If you want evidence showing the power of photography, you don’t have to look much farther than Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl.
Taken in a refuge camp in Pakistan in December of 1984 and published on the cover of the June 1985 National Geographic magazine it is probably one of the world’s most famous portraits. I don’t think there is an adult who is not aware of the image.
In my mind, it is one of the most powerful images of modern photography. Tell the truth, when you look at the image, doesn’t it grab you and pull you in It makes you ask who is she, what is her story, and what happened to her. It is an image that makes you come back and view again and again. I never get tired of looking at it and it always sparks pangs of emotion of some sort.
This is the type of image that I aspire to recreate in my photography. I don’t think it needs to be a portrait to evoke these kinds of feelings and emotions. I think you can capture the same power that McCurry captured in his image in almost any type of image. Landscapes, wildlife, weddings, or even still life.
A powerful image will capture the viewers attention and I think that is the goal of every passionate photographer. I know it is mine.
On a side note: McCurry went back to Afghan in 2002 to find out what happened to the girl. He found her and you can read her story at National Geographic – A Life Revealed and see the images at A Life Revealed – Photo Gallery.