Famous Photojournalism: The Green-Eyed Afghan Girl

22 09 2010

The photograph was taken by Steve McCurry in June of 1985. When McCurry took it he thought nothing of it. It was simply just another portrait of the Afghan refugees that he had been photographing. But this certain photograph had a “haunting” trance over people. Most blame it on her green eyes that look fiercely through you and into your heart. Her story lingers within her sea-green eyes: at only six, her parents were murdered by Soviet bombing. She was even younger when her home and village was destroyed by the Soviets. The constant noise of battle and bombing planes that plagued her village dulled her ears. She and her brother had no choice but to leave their home and flee to safety. “The Russian invasion destroyed our lives” said her brother.
For 17 years people referred to her as the “green-eyed Afghan girl”. Her name was unknown to all. So in 2002 National Geographic set out a mission: to find the girl. Her eyes were the only thing they could look for. Through a series of events they finally found her. When they saw her, McCurry knew; This was the girl that had looked at him with vigor and anger 17 year earlier.
Today she has three children and lives a life of repetition in a small village in the foothills of a mountain. She cooks and cleans. Her only day of possible happiness was the day she married her husband.
Her skin has aged in the harsh conditions of Afganistan. Now rough as opposed to the soft complexion before.
She has gained weight and is not the youthful beauty as we saw before. Is she? Her eyes are still strong and incongruent with her skin and hair. She still has the anger that we saw before. She still wishes for safety and happiness. Will it ever come for the Afghan Girl? Will it ever come for Sharbat Gula?

This photo took us all on a journey through the life of an Afghan woman. This is the impact of photojournalism: we learn about the life and strife of others. It tells us otherwise unheard of stories. Sharbat Gula unknowingly captivated the minds of the millions of National Geographic readers. McCurry captured indirectly their captivation with his camera.




2 responses

23 09 2010

This is a fantastic page set up. The National Geographic photo you discuss is enormously striking to everyone who sees it, and it was interesting to learn more about it. Very well written.

I’m interested in photography and journalism too, both as a writer and as a photographer. I’ll make sure to subscribe to you. 🙂

23 09 2010
Mister Fischer

What a beautiful and haunting image. I wonder: what makes this photojournalism rather than art? Or is it both? Does photojournalism refer to how a picture is used rather than to the image itself?

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