The Afghan Girl
So I made this picture of this Afghan refugee girl wandering through one morning in a refugee camp. Really again, just wandering almost aimlessly, but very attentive, and very aware of my surroundings. And I heard voices coming from this tent and I realized that these were girls reciting something, so I realized there was a school. I went over, I peeked in, I asked the teacher if I could come in make some photographs, I had permission to be in the camp. So the first thing I noticed when I walked into the classroom was this little girl in the corner with these incredible eyes, and this incredible look. And I looked around the classroom and I realized that this was gonna be the most important picture, the most important portrait I would make that day. So what I did was, in order not to sort of frighten her off, I photographed some of her other classmates in order to set up a situation where she would realize that this wasn't gonna harm her. This was okay, that this wasn't ...
a big deal. That this may even be a bit of fun. And so I photographed these other classmates, tryna set up again this situation where she would wanna participate. After a few minutes, I asked the teacher, I said to her, what about that little girl? Can we photograph her as well? And so, she came over and at first she was a bit shy, and she put her hands up to her face. And the teacher kinda said, no, no, no let him photograph you because the world needs to know our story that we've been driven out of our villages, our villages have been bombed and now we're living in another country as refugees. People need to know so that hopefully some action can be taken to help us go back home. So I photographed her for maybe two minutes. Made a few pictures, and my main kind of interest was to try and just get this picture sharp, get the right framing and after that then she got up and walked away. Which, even before I was done because she didn't realize that she was supposed to wait until I was finished taking her picture. But fortunately I got what I, I liked the result of my picture. (melancholy music) So of course this little girl was not only a refugee but she was also an orphan. She had escaped her village with some relatives, their village had been bombed, and so she was living a very sad life as millions of other Afghan refugees at that time. So her story was traumatic, and profound, and sad, and heartbreaking, and I think the picture in some ways shows that. Not every frame of course, you know as you work through a portrait situation, some pictures are better than others, and you know, expressions change. Mood changes, and you're kinda waiting for that right moment, that one that really defines, in your view, that person and that situation. So it's a question of a little bit of patience, and waiting, it's not a question of coaching, or directing. It was just waiting, and taking what was offered. (melancholy music) The light in the picture that morning, it was 11 o'clock, it was very bright, very sunny, very harsh, but inside the tent it was this beautiful indirect light coming in. So there's always good light somewhere. I mean, I don't recommend shooting out in very bright, harsh light. But sometimes when you're inside the light's very pleasing, it's very muted, it's kind of low contrast, and that's the way it was in that morning. And it was just by chance that it happened to be, like I realized that this was the perfect situation, the light, the background, everything was just perfect just the way it was, I didn't have to touch anything. It was just the right expression, the right, what she was wearing, everything was just perfect. The background in this picture is just simply the back of the tent, but backgrounds in general should be, I don't think you want them to interfere with your subject, I don't think, I mean the hero of the picture is the subject, and you don't want the background to distract from the story you're trying to tell. So, you know, you have to be mindful about not only the subject and the foreground but what's behind the subject in the background. And that can sometimes make or break your picture.