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Story Behind the Picture: ‘Afghan Girl’ by Steve McCurry (1984)

The famous ‘green-eyed girl’ was the front cover of the June 1984 National Geographic Magazine. The photograph went viral as the green eyes the adolescent had, as well as the intensity with which she is looking at the camera, captivated everyone who looked at it. This picture has become one of the most famous photographs in history.

The identity of the girl shown in the picture was initially unknown, until early 2002 when, after years of looking for the ‘Afghan Girl’, she was finally found and it was discovered that her name was Sharbat Gula. The reason why the identity of this girl was unknown was because photographer Steve McCurry did not record her name when taking the photograph.

This photograph has been linked with Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa. It has been called ‘The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa’ and the girl has on many occasions been referred to as ‘The Afghan Mona Lisa’ too.

Gula escaped Afghanistan after her parents were killed during the Soviet Union’s bombing of Afghanistan when she was only six years old. She walked across the mountains to Pakistan along with her grandmother, brother and three sisters. She was student at an informal school at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan when McCurry visited the camp (in 1984). She was hesitant to meet McCurry as she was wary about meeting a male from outside of her family.

American photo said that the photo has “an unusual combination of grittiness and glamour”. This photographic portrait was named “The most recognised photograph” in the history of the National Geographic magazine.

By Flavia F, Year 9

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