Steve McCurry’s Story

The power of human touch in photos

For more than thirty years, Steve McCurry has been regarded as one of the most influential contemporary photographers. For NIVEA, he photographed different aspects of physical affection. For McCurry himself, human touch “is as important as eating or sleeping, drinking water, or breathing.“

Behind the scenes with Steve McCurry (1:50)

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.“

Vera Nazarian

Science Fiction Author

Skin is our „social organ“

Our five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – are our gateway to the world: To be meaningful, everything must first be sensed and perceived, and the senses naturally work together to help us comprehend and appreciate our environment. Just being touched affects how we feel. A pat on the back can make us feel relaxed and happy, but a jab in the arm can make us feel agitated and angry. Touch also affects how we feel about others. The socioemotional significance of touch lasts lifelong, and researchers now refer to the skin as a “social organ.”

Steve McCurry has captured different emotions for us in his pictures.


I think the best photos stay with you, they’re something that you can’t forget.

Steve McCurry


So much of portrait photography is waiting for the right moment when a person’s personality reveals itself.

Steve McCurry


We connect with one another via eye contact, and there is a real power in that shared moment of attention in which you can occasionally catch a glimpse of what it must be like to be in another’s shoes.

Steve McCurry


I think to be a good photographer, you need to have an inquiring mind and to be very curious. I keep it simple and generally try to treat people with the utmost dignity and respect when I’m photographing them.

Steve McCurry


I think touch is universal. It doesn’t matter which country you come from.
Touch is as important as eating or sleeping, drinking water, breathing – it is this kind of fundamental. Human affection is the core of human being.

Steve McCurry

The vital role of touch

Touch is vital to trust, cooperation, and group function. For example, brief celebratory touches, such as chest bumps and hand slaps, enhance individual and group performance in professional basketball players, and do so by reinforcing cooperation. Gentle touches affect social relationships in ways we are not always even conscious of. People are likely to give bigger tips, return money left behind, rate a store more highly, and even spend more money if just gently touched in the course of a transaction.

Behind the scenes

The models in McCurry’s shooting came from all over the world. They had never met before. Nevertheless, Steve McCurry took pictures of them while touching and hugging, holding a baby, or playing with a young child. What was it like for the models? We asked them about their experience at the photo session. Their reaction was clear: “When we touched each other, we immediately felt more connected, more at ease.“

“After the photo shoot we felt really happy, we just couldn’t stop laughing ...even though it was for the camera”


Barriers of touch

A person can be blind or deaf, can lack the sense of smell or taste, and still lead a full, productive life. But what if we are deprived of touch? NIVEA has been working closely with scientists and research institutes to thoroughly understand the benefits and barriers of human touch. One key finding: most people don't experience as much touch as they would like. Nearly one in five respondents hadn’t experienced any physical contact at all the day before they were interviewed. And the coronavirus pandemic has made things worse.

“Isolation makes me realize how important touch is for our health.”
75% of all Respondents of NIVEA Global Survey

Human Touch cannot be taken for granted

If there is a silver lining to this crisis, it’s that the pandemic has given us a new appreciation of the power of touch. In the future, when we will be able to share hugs, handshakes, or cuddles again without fear, we won’t take these moments of physical connection for granted.

Do you agree?