Born in 1948 in New York, Michael Barry grew up in France and Afghanistan. He lived in Kabul in 1963 and with the Afghan nomads from 1970 to 1972. A graduate of Princeton, he also studied anthropology at Cambridge, McGill in Canada and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. A specialist in Afghanistan and Islam in Central Asia, he carried out various humanitarian missions between 1979 and 2001 for associations such as the International Federation for Human Rights or Médecins du Monde.
Speaking Persian, Arabic and Urdu, he is the translator of the Persian poet Nezâmi de Gandjeh. Head of the Islamic Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum in New York from 2005 to 2009, consultant for the Aga Khzn Trust for Culture since 2009, he writes extensively on medieval Islamic art.
In 2002, he won the Femina Prize for the essay for his biography of Commander Massoud.