Famed for his stellar portfolios that have portrayed conflict, contemporary cultures, cultural subjects and different kinds of social ethos as manifested by scions of these cultures, Photographer Steve McCurry is renowned for his body of work. His photography tells striking human stories – of truths that have been both difficult to articulate in word, and to capture in as effective ways as his pictures do.
Photo Credits: The Hindu
One of his most popular works was that of the Afghan Girl. The iconic photograph by Steve McCurry was featured on the cover of The National Geographic Magazine in June 1985. Sharbat Gula, the girl herself, has been likened to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – “the First World’s Third World Mona Lisa”, if you will.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia
Living as a refugee in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan at the time of the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan in the seventies and after, Sharbat’s image was a portrayal of many cultural, political and social stratifications through the face of a young girl. She was approximately twelve when the photo was shot. Sharbat is Pashtun by ethnicity. Her parents were killed during the USSR bombing of Afghanistan when she was just six – and she soon made it into Pakistan after a walk across the mountains and ended up in Nasir Bagh, the refugee camp in Pakistan. At the time of the photo shoot, she was reluctant to meet Steve McCurry, since she deemed him a man outside her family. She was married soon after to Rahmat Gul, and had three daughters. In recognition of Sharbat Gula, the National Geographic set up the “Afghan Girls Fund” which functioned as a charitable organization to educate Afghan girls and young women. In 2008, the fund was broadened in its scope to include boys and was now called the “Afghan Children’s Fund”. In the time after, Sharbat has come to stand as the face of Afghanistan’s tryst with conflict, and has remained a pow the photograph was published, it remains a reminder of the bitterness that war brings with it.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia
Years later, Sharbat was photographed again by Steve McCurry, and in one viewing of the two photographs, one can see the years of turmoil, conflict and their impact on the people of Afghanistan, in between. Sharbat Gul, needless to say, became the face of Afghanistan, as the National Geographic Magazine would go on to preserve.
Photo Credits: Pinterest
Steve McCurry’s photography continues to be, in essence, a powerful representation of the stories of cultures, communities, wars and social structures that are seldom as efficaciously articulated in words.
 Wendy S. Hesford, Wendy Kozol, ed. (2005). Just Advocacy?: Women’s Human Rights, Transnational Feminisms, and the Politics of Representation. Rutgers University Press. p. 1