Though the official name of the picture is "Haunted Eyes Tell of an Afghan Refugee's Fears," the photo is known worldwide as simply "The Afghan Girl."
Photographer Steve McCurry's iconic snapshot shows a 12-year-old girl's wide, haunting green eyes staring into the camera from her spot in an Afghan refugee camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 1983.
Published in National Geographic Magazine in 1985, the photo became one of the magazine's most famous images, one that was seen and remembered by millions.
In the background is Steve McCurry’s iconic photo of a refugee girl in 1983, called “Haunted Eyes Tell of an Afghan Refugee’s Fears.”
In an interview about the photo for National Geographic's book "100 Best Pictures," McCurry said, "This portrait summed up for me the trauma and plight, and the whole situation of suddenly having to flee your home and end up in a refugee camp, hundreds of miles away."
The photo, which helped win McCurry recognition from the National Press Photographer's Association as 1985's Magazine Photographer of the Year, will be just one of the photos in the exhibition "Face of Asia: Steve McCurry Photographs," which goes on display Sunday at the Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus.
The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 16.
If you go
What: "Face of Asia: Steve McCurry Photographs"
When: Sunday through Aug. 16
Where: Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University Park campus, University Park
Museum hours: 10 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum will
be closed Mondays and on July 4
Though the exhibit is a traveling one, organized by the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y., McCurry, 59, is a Penn State alumnus, having graduated cum laude from the university in 1974.
Since then the globe-trotting photographer has made a name for himself by traveling to some of the most remote locations in the world and coming out with striking photographs, which have been seen in countless magazines, as well as in nine of his own books.
The nearly 80 photos in "Face of Asia" feature the work from his world travels.
"(The show) reflects McCurry's long-standing engagement and fascination with South and Southeastern Asia," said Joyce Robinson, the Palmer curator. "The show is divided into four sections - India, Afghanistan, Cambodia and, Tibet, which features more recent photographs by the artist."
McCurry is currently working in Singapore and was unavailable for comment on the exhibit.
"The photographs are quite beautiful and striking," Robinson said. "As in the famous 'Afghan Girl,' the color is remarkably vivid and stunning. There's also a strong human element.
"It's always that human element, I think, that he finds most compelling. There are many portraits and ... the eyes just draw you in."
McCurry lets the face of the subject tell the story. It's that quality that has made him such a big name in the field of photojournalism.
"That up-close, penetrating (feel) ... he seems to capture the soul of the person," said Susan Smith, deputy director of photography at National Geographic Magazine, for whom McCurry has freelanced since 1980.
It's perhaps that glimpse into the soul that made "The Afghan Girl" such a landmark.
"It's certainly one of, if not the, iconic photo of National Geographic," Smith said. "Her eyes, her look, you just connect with her, you can't help it. Her eyes are beautiful and she's looking directly at you - it just resonates with people."
But, for nearly 20 years, no one knew her name. McCurry's photo, taken during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, while the photographer was disguised as a native, was a quick shot among many that showed the beginnings of the Afghanistan conflict. And when he tried to find her again, she was gone.
In 2002, McCurry and a National Geographic camera crew tried again.
"Steve McCurry went back to Pakistan and tried to find her ... and, miraculously, he did," Robinson said.
The girl, now identified as Sharbat Gula, had never seen the photo and had no idea she had a famous face. To give the world an update, McCurry took a new portrait of Gula, one that shows a world-weary, tired face, stripped of the shocked innocence of her youth.
The documentary about McCurry's search and discovery of Gula, titled "The Search for the Afghan Girl," will be shown at 1 p.m. on Sundays at the Palmer Museum throughout the exhibit's run.
The exhibit is much more than just "The Afghan Girl," though, Robinson said.
"I think visitors will be drawn to (the photographs) and see that we all exist together on this planet and share a common humanity," she said.
McCurry may put it best himself.
"Most of my photos are grounded in people," he writes in his National Geographic online biography. "I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person's face."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.