Sales: Unknown  Sources: Reliable – Status: Big image / number of copies sold needed 


Leer la versión original en español: 1985, La niña Afgana (THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)

«The girl put face to the refugees» (Steve McCurry)


Cover of the National Geographic Magazine, June 1985. The covers of this magazine are characterized by its large main picture and yellow edges.

Cover of the National Geographic Magazine, June 1985. The covers of this magazine are characterized by its large main picture and yellow edges.


Plastic beauty is very important in the front cover, although the media usually prefers photos that provoke scandals. However, beauty also sells and gives prestige to a mass media. Perhaps the next cover contains the world’s most famous photograph, on a par with Neil Armstrong’s stepping on the moon or the tragic atomic bomb.

The most famous photo of the National Geographic Magazine the magazine was taken in June 1984 by Steve McCurry. McCurry was visiting the sprawling refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and he chose a student around 12 years in a refugee camp of Nasir Bagh (in Peshawar, Pakistan). «I went into a refugee camp, and I was kind of wandering through… and I saw this one particular girl who had this really kind of haunted look in her eye. So I got permission to photograph her», McCurry said. The girl lost her parents when she was very young and she moved from Afghanistan because of the Soviet invasion of December 1979 (the same that provoked the boycott of 50 countries led by the United States in the Moscow Olympic Games). All that mixture of sadness and fear was reflected in the afghan girl face, immortalized by one snapshot. As Steve McCurry told: «Her look kind of summed up the horror, because her village had been bombed and her relatives had been killed, and she’d had to make this two-week trek through the mountains to the refugee camp».

Surprisingly, National Geographic’s picture editor didn’t want to put the picture on the cover, as it was too disturbing. Finally he relented the image appeared on the front page of National Geographic in June 1985. The intense green eyes of the girl captivated the world and the cover crossed the Earth, becoming certainly an icon for the magazine. No one knew then that girl as McCurry did not report his name, and thereafter was known as the ‘Afghan girl’.

Steve McCurry said recently: «Once it was published on the cover of National Geographic we literally got thousands of letters. People willing to send her money, people wanted to adopt her, there were even men who wanted to find her and marry her. It just never let up over the 17 years». The image became a symbol of the Afghan conflict and the situation of refugees worldwide, and was named ‘the most recognized photograph’ in the history of the National Geographic.



Here you can read the National Geographic’s article for the searching.


17 years later Steve McCurry decided to look for her, realizing that finding was going to be difficult «because refugees move from side to side. The only way [to find her] involved to return to the same place». The photographer came back to the same refugee camp in Pakistan with the mission to locate her, a certainly thorny situation due to the dispersion of housing and its maze-like situation. False rumors began to circulate telling that she was dead, she had gone to Canada, ¡¡¡or even she taught English to Bin Laden!!!

McCurry believed that the afghan girl was Alam Bibi, in despite of the fact that her eyes were brown; an iris analysis showed that Bibi was not the famous covered girl. The photographer had to abandon the search, but in light of a new clue the National Geographic sent correspondent Boyd Matson to Peshawar. After several investigations he achieved to identify the name of the afghan girl: Sharbat Gula. She was a mother of four daughters (although one of them died after birth) and belonged to the Pashtun ethnic group. Matson took some pictures to see if she was the girl they were looking for. The National Geographic ordered a face recognition test and an iris comparison, and it was established that the images showed the same person.

When Steve McCurry knew the results he returned to Pakistan to meet her: «There was no question in my mind that this was the girl. The eyes were the same, she had the same distinctive scar on her nose. All the facial features matched up. I instantly knew that this was the girl».

The  portraits above (1984 & 2002) were used to identify the afghan girl by her iris patterns: Sharbat Gula, whose name means “sweet drink”. The face on the right shows the hardships she has suffered at her thirties, which even seem to have made her lose some sparkle in her wonderful eyes.

That magnetic look of deep greenish eyes had turned off his light. The girl did not know the relevance that she had acquired with the picture taken by McCurry, and agreed to be new footage for another story. Sharbat Gula even had never seen her famous portrait before it was shown to her in January 2003!

The front page of April 2002 was dedicated to that new, and was the first time in 114 years that a person appeared 2 times in the National Geographic front cover. Subsequently the images recorded during the searching were edited for the documentary ‘The Search for the Afghan girl”.

The front page of the National Geographic that related the story (April 2002). This front cover created suspense hiding the face of Sharbat to generate more sales.

The newly discovered Afghan girl poses with the cover that made her famous worldwide.


McCurry commented: «I was very happy that several people called me, that they actually volunteered to go working Pakistan, to refugee camps, based on that picture» (Search for the Afghan Girl, 0:04:23). The National Geographic Society created a fund to help for the development and education for Afghan girls and women in collaboration with local authorities and nonprofit organizations. The photo has also been widely used on Amnesty International brochures, posters, and calendars. This is the legacy of the ‘Mona Lisa of the twentieth century’.

A special edition of the National Geographic, ‘100 best pictures with the famous picture of the enigmatic green eyes starring the front cover.

Afghan girl disguise, another proof of this world famous front cover 🙂

  1. 16 July, 2011 at 6:39

    Debbie National Geo famous front page pics – Afghan girl?

  2. Steve
    14 October, 2012 at 17:42

    Everyone who ever saw this remembers that cover.

    20 May, 2013 at 12:05

    Wow interesting

    20 May, 2013 at 12:05

    I love the story of her

    20 May, 2013 at 12:06

    Yeah I am an afghan

  6. sweekruti
    27 May, 2013 at 3:33

    the look in her eyes is haunting

  7. 4 June, 2013 at 6:01

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    • Jesús Marrone
      4 June, 2013 at 7:30

      Hello, now you can follow this blog, you have the option on the right column, in the end 🙂

  8. 9 June, 2013 at 0:39

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  9. Nitin
    17 October, 2013 at 6:44

    i like the story…..!

  10. Sayed Mirwais
    21 November, 2013 at 9:53

    I feel so sorry for my people and my country, a girl of my country is so famouse worldwide and no body or only few people know about her. My government is the second most currept Govmt in the world and lazy as well, so for non of the ministries incuding ministry of culture has mentioned anything about her . Shame of them.
    Sayed Mirwais

  11. 7 December, 2013 at 22:35

    To all the women of the world who have suffered and still suffer bondage in various ways and degrees, we salute you, we stand for you, and we will help you win the ultimate victory over male oppression and religious bigotry.

  12. evelyn
    28 December, 2013 at 23:13

    I was always intrigued with her picture when I first bought the magazine…. So fascinated that i created a collage of Alam Bibi with glass beads and bits and pieces of her story… I would love to present this to the world once I am complete…. thank U for taking the time to read my comment

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  19. Evelyn
    27 May, 2014 at 21:32

    I have a collage of her that i made from this magazine… I’d like to show everyone this picture.

  20. Zubair Ahmed Buriro
    14 August, 2014 at 14:32

    Nice Work!

  21. 3 October, 2014 at 6:08

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  22. 3 October, 2014 at 15:46

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      3 October, 2014 at 18:11

      Hi 🙂 Yes, it takes a lot of time, I have several of them and many (as this one) with only few posts. But it is nice to try at least 🙂 Best advice is start little by little, one post each week, and write about something you know or passionates you. Good luck!

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  27. sam
    14 November, 2014 at 20:17

    I have 2 original from this picture

  28. Uma Maheswar Nakka
    15 April, 2018 at 16:22

    Amazing real story. Happy she is fine.

  1. 7 November, 2011 at 13:08
  2. 31 August, 2013 at 21:35
  3. 20 January, 2014 at 17:48
  4. 24 April, 2014 at 4:03
  5. 30 June, 2014 at 9:48
  6. 30 July, 2014 at 13:53
  7. 24 August, 2014 at 4:47
  8. 25 August, 2014 at 14:45
  9. 26 August, 2014 at 0:05
  10. 2 September, 2014 at 6:39
  11. 22 September, 2014 at 7:11
  12. 23 September, 2014 at 10:26
  13. 23 September, 2014 at 14:46
  14. 24 September, 2014 at 3:25
  15. 26 September, 2014 at 7:07
  16. 26 September, 2014 at 15:27
  17. 8 October, 2014 at 22:04
  18. 16 October, 2014 at 14:51
  19. 21 October, 2014 at 4:45
  20. 2 August, 2015 at 4:46
  21. 27 October, 2016 at 21:26
  22. 4 November, 2016 at 15:55
  23. 4 December, 2017 at 22:32

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