Afghan Girl in Valletta

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It would have been a shame not visiting the great collection of images by Steve McCurry at St James Cavalier. Universally tagged as one of today’s master image-makers, especially through his portraits depicting human consequences of war and conflict, McCurry showcased a collection of works, titled ‘Odyssey’, for the past month. The exhibition also featured a suggestive documentary by National Geographic, ‘In Search for the Afghan Girl’.

It was indeed very surprising for many to see Eman Pulis setting up this initiative. The popular ‘party organisor’ supported by the US Embassy in Malta, The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, UNESCO, MTA and Chemimart went on a tangent but managed to do a great job.

Browsing pictures on social networks, it was good to see that a mix of professional and non professional people from across the island attended the meet and greet session with McCurry at the Mediterranean Conference Centre – yet that defied the idea of a “strictly by invitation” attendance. Hopefully, photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi’s interview with McCurry will soon be shared online for a wider audience.

With a few hours in hand, a visit to St James Cavalier was a must. Great expectations for a set of framed artworks had been teasing in mind, making the first impression of the project feel rather disappointing. McCurry’s photos were represented through digital prints on board. Nonetheless, the sense of respect towards the works of the great master grew fonder whilst crossing the upper galleries.

Dominating the spaces was the ‘The Afghan Girl’ (1984) on the back of the wall on which the documentary was projected. Sharbat Gula, a young Afghan refugee, is the subject of pictorial iconic beauty to which no adjective has been spared. An image which doesn’t only speak in form and colour but also in a narrative for the soul. Two other images that stand out are ‘Girl with Green Shawl’ (2002) and ‘Dust Storm’ (1983). Both pictures, which can be seen below, were shot with a Hasselblad.

The exhibition featured various snaps from the photographer’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder about the world that makes him seek the beauty in the most mundane moment and reach for the soul of everyone surrounding him.

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