Ugo Fracassa

«The Afghan Girl». Protocols of Vision

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Photography; Aura; Prosopagnosia; National Geographic; Iris Code; Subaltern.

The fame of the multi-award winning reporter Steve McCurry is indissolubly bound to the Sharbat Gula photo-portrait ("the Afghan Girl") taken in the Refugee Camp of Nasir Bagh, by the Pakistan border, in 1984. The mysterious gaze of this «First World's Third World Mona Lisa» never ceases to question the Western observer, already obsessed by the smile of the "Gioconda". The aura of the picture guarantees the artistry of the shot; thus depriving the girl of her secular identity. Sharbat Gula sees her actual existence fading into a universal icon of alterity. In this paper it is my intention to discuss the reason why the adventurous search for the Afghan girl, promoted 17 years after the first shot by the National Geographic Society and carried out under the supervision of Steve McCurry, does not contribute to reinforce the status of her actual identity. The finding of the woman actually proves that her photo-portrait is by now unrepeatable and gives the "Afghan Girl" the status of originality. To conclude, the only chance for the woman to exist depends on the compatibility with her portrait: she must strive to resemble the Afghan girl in order to be Sharbat Gula.

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