Lesson 2 Assignment

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    Steve McCurry “Afghan Girl” 1985 National Geographic Magazine

    [attachment=0:1osznv47]Afghan Girl.jpg[/attachment:1osznv47]

    I first discovered Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” photograph while I was in third grade. It was during a free period where we were given access to the classroom to find an activity to keep ourselves busy. I took it upon myself to peruse the dozen or so National Geographic magazines stacked in the back of the room. The concept of saving copies of magazines for future reference was new to me at the time, and while I had zero interest in the subject matter of National Geographic, I was intrigued, and drawn to the beautiful photographs on each cover.

    When I held the issue featuring McCurry’s photo out in from of me and studied its storied cover, it took my breath away. I instantly fell in love with the photograph AND the girl. I wanted to be her friend. I didn’t read that particular issue but I did find out later that the girl was only a few years older than I was. Maybe my teacher told me, I’m not sure. I believed the girl to be much older than that though. Who was she? Her gorgeous hazel eyes were telling and seemed to cry out that she had seen horrible things, and that she experienced more than anything I could’ve imagined a young girl can experience. This is when I first learned how powerful a photograph can be and how it can produce a wide range of emotions in the viewer. I wanted to know who the girl was? Why she looked so dirty? What happened to her? And if she was going to be alright?

    While doing research for this paper, I have discovered that the girl’s name is Sharbat Gula. In Afghanistan in the early 1980’s, Sharbat’s village was destroyed by a Soviet missile strike. Her parents were killed forcing her, her grandmother, and her siblings to flee to a refugee camp in Pakistan. This photo was taken by McCurry while Sharbat was at the refugee camp.

    Regarding the details of the photograph, this was the first time I was introduced to grunge in art. I was, and still am, amazed how clear and sharp the image is. The colors are bright but the overall image is dirty. There is dirt and grime on her face. Her hair is tasseled, her clothes frayed. The green in her sweater along with the background—while slightly out of focus—compliment her bright hazel eyes. I love the vivid colors in this image and the contrast of the green on red. If I was to give a one word description of this piece, I would say it is “mysterious”.

    Steve McCurry’s name is new to me. He is an award winning American Photojournalist who travels the globe photographing international conflicts and wars. When tasked with this assignment, I couldn’t even name a photographer that I liked. This is a completely new field to me and all I could come up with was two photographs that I like that had an impact on my life. I didn’t even know the titles of the photographs or who took them. It is worth mentioning that the other photograph was the Hindenburg disaster photo but I have since learned there are several so I wouldn’t have known which one to pick.

    As the portrait image of this girl was imprinted in my mind for over 26 years, revisiting it today I still had questions. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I am finally able to put some of those questions to rest. If I can learn to take one photo even remotely this good, I’d be completely satisfied.


    I posted my first two assignments without looking at other student posts so I can have an unbiased approach to doing the assignment. Anyway, I see that other students have chosen McCurry as well and that there is a lot of info on him in their posts. Thanks.

    Duncan Rawlinson

    Wow apparently I missed this on.

    I think I missed it because you “replied” to your own post and that took it out of my “unanswered posts” section”.

    Sorry about that.

    Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” 1985 National Geographic Magazine photograph is certainly a stunning image. It’s one of the all time great images. It’s often used for this assignment and for good reason!

    Whats amazing about your piece is that not only did you recognize what inspires you and you researched the story of photograph itself.

    You now know the story of the image, more importantly you now have someone you can look to for inspiration:


    The idea here is that if you just spend a little time thinking about this you will refine your own area of interest in photography. This in turn will improve your photography.

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