She remembers the moment. The photographer took her picture. She remembers her anger. The man was a stranger. She had never been photographed before. Until they met again 17 years later, she had not been photographed since.
The photographer remembers the moment too. The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees.
The portrait by Steve McCurry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of this magazine. Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name.
In January a team from National Geographic Television & Film’s EXPLORER brought McCurry to Pakistan to search for the girl with green eyes. They showed her picture around Nasir Bagh, the still standing refugee camp near Peshawar where the photograph had been made. A teacher from the school claimed to know her name. A young woman named Alam Bibi was located in a village nearby, but McCurry decided it wasn’t her.
No, said a man who got wind of the search. He knew the girl in the picture. They had lived at the camp together as children. She had returned to Afghanistan years ago, he said, and now lived in the mountains near Tora Bora. He would go get her.
“I’ve never been interested in accumulating stamps in my passport,” says Steve McCurry, who nonetheless has gone through many little blue books during his decades as a photojournalist traveling up, down, and around six continents. Work has carried him from the temples of Angkor to refugee settlements at the Afghan-Pakistan border to India, where he tracked a monsoon—the “gift of the gods.” Everyone knows his most famous photo—the haunting green eyes ofAfghan Girl, which made National Geographic’s cover in 1985 and gave a face to the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan—yet it’s only one image in a career that has spanned the globe.
“I have never thought of my pictures in terms of covers,” says McCurry, who’s a recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal. “I look for pictures that tell a story of what it is like to be that person in that place at that time.”
McCurry, 63, is one of an increasingly rare breed. He’s still sent to some of the most dangerous and newsworthy locations in the world to capture a particular moment in time. An engrossing new book about his career,Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (to be published by Phaidon Press on September 3), contains photo series, essays, journals, and assignment letters fromTime, National Geographic, and, yes, even one from Newsweek granting permission to shoot a story about refugees in Pakistan. Now magazines and newspapers are more likely to cut their photo staffs (as was the case at theChicago Sun-Times this May) than to groom the next generation of McCurrys. But, as McCurry says, a photographer’s duty is to adapt to a changing landscape.
Here, he allows the attention to turn to a rare subject: himself. McCurry shares withNewsweek his thoughts on the ubiquity of iPhone photography, his advice for photojournalists of the future, and some of the most haunting images he’s ever seen. Read more here
Last month the world heard the tragic news that more than a thousand people working at a clothing factory in Bangladesh, were killed when the factory they were working in collapsed. Steve McCurry one of the greatest working photographers has put together this selection of his images themed around work, you can see all of the set here
See some of the most compelling National Geographic covers from the last 50 years and learn about the significant milestones reported in the magazine’s pages—all of which are available in The Complete National Geographic, a collection of every issue of National Geographic magazine in a six-DVD-ROM set.see the gallery link here.…MORE
Photograph by Steve McCurry
June 1985—Afghan Girl
When photographer Steve McCurry took a young girl’s picture one morning in Pakistan, he created an image that would captivate millions around the world. The haunting green eyes that stared out from the June 1985 cover of National Geographic belonged to an unknown refugee who for 17 years was identified simply as the “Afghan girl.” She has since been located and was once again featured on the magazine’s cover in April 2002.
Photograph by Albert Moldvay
Dressed for Eid al-Fitr festivities, two young girls play on a swing in Pakistan, then made up of two lands located on opposite sides of the Indian subcontinent. The cover’s traditional interior border of oak leaves and acorns, first introduced in 1910, begins to recede around the increasingly bold feature photographs.
Photograph by Michael Nichols
July 2006—Panda, Inc.
A year after his celebrated birth at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., panda cub Tai Shan appears on the cover of National Geographic with mother Mei Xiang. Unapologetic cuteness abounds on the pages within—something feature author Lynne Warren writes may, along with their persistent scarcity, largely contribute to the popularity of China’s beloved bear.
Photograph by David Doubilet
A shot inside the notorious mouth of a great white shark is a fitting introduction to Jaws author Peter Benchley’s feature article on the threats facing the surprisingly fragile predator. Twenty-five years after the box-office hit based on his novel terrified moviegoers, Benchley and photographer David Doubilet set out to portray the ocean’s great hunters in a different light.