May be not all, but many of you are already familiar with today’s photo “The Afghan Girl”. Well, that is why it is an iconic photograph! This photograph was taken by Steve McCurry in 1984 and was published on the cover page of June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine. I personally love this photograph very much (who doesn’t?) This photograph is so good that it is often refer to as “the First World’s Third World Mona Lisa”.
I first saw this photograph sometime in late 90s and since then I have not forgotten it. Once seen, who can forget the piercing sea-green eyes of this girl which stare directly at you? Her eyes are one of the most impressive and expressive eyes I have ever seen.
The subject of this world famous photograph was an Afghan girl named Sharbat Gula. In 1984 she was living in a refugee camp in Peshawar (Pakistan) during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. She was about 12 years old when the photo was taken. When Steve McCurry’s photo of Sharbat got published; she immediately became recognized all over the world. People across the globe felt spell bound by her magical and tragical eyes. Her photograph became the face of the condition of Afghan refugees.
Both the photograph and its subject became known only as “The Afghan Girl” but no one knew who exactly this girl was. Her identity remained unknown until January 2002 when National Geographic began a mission to find this girl. When the she was found she had become a 30 years old married woman. Her identity was established using iris scan technology which matched the iris pattern of the woman with that of the girl in the photograph.
Interestingly, Sharbat Gula had never seen her world famous photograph before it was shown to her in January 2002! She remembered Steve McCurry because she had never been photographed before or ever since. Photo taken by McCurry was the only one.
- She survived in the refugee camps in Pakistan and then returned to Afghanistan after Soviets left
- She fared relatively well under the Taliban rule
- She got married, had four daughters (one of them died in infancy)
- After her interview with National Geographic in 2002 —her family relocated to another village
- Sharbat Gula said that she does not want to be contacted again by anyone from the media. She wants a secluded life
National Geographic made a statement that Sharbat helped them in illustrating the circumstances of the refugee in Pakistani camps. The magazine said that she “will be looked after” (financially). They also setup a charitable fund for the education of the Afghan girls to recognize the contribution of Sharbat Gula.
This photograph was named “the most recognized photograph” in the history of the National Geographic Magazine, and the cover itself is one of the most famous of the National Geographic.
What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.