Undoubtably, if you've ever seen this cover of National Geographic (and I'm sure you have), you've never forgotten it. It's an image of a young Afghani refugee taken in 1984 by Steve McCurry. I just saw the most extraordinary program on the National Geographic Channel called "The Search for the Afghan Girl," and it details McCurry's efforts to find her 17 years after taking this unforgettable portrait. McCurry had absolutely no clue as to her name or whereabouts, and scant information to go on other than the name of the Pakistani refugee camp where he photographed her. I believe this program originally aired in 2003 so I'm a little behind the times, but I'm gratified to report that National Geographic was ultimately able to locate her. Her name is Sharbat Gula and she did finally return to Afghanistan, where she is now in her 30's and a mother of three. I assure you, she is definitely NOT living a life of luxury.
Today was a really crummy day for me. I found out that my office building has been sold and I have to find a new studio space by the end of April. The post office was closed for Presidents Day and I drove there in vain. I was grumpy because I couldn't find my favorite hoodie. Thank you National Geographic Channel for helping to put things into perspective for me. Now I don't even know what I was complaining for. They say you should count your blessings.
With apologies to Mr. McCurry I have posted the photos above and below, but out of good intentions. The plight of Afghani women has scarcely improved since Sharbat Gula first trekked across the mountains to escape the war as an orphaned child. With a couple of mouse clicks I was able to locate a very worthy cause called the Afghan Girls' Fund (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/donate/afghan_girls_fund.html). I sent them a small check. So I'll go without Starbuck's for a couple of days. If you can part with a couple of bucks, please do. Take a close look at the suffering in her eyes on the cover of that magazine in 1985. Now take a look at the more recent portrait and tell me if you think her situation has improved at all. Sharbat Gula is the mother of three daughters (a fourth one died in infancy). Her biggest hope is that they receive an education. Maybe you or I could do just a little to make their future better than hers.