The Disturbing True Story Behind the Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Photo

Tony Northrup recently decided to create a video celebrating photographer Steve McCurry’s most famous photo, the iconic “Afghan Girl” portrait featured on the cover of National Geographic. But upon researching the shot, Northrup learned the other, more disturbing side of the story that’s more hidden from public view.

In interviews that Sharbat Gula (the “Afghan Girl”) has given over the years, Northrup learned that she wasn’t a willing subject in the portrait McCurry shot when she was around 10 to 12 years old. As a Pashtun, she wasn’t supposed to be in the same room as a man outside her family, make eye contact, show her face, have her photo taken, or (especially) have her photos publicized.
Through his translator at the refugee camp in Pakistan, McCurry asked Gula’s teacher to tell the girl to remove her covering and show her face. After the photo was shot, Gula, who says she was scared, ran away immediately.
In publishing the photo on its cover, National Geographic stated in the issue that the girl’s eyes were “reflecting the fear of a war.”
“Not true,” Northrup says. “Her eyes were reflecting the fear of an unfamiliar man. The fear of her personal boundaries being breached and her beliefs being trampled on. She had nothing else to be afraid of that day except for Steve McCurry. She had been living in that camp for a couple of years. She was in school.”
And while McCurry would go on to become internationally celebrated as the photographer behind the portrait, Gula’s life has been marked with extreme hardship and suffering. In addition to losing her husband and one of her children, Gula was arrested in Pakistan in 2016 for using a fake ID card and living in the country illegally. She was then deported by Pakistan to Afghanistan, which celebrated her return.
“Sharbat believes that if this picture had never been taken, she’d still be living in Pakistan, which she considered to be her home,” Northrup says.
The Disturbing True Story Behind the Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Photo The Disturbing True Story Behind the Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Photo Reviewed by Your Destination on March 02, 2019 Rating: 5

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