Sharbat Gula was photographed in 1984 by Steve McCurry, in a refugee camp in Nasir Bagh, Peshawar, Afghanistan.
She arrived at the camp when she was just twelve years old, deprived of her parents at the age of six because of the war with the Soviet Union that had been destroying Afghanistan since 1979.
One year later, in 1985, the photo appeared on the cover of National Geographic, immediately becoming one of the most famous and recognized shots in the world.
“…when I started photographing Gula, I didn’t hear or see anything else. It took me completely […] for an instant everything had been perfect, the light, the background, the expression in her eyes”.
Painting a portrait from such a famous photo is always a risk. I took my chances, taking over that picture. Her icy eyes won me over. I perceive strength, self-sacrifice and a deep desire for redemption, as well as a certain vulnerability and fear.
Her gaze is always current: there are still many refugee girls, victims of too many wars.