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One pair of eyes for this day
by Jane Eagle
2007-06-20 10:47:40
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Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discourse.” In English: “A good sketch is better than a long speech”.

"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world," Eddie Adams, once wrote…

“A picture’s worth 1000-words,” everybody says.

And I say: Pictures, as far as social impact’s concerned, are worth more than any article or verbal narration. Not because of the content or the author’s message, but because of the way they are conceited by the recipient. We prefer photographs from the corresponding texts because they discharge our imagination from chores (as the depiction/reconstruction of the referring scene). As a result plenty of room is left for our imagination to get unfolded in (1000?) more interesting dimensions.

The depiction of reality (real/captured) helps the individual to process his thoughts more efficiently regarding every issue. That is why a lot of parameters are being added to the database of his system, a fact that mobilizes him, irritates, etc.

Sometimes it happens that people connect a given picture with a sense, a crisis, an era, symbolizing that way a person or scenery. Examples: John Cassavetes’ picture-filmmaking symbol & the migrant mother/a photograph by Dorothea Lange-symbol of the Great Depression…

Now, whenever the matter of refugees comes up one picture stacks to my mind: Yeah, same as yours, the little afghan girl with the green eyes, a photograph taken by National Geographic's amazing photo-reporter, Steve McCurry.

In 1984, McCurry, while on a mission in Pakistan, photographed a refugee, a little girl with green and big, bright eyes. Her fervid look traveled all around the world for decades, as symbol of the destruction that followed the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. In 2002, while her eyes were staring at the world from this unforgettable picture, Steve McCurry was searching for her without success until now.

McCurry went to the refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan (where he had first seen her), and showed her photo to village elders, who in turn showed it to their friends and contacts. There were several false leads: one man said it was his wife, a girl with an "uncanny" likeness insisted she was the famous girl in the photo. McCurry and his team began to get frustrated and disheartened.

At that point a man came forward who insisted the girl had lived next door to him a decade ago. A couple of days later, the man returned with the girl's brother. "His eyes were the same color as hers and as soon as we saw his eyes, we thought, 'This is amazing. This is closer than we've ever been,'" the photographer says.

After negotiations, the husband of the "girl" agreed to let her meet with National Geographic staff. High-tech iris and facial recognition tests as well as an FBI forensic examiner confirmed that it was the same person. But McCurry was convinced the moment he saw her:

"When she came out, it was clear that this was absolutely the same girl. 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."

Her name is Sharbat Gula and is around her 30s. She became an orphan and refugee of war at about the age of six. Soviet bombing killed her parents, and her grandmother led her and her siblings on foot, in winter, to Pakistan, where they lived in various camps.

Now, she's the married mother of three girls and lives in a remote ethnic Pushtun region of Afghanistan with her family. National Geographic is keeping her exact location secret to protect her privacy. The focus of her life is her husband, Rahmat Gul, and their daughters. She remembers her wedding day, when she was (perhaps) 16, as a happy one -possibly, her older brother told the Geographic team, the only happy day of her life.

Sharbat says she hopes that her girls will get the education she was never able to complete. McCurry promises he will be helping Gula provide an education for her children as well as fulfilling her dream of making a pilgrimage to Mecca next year.

Even after all these years, the photographer still fawns over his most famous subject. Gula's eyes have retained all their fire and intensity, he says. She has aged, "but I think she's still quite beautiful despite all the hardship that people have to endure there."

Yes. She’s beautiful, strong, faithful, she’s authentic, she’s a face that speaks the truth of her life. Not the picture that Steve Mc Curry took. She -the whole personality- is a symbol to all refugees that suffer various exigencies, but eventually come through and build a life on debris. While these people struggle to survive in one piece they could really use a hand. Why not our hand? Please watch this video… and do something!

Goodnight all and Good luck.

(www.npr.org & www.nationalgeographic.com have been a great help for this article as I’ve copied text excerpts from their articles on Sharbat’s story)

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Paparella2007-06-20 18:15:50
Great reporting Ms. Eagle! Indeed that face is worth a thousand words on distributive justice; it is an authentic face wearing no mask. Thanks for the sharing.

Jane E.2007-06-20 18:42:39
Thanks :)))

Rinso2007-06-21 08:39:05
Also good to mention that Steve Mc Curry contributed income from the travelling exhibition of these photos to a fund that improves education for Afghan women.

Eva2007-06-21 15:38:40
Interesting. I've wondered about her because I loved the photo of her as a young girl and I have the Nat Geo photo book with her on the cover.

Taryn2008-04-22 16:23:22
Wow. How great that they found her. I wish they had taken her out of her country years ago...with those eyes, she could have been a model.

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