‘Afghan Girl’ photographer exhibition in Williamstown 


    By Ann Marie Angebrandt

    Renowned American photographer and visual storyteller, Steve McCurry knew he was taking “probably the most important photograph of my life” when he captured the image of ‘Afghan Girl’.

    The photo of the 12-year-old Sharbat Gula at a refugee camp in Peshawar Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan attracted worldwide attention when National Geographic published the portrait on its June 1985 cover.

    McCurry took the photo in a fleeting few minutes on Kodachrome 64 slide film with a Nikon camera after he heard voices coming from a tent, which turned out to be a makeshift girls’ school. He asked the teacher if he could photograph the class before he noticed Sharbat, with her haunting eyes sitting in a corner. 

    “I knew right away that this would be an important portrait. Her look in some ways told the story of Afghanistan because there was kind of a tragedy and sadness which really spoke to the fact that there were more than three or four million Afghans living in refugee camps in these tents.”

    It turned out to be National Geographic’s best recognised and most iconic photo of all time.

    Now, Williamstown Seaworks is privileged to host ICONS, a photographic exhibition that features not only Afghan Girl but more than 100 other large-format photos from McCurry’s impressive 40-year-career. 

    The multi-award-winning photographer started as a small-town newspaper snapper before launching his international career from India, travelling the world to cover conflicts, vanishing traditional cultures, scenes from contemporary society, and the impact of war and conflict on humans and the environment. 

    His ICONS retrospective spans time and place, immersing visitors in a photographic universe that has taken McCurry to some of the most beautiful and harrowing parts of the world. 

    From Afghanistan to India, Southeast Asia to Africa, Cuba to the United States, Brazil to Italy, and even to Australia, ICONS is a truly fascinating collection of powerful images that displays the emotion of human suffering, joy and wonder, and features people of all ages, cultures and ethnicities.

    ICONS shows that despite all differences, the condition of mankind is made up of the same universal feelings that made Afghan Girl such a powerful image.

    Included in the exhibit are more recent history-making photos that McCurry happened to be on hand to document, including images of the 2001 collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York, and the subsequent smouldering of its remains at Ground Zero. 

    The exhibition is enriched by a free downloadable audio guide in which McCurry personally describes the stories and inspiration behind some of the images in the show, so be sure to bring along your earphones. 

    In a video at the end of the exhibition, McCurry discusses his profession, his life, and the logistics of being an intrepid photographer. 

    ICONS runs until Sunday 19 May at the Main Shed at
    Seaworks Williamstown, 82 Nelson Place.

    Tickets start at $29 for adults and $19 for children.
    Free entry for children under 9.

    For tickets visit: 

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