This is the story behind the world’s most popular photograph

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Almost 3 decades ago, the preeminent photographer Steve McCurry took the widely recognized and well established photo. McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” is known as one of the world’s most iconic photographs. Also, one of thousands of phenomenal photographs he has taken till date.

Even after all this time, the very skillful photographer lightens up as he speaks up about “Afghan Girl”. “I knew she had an incredible look, a penetrating gaze,” says McCurry.

“But there was a crowd of people around us, the dust was swirling around, and it was before digital cameras and you never knew what would happen with the film,” he recalls.

“When I developed the picture, I knew it was special. I showed it to the editor of the National Geographic, and he leaped to his feet and shouted, ‘that’s our next cover’,” says McCurry again.

“Afghan Girl” was taken in December 1984. The photo really became the magazine’s next cover and the most recognizable picture.

“Afghan Girl” is a portrait of a 12-year old whose name is Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun orphan in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. She is now in her forties and believed to be living in Pakistan.