Her haunting deep sea-green eyes have become iconic, the “Afghan girl” displays the hope of a refugee whose image is now recognizable the world over. She was photographed by American Steve McCurry who recently traveled to Dubai to unveil his “unguarded moments” exhibition.
The show wraps on Thursday, after a successful month.
More than 200 people attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition to get glimpse of the celebrated photographer and his work.
The ‘Empty Quarter’ gallery showcased 36 selected photographs, a testament to three decades of McCurry’s experience.
“I am always looking for an unguarded moment and experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, and from there the broader landscape of exploring the human condition,” McCurry told Al Arabiya in an interview.
While McCurry’s work has led him to travel across six continents and discover a myriad of cultures, his lens focuses primarily on countries in the East, especially India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
He said that curiosity and empathy are the key elements of his work.
“Humanity and concern about life on this planet is what drives me to explore and examine people and cultures. Photography is about wandering, exploring, human stories, and unusual, serendipitous moments that make an interesting comment about life,” he explained.
McCurry has attained success as a photographer, however his defining moment was the snapshot of Sharbat Gula or the “Afghan girl,” which was actually shot in Pakistan in 1984.
The artist retraced Gula, 17 years after they met in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp.
“Even after all these years, I still find the image powerful. Being able to reconnect with her after so long just gave the image that much more meaning for me, in both a personal and historical context,” McCurry said.
The picture was so well-received that there was a school built in Kabul funded solely by donations collected from the photograph.
“Be imaginative, and all sorts of great opportunities will unfold”
Obstacles, challenges and predicaments define our human existence and are undeniable aspect of the world we live in, stated the artist.
My job is to portray the poverty and hardship people face on a daily basis. That is why the risks I face in this line of work seem inconsequential, explained McCurry.
“I am definitely a risk taker, but it’s a calculated risk and I always try to work within a margin of safety. Ultimately, I’d rather take the risk and have the adventure than to be timid and not take those risks.”
His talent and dedication have been recognized; the artist has won the National Press Photographers Award and four World Press Photo’s first prize awards.
McCurry is constantly looking to improve, working in the field, where things are constantly changing, he said: “I hope to notice light, shapes, and designs that I may have missed in the past.”
The photographer is set to kick into high gear with a new project focusing on Buddhism that includes journeying across Burma and India.