September 17, 2010 by staff
American documentary photographer Steve McCurry was catapulted to fame when his image appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985.
A year later signed with the prestigious Magnum photo agency and went on to win lots of awards for his work.
Currently on display as part of a retrospective of his work at the Museum and Art Gallery in Birmingham, “Afghan Girl”, has come to define his long and varied career.
McCurry was crossing the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan in 1984, shortly before the Soviet offensive, when he arrived at a refugee camp near Peshawar.
He approached the girl, who was in a make shift school at the time, and took the photo.
It was the first photograph ever taken of her and so far only one of two: the second was taken seventeen years later in 2002 by McCurry, after a long and arduous search to find the girl, now a mother of three children who live in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I had tried to find over 90 years,” McCurry told CNN. “Because we did not have his name, it became very difficult as you might imagine. A woman, a girl, you know it was very difficult and complicated … and almost impossible.”
Although an outpouring of public interest inspired the image since it first entered circulation, it was after 9 / 11 that McCurry made a more concerted effort to locate it.
“It was very touching to find it. We were really surprised. It was like a miracle, finding it and finally be able to help,” he said.
It remains one of the highlights of the career of photographer born in Philadelphia, documentary photography has taken in war zones like the former Yugoslavia and Lebanon and earned him numerous prestigious awards such as the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Stock reports from abroad.
But Afghanistan – the first country to war ever visited – still exerts a force on it and has returned many times since. His experiences in Afghanistan have been filled with nail biting, as well as moments of inspiration.
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