“Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry: What makes it so good?

“Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry: What makes it so good?

“Afghan Girl” is a photograph taken by American photojournalist Steve McCurry in 1984 during the Soviet-Afghan War.

The image features a young Afghan girl with striking green eyes and a haunting expression. There are several factors that contribute to the fame and significance of this photograph.

If you prefer a video, check out my full photo analysis of this photo on YouTube:

What Makes a Good Photo? – “Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry

Iconic subject

The photograph’s subject, Sharbat Gula, is a young Afghan refugee who became a symbol of the suffering and resilience of the Afghan people during a tumultuous period in their history. Her piercing green eyes, framed by her red headscarf, captured the attention of viewers and conveyed a sense of depth and emotion. With a haunting expression, she looks right through the lens of Steve McCurry’s camera. The result is an image that would captivate the world for decades.

Sharbat Gula (Source)

The emotional impact

What makes this photo so incredible is the emotional punch it delivers. Her eyes are windows to her soul, and they convey a sense of depth and emotion that’s hard to put into words. When you look at her, you can’t help but feel an immediate connection.

The human story

This photograph tells a powerful human story. It was taken in 1984 during the Soviet-Afghan War, a time of immense suffering and hardship for the Afghan people. This girl, Sharbat Gula, became a symbol of that struggle, a testament to the strength of the Afghan people in the face of adversity.

The composition

McCurry’s composition is simple yet powerful. The girl’s face dominates the frame, making it impossible to look away from those intense, green eyes.

The contrast between her eyes and the rest of the image adds to the drama, and her red headscarf brings warmth to the shot. It also acts as a frame around her face:

Afghan Girl Framing Composition
“Afghan Girl” Center Composition

When paying attention to the colors, we also notice the use or red and green complementary colors:

Afghan Girl Complementary Colors of Red and Green
“Afghan Girl” Complementary Colors of Red and Green

The impact

“Afghan Girl” graced the cover of National Geographic magazine’s June 1985 issue, making it one of the most iconic covers in the magazine’s history. This photograph played a pivotal role in raising awareness about the Afghan refugee crisis and the human toll of conflict.

A lasting symbol

More than three decades have passed since this photo was taken, but it still stands as a symbol of the Afghan people’s resilience and the universal power of a single photograph to convey a powerful message.

To see my full photo analysis of this photo, be sure to check it out here: “Afghan Girl” Photo Analysis