So synonymous was McCurry’s name with colour film that Eastman Kodak chose him as the recipient of the last roll of Kodachrome they produced. He used some of it on the streets of New York and the rest photographing ­vanishing icons – African nomads, the monumental architecture of Grand Central Station, even a portrait of Robert De Niro. “That was a poignant roll of film for me.”
When I ask if he has a personal favourite among his own photographs, he describes one that has “a magical combination of synchronicity, skill and instinct”: “It has to be the picture of the Indian women huddled against a tree. I was ­riding across the desert in Rajasthan in a taxi during a dust storm and my initial instinct was to close the window and ride it out. But I didn’t. Instead, I kept poking my head out the window, ­looking for a subject. Then, like a mirage, there they were. It doesn’t matter if you are in the desert or ­downtown New York,” he says, finally, “you have to roll with the flow and stay alert to the world around you.”

Sean O’Hagan