer for a leading magazine. I've got my shares of front covers for Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, BBC, Boston Globe etc. The pressure is immense to get the shot for the front cover, your photo editors or "desker's " are waiting for your cover shot and its gotta be powerful. Steve as pro as he is found it took the shot and the rest is history. But for Tony's trash him 40 years later is out of line. He should have know better than to simply make damaging accusations and claims as he did. 99 percent of us photojournalist do not take part in Youtubeing as we are to busy on assignments and taking images as we are trained to do and not spend all week making Youtube video's for social currency. Photography you tubers that I watch, I'm sure have very few published work. And when I mean published work I mean in world class daily's such as the WSJ, CNN, LA Times etc. Not your local paper, its pressure that is beyond words. Steve is a wonderful man and one the great photographers and its a shame Tony comes along and tries to discredit Steve's work he has been doing for many years. Steve is story teller using photography to tell his story. But speaking ill of Steve for social currency and clicks is just bad.
Hope this has been a bit helpful.

John Dickinson
One card slot is the end of the world. Digital ISO is fairy dust. Afghan girl serially abused by heartless American photojournalist. This mania is becoming worse by the day. Send him to YouTube rehab so he can get back to explaining how back button focus works.

So, a double down video was launched and this comment was shadowbanned by Tony: Let’s answer Tony's questions here, why the original video was taken down? To avoid a possible lawsuit, once the threat gone the video was back up online. To check sources? No need to take the video down for that! Number 2, “small” mistake from the original video, that McCurry forced her… even in her statements there is no indication of that, you can be angry or frighten at the moment, those feeling do not indicate forced or inappropriate behavior from the photographer! 3 the interpretation
of the subtitle of the NG cover… “Afghan refugee fears” the only interpretation is her fears in general, in her life, not her fears of the photographer at the moment when the picture was taken. No one… I repeat NO ONE could ever make the assumption from that phrase that she was afraid of McCurry or at the people present at that precise moment! Plural fears! Do we still understand the meaning of words? 4 Ok you accept the fact that she had no burka at the moment and that McCurry did not force her to take it down.

Very big mistake!! That was on of the most important ethical question of the video Tony made! Did he forced someone to remove a piece of clothing, and one with an important religious meaning? No! Right there Tony made a huge error! In my opinion just that assumption is enough to discard the entire original video! It changes everything! Because her feeling at the moment could be of fear or anger, but those are not incompatible with consent! But to force someone to remove something they are wearing it is an hole other story. 5 was it a hit piece? In intent Tony says no… In reality? It was absolutely an hit piece… trough and trough! Why? McCurry forced the Afghan girl to take a picture without her consent and forced her to remove a burka she was wearing. What was the point of the video? To prove the unethical behavior of a photographer, and that you should not do it like the bad bad McCurry! Finally are we all photojournalists? Off course NOT! We can be photographers but we are not journalists, not by a long shot!! And Tony speak off himself like he is?!? Hell no! Even if you take a picture that some news organization uses, it does not make you a photojournalist. Let make this clear, do not go around cities or places saying to yourself that you are a journalist. You are
not. 6 my final point is that in photojournalism, the news and public interest supersedes most of ethical and legal ground of a picture being taken. Most photographs are taken against the will and authorization of the subjects. But because the journalist is there to defend the public interest he takes the pictures regardless! What about the Vietnam war girl photo (napalm girl)? If McCurry was bad, imagine to take a photo of a naked girl! What was she feeling at the moment the picture was taken? Did she gave her consent? What about the picture of the dead refugee Syrian boy on the beach? That is why we should not listen to Tony in this matter, he is not qualified to do so! His opinion is irrelevant, he is maybe a photographer but he is not a journalist, and certainly not an expert in ethics! That follow up video, just like the original one are a shame in my opinion! A shame for all the photography community on Youtube.

jwbhjb dnwjn
1) The snippets of the interview with the television show has a full version that Tony simply used one small part of where Sharbat Gula speaks about her difficult times. He conveniently left out out the parts where she was laughing and joking around with the hosts. 2) She was detained not because of the picture, but because it was found that her documents were fake (in such a situation, you will be deported no matter how famous you are, no matter which country is in question). This happened many years after the picture was taken. Tony conveniently left that out. 3) Sharbat Gula was gifted a 3,000 sqf home to live in and receives USD 700 every month. According to Tony, she was left alone with nothing. 4) There is a BBC interview where Sharbat Gula says that when she was young she was uncomfortable but later when she saw the impact her image was able to create, she was happy. Tony suggested that she was abused and used. But, the interview suggests from the subject of the controversy claims otherwise. 5) Tony and Chelsea claimed that Nat Geo and McCurry did not respond to them. Another lesser popular YouTuber claimed he received a reply from McCurry in 5 hours. There seems to be more facts destroying Tony's claims and even suggests some fabrications to what really happened at the shoot, and the living conditions of Sharbat Gula by Tony. McCurry is a photojournalist who has risked his life to cover wars and create important works of history. Tony on the otherhand is a YouTuber with very little professional work in his credentials. I prefer to give McCurry the benefit of the doubt over Tony. Tony is not a working photographer, he is an educator at best. And I take offence when an educator pieces together selective bits and presents them as facts. I concur with the guys in this video, there is no source out there that supports Tony claims. I don't know what some of you were smoking when you decided to defend Tony but I found so much that debunks nearly everything tony said by just doing a simple google search on Sharbat Gula.

Darren Miles from Darren Miles Photography channel also made a video questioning Tony's video on Steve McCurry, visibly shocked and distraught. Here are reactions to Darren's video:

John Ishii
Hi Darren I was rather disappointed by Tony’s video on Steve. I’m a photojournalist and I was there at the same refugee camp in Peshawar Pakistan in the 80’s. Tony don’t understand that Steve is a story teller not a photojournalist who shoots for the daily’s. His more editorial and had an assignment with Geo to cover the refugee issue. I know Steve and have interviewed him in Malaysia and he’s a very nice guy and he doesn’t deserve this kinda of flak from Tony who was only 11 years old at the time. I’m a 62 year old retired photojournalist and I know what was going on at the time. This was way before photoshop and he has mentioned many times that he positioned her with his lights to get the shot he wanted. That’s it.

Skyler King
The Northrups are rooted in bias and controversy. Years ago, I watched their videos and commented regularly. Never any issues... Until I politely pointed out that Tony was wrong about something. They immediately blocked me. I figured I must have been unintentionally offensive, didn't take it personally, and started watching their videos from a different channel. I then saw them mention how resilient they are, how they "aren't thin-skinned", how they are far too experienced with YouTube to allow comments to bother them, etc. Well, stupid me, I decided to comment from my new channel and ask why they blocked my original channel, if that was true. Chelsea replied to my comment from her personal channel. She basically just insulted me without addressing or answering my question. Then she gave me shit about commenting from a new channel, as if she was implying that she "knew it was me". This seemed odd, because both channels have my real name as my channel name as well as a picture of me as the avatar. So, clearly, I was never trying to be deceitful about who I was.
I just decided to let it go. I unsubscribed, stopped watching their videos, and moved on.
They clearly have their own issues. Part of those issues appears to be rooted in always being involved in some type of controversy with someone. I think they bank on it for views, honestly.

Sylvain Duford
Northrup is just a click-bait master and a pixel-peeper. He learned long ago that controversy brings views which brings $$$. He hardly ever talks about actual photography or art. So him denigrating a legend like McCurry is pretty low.

Gary Box
I think the Northrup's video was nasty and I hope McCurry is seeking good legal advice. Tony makes all sorts of assumptions without getting the story from either the girl or McCurry. Sure McCurry wanted the photo, what photographer wouldn't. Did he abuse the girl in some way? Tony seems to say the girl was fearful of McCurry and the expression in her eyes is fear. I don't know McCurry but the interviews with him I've seen he doesn't come across as a complete douchebag.

What I do know is that McCurry is ten times the photographer Northrup will ever be and maybe that's part of the issue, it's based on jealously. The video left a very bad taste in the mouth. It came across as the worst kind of virtue signalling attack. It wasn't helped by the constant stopping to plug Squarespace. I've no idea why it's since been taken down. You would hope it would be for all the right reasons but you can't help wondering if it's more because it totally backfired. It probably brought McCurry to the attention of a new generation who will see his work and probably judge him well. Conversely it makes Northrup look really bad which he can't accept in case some sponsors drop him.

I'm not sure McCurry is vindictive enough to go after Northrup but it almost needs someone like Northrup to be made an example of. Someone in his position should do the basic minimum of fact checking. He deliberately edited it to make McCurry look bad which is pretty dumb when there is plenty of alternative evidence to counter in the public domain.

Dill Carver
I’m British and saw a BBC documentary where Sharbat Gula, the girl in the photo was interviewed at length. She seemed very happy that the photo had changed her life and that she has an income from it.
Many of the most iconic photographic images from conflicts and wars are staged, from the American Civil War, through both World Wars and Vietnam. The point is, they tell the story.
Tony Northrup stated to the world in his review of the Fujifilm X-H1 versus the Sony A7 III, that the “Fujifilm X-H1 feels cheap and plasticky” – I know you’ve used the Fuji X-H1 and everyone that has handled it knows it to be an over engineered hunk of solid mag-alloy… and industrial strength brick. Why does he say this stuff? He is a popular source of information for photo hobbyists… an influencer.
Steve McCurry is an absolute legend. A brilliant photographer and by all accounts a top notch human being.

Yitzchal Levi
Tony blew it. I proved to him that the issue was not that Steve McCurry somehow scared this girl but rather that the Pashtun have been controlled by Muslims and their Sharia law system and therefore her fear likely arose in anticipation of reprisals from the Muslim religious fanatics (Tony falsely claimed the Pashtun were not Muslim though he obviously knows nothing of their history). He could have turned this around but instead doubled-down and insisted this was about McCurry being a bully rather than a larger problem about religious fanaticism and control freaks let loose in the world.... Politically correct idiocy.

Carlos Vega
None of us were there. Tony was out of line. It was an outrageous video. Steve McCurry is one of the greatest photographers of our time. Tony has no clue the blood sweat and tears McCurry put year after year In Afghanistan. I thought about commenting on it also on my channel, but I’ll let McCurry’s lawyers do the talking.

Further reactions

Related: If you're into photography, don't follow channels like Tony Northrup and co.


  1. Tony is known to delete and ban comments that are critical of him. I'm glad you reposted them here.

    1. He once banned me for just correcting him a little bit, it was a very innocent comment, and I was very polite. I used to be their fan, but after that I was really disappointed. Now with this McCurry smear campaign I am not going to watch them, nor consider using Squarespace. They went too far in my opinion.

    2. The same thing happened to me, but he did it after some time. I suspect he'll do the same under these McCurry videos once the dust settles. He will shadow ban all the people that have criticised him. It will be a lot of work, but since he's not doing any photography jobs, he will do it manually one by one, with his wife together.

  2. Thanks for sharing, insightful videos.

  3. I am glad there is a video by a female photographer sharing her views on the issue. Thank you!

  4. The hypocrisy is big on that comment to Ted, where he's asking him to reach out to him before making the video, while he did not extend this courtesy to Steve McCurry. I just don't understand how he can live with himself. He never even apologized to McCurry ("I regret not providing sources"). This is plain disgusting.

  5. Someone made a list about the errors in his videos.

  6. This has to be one of the worst two videos ever produced by a Youtuber. How can you go back 34 years and smear a legend's legacy by making false allegations? Entitled rich people do that sitting in their fancy mansions. Unlike Steve McCurry who visited war-torn countries and has generated a lot of attention and help to people in poor countries, Tony thinks that a couple of 100 USD with Squarespace justifies a clickbaity video where he plays moral apostle from his virtual pulpit. Shameless and embarrassing.

  7. "Stop pretending like you had altruistic motivations Tony. It's all to clear that you did this for self aggrandisement."

    This comment sums it up perfectly!

  8. I wish to comment on photojournalists who go to war zones. Many have been killed. Until the invention of photography, the general public knew little or nothing of the horrors of war. The criticism of Steve McCurry reminds me of Robert Capa, whose photo of the Spanish resistance fighter at the moment of his death as being staged. It wasn't, his name is known.
    I don't know whether Steve McCurry ever was in combat nor do I care. What I care about is the message his photographs bring, that war is hell. Period.


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