Thursday, December 3, 2009

What if the Afghan Girl Had Said "No"?

What if the Afghan girl had said "no"?

If she had said "no," the famed photo by Steve McCurry that appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic would have been replaced by some other photograph, probably not as intriguing, probably not to be remembered.

Obviously,  the girl was looking straight into the lens.  By doing so, she became the subject of what is arguably the most famous photograph of modern times.

About 99 percent of the photographs I shoot are the people and places of Guatemala in Central America, a world away from Afghanistan, just as exotic, yet different in almost every way.

A Lady of Chichicastenango,Guatemala

The comments I receive from those viewing my photographs are often:  "How did you get her to act so natural?" or "He seems so at-ease."

Most of those I photograph never see me, nor at least never know I'm there.  I always take photos in the public spaces and draw as little attention to myself as possible.  For those who put their hand over their face to indicate they don't want to be photographed, I politely wave and turn away to respect their privacy.

Lady With a Bundle, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

The truth is, however, that candid photography cannot take place with the knowledge of the subject.  This is not to say that you can't take excellent photographs while the subject is looking into the camera.  The image of the Afghan girl is the perfect example of a knowledgable, probably curious subject.  The following example is one of a knowledgable subject.  The photograph works, but it wouldn't with every subject.

Girl on Cathedral Steps, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

This photo is of an unaware subject:

Textile Merchant, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

When I get to choose, I'll choose the subject who's unaware of my presence.  It ensures that I'm not just getting a pose; I'm telling a story.  Yes, it usually takes a long lens and some patience, but patience usually pays off. The biggest problem and the best part of shooting people is that they change expressions, they move, they are themselves when they don't know they're being watched. 

Girl at the Market, Almolonga, Guatemala

Mayan Beauty, Panajachel, Guatemala

Be creative.  Tell stories in a single frame.  Make people the subjects of your photographs.  Respect the rights of others.  Move other people with your photographs.

See my website at: 

No comments:

Post a Comment