There is something intriguing about the picture of “The Afghan Girl”. The image gives a true aesthetic experience. It is loud yet silent, colorful but plain, beautiful and terribly tragic.

Even when I take a cursory glance at the picture of “The Afghan Girl”, a lot jumps at me at once: the clarity of the solid background, the cosmic green eyes of the girl, the interplay of the red and the green color, the angle of the light, the soft, draping cloth contrasted with the flat, stone wall. The picture immediately captures my attention.

“The Afghan Girl” became the face of National Geographic magazine and instantly became one of the most recognizable faces in the world. But, the girl did not even know it.

One does not need to know what was going on when the picture was taken to be interested in it. The picture is inherently fascinating.

“The Afghan Girl” became a symbol of the turmoil in Afghanistan. The conflict of the at once scared and fierce look in the girl’s eyes parallels the devastation that the country was going through.

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But, is there a philosophical meaning behind this picture?

The picture was taken to spread awareness about the terror in Afghanistan, so it is safe to say that it does fulfill Sartre’s definition of ‘art for social change’.

‘Disinterestedness’ occurs when an activity is carried out without selfish inclination. When one looks at the picture of “The Afghan Girl”, one forgets about the ‘self’ and becomes totally immersed in the aesthetic experience that is provided by the picture. Thus, philosopher Immanuel Kant would agree with the notion that “The Afghan Girl” has aesthetic value.

“Catharsis” is the psychological relief that one gets when one openly expresses strong emotions. The picture does bring forth catharsis as one learns the story of the girl and becomes emotionally attached to the journey that the picture has taken.

“The Afghan Girl” has a deep philosophical meaning.

But, many might argue that this is not true. The picture did not cause any change in the conditions of the people living in Afghanistan. The girl did not even know that she became the face of a world famous magazine. She was even harassed back home.

There was also a selfish motive behind the picture. McCurry gained worldwide fame and did not even care about the torture that the Afghan Girl was facing back in Afghanistan because of his picture.

So, is the picture really a deep philosophical journey or is it a well-choreographed plan of a photographer’s trip to fame instead? That’s a debate for another day.

Image Sources: Google Images

Sources: NatGeo, Eastern Eye, NY Times+ more

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