‘Afghan Girl’ is a famous photograph taken by the American photojournalist Steve McCurry in the year 1984.
This shot was taken by McCurry using a Nikon FM2 camera and 105mm f/2.5 lens.
This photo first appeared on the cover page of the National Geographic in June 1985. The girl whose name was unknown came to be known as the “Afghan Girl” and soon became known in every household in the West.
The model for this photograph was a 12 year old girl named Sharbat Gula. When this photograph was taken, the girl was a refugee in NasirBagh, Pakistan who had to flee from her country after the Soviet Strike had killed her parents and left her an orphan.
Later, in an interview McCurry said, “This portrait summed up for me the trauma and plight, and the whole situation of suddenly having to flee your home and end up in a refugee camp, hundreds of miles away”.
As McCurry rightly pointed out, this was why this portrait soon was used by various organizations to create awareness about the situation of refugees world wide and this portrait became iconic to the cause.
The Afghan Girl created an awareness widely among the West about the plight of such refugees and helped create strong sentiments across the globe about this issue. This led to the setting up of a charitable organization by National Geographic later in the year 2002 known as “The Afghan Girls Fund”. The objective of the organization was to help in addressing the turbulence that women in Afghanistan were facing on a daily basis post the Soviet invasion due to oppression and unrest in the society.
Steve McCurry was determined to find the girl and after a futile search for many years, in the year 2002, after almost 17 years since the picture was taken, McCurry and his team traced the Afghan Girl who was living with her husband and three children Robina, Zahida, and Alia in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. McCurry once said that he was able to immediately identify the girl just by seeing her eyes.
The captivating gaze of the green eyed girl with an expression that has a thousand meanings and stories behind it is what has made this photograph immortal among the people.