Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jodi Bieber and the Other Afghan Girl


About two months ago, Steve McCurry and his portraits were featured on this blog, with his world famous photograph of the Afghan Girl taken over 25 years ago mentioned in passing. This week's photograph draws some inspiration from that image, although it turns that inspiration into something both haunting and stirring. This is the portrait of another Afghan girl, Bibi Aisha as photographed by Jodi Bieber.

This picture first gained worldwide recognition when it was featured in Time magazine's August 2010 issue. The picture is doubly significant because it was the 2010 World Press Photo of the Year, surpassing over 108,000 other entries in the competition.

According to the WPP jury, this photo was not the clear favorite to win the top prize, but it had that special quality that draws you in at first and evokes questions and stories in your mind even after you've move on to another image, something which all good photographs should do.

Bibi's ears and nose were cut off by her husband after she ran away from him after a long period of abuse. She was taken back with the help of the Taliban, was disfigured, and abandoned. Thankfully, there is a happy ending to her story as she has since undergone reconstructive surgery and is now living in the USA. You can find out more about Bibi Aisha over at Ms. Bieber's website.

Despite her obvious disfigurement, the portrait shows a calm and confident young woman. Her missing nose is what you first notice in the picture, but it is her piercing eyes that keep you in. It must have taken real communication and understanding during the portrait shoot to capture such a striking image.

It was difficult to photograph Bibi at first; Ms. Bieber found her withdrawn and something seemed off, not uncommon for someone who has undergone a horrific ordeal. So she put down her camera and took the time to talk to Bibi to draw out something beautiful and dignified in her. It was exactly what they both needed and the above portrait is what you get when there is a real relationship between the artist and the subject.

To find out more about how this Afghan Girl portrait won the World Press Photo competition, head on over to their website. Read the whole story on Bibi Aisha by visiting Jodie Bieber's website. Ms. Bieber also has two publications available for purchase: Soweto and Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing up with South Africa.



53 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

The picture is both disturbing and beautiful?

Dejch said...

picture is kinda scary but sad at the same time

Robert said...

This is an example of the terrifieing things the Taliban did. Luckily she is now living in the States. She is a beautiful women tough.

Alphabeta said...

Incredible photo, difficult to look at initially, but yes, those eyes.
Gruesome story glad to hear it has a happy ending.

fit4life said...

that's just plain creepy

Erika said...

Poor girl.... =[

Yet she's still so beautiful!

Moby said...

this picture makes me sad :(

Fang said...

It really blows my mind that there are still countries out there where it's normal to (heavily) punish your wife if she does something wrong. Just lookat her, that shouldn't be acceptable!

VersionDouble said...

fantastic image, and a really touching story. great post.

duffboi said...

This photo evokes a connection and compassion for me. Learning how she was disfigured only intensifies this. I am glad she received corrective surgery. I hope she never suffers abuse again.

Kicking Rocks said...

poor girl!

Banacek said...

I'm waiting for a Harry Potter reference...

A beautiful, disturbing picture.

Pool Fool said...

omg this is hard picture to watch

Shutterbug said...

That is one striking photo! Bibi is very courageous and brave! I'm glad that you she doing better. I wish her all the best! :)

Dave said...

Poor lady. It must have been really difficult for her.

AllenTesch said...

That story is so sad, but the picture really is beautiful.

D4 said...

This is amazing. I couldn't look away, and then I read the story. Just wow. Quality, thanks for sharing. Wow.

Malkavian said...

Interesting, makes you think how the hell in this day an age there are still cases of legal cruelty in the world.

jamiesaur said...

Poor Bibi! But I'm glad she's ok now.

DocStout said...

I somehow expected this picture to eventually appear here, powerful and difficult to look at.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Wow what a remarkable image and story. I'm glad to hear she's getting a new nose.

Guy Movie Blogger said...

Amazing to see cruelty and brutality captured so well in a photograph. Chilling stuff.

ChazWellington said...

jeeeeez, who would have the courage to disfigure another. what a terrible person

Colin Biano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Heel in Mint said...

Her strength just stands out in this picture. We have a lot to learn from her. Amazing post!

Sean said...

I didn't notice the missing nose at first. I don't know how

thenitefalls said...

I saw this girl in the news a while back. How can someone be so cruel =(

Major.Mack said...

eeek !

jblogger45 said...

poor girl :\

ed said...

thats horrible, glad to see shes ok now

Dale said...

This picture is really sad to look at and she does have piercing eyes. It's an extremely realistic photo and to think people obsess over photoshopping when she doesn't even have a nose. It is nice she was able to open up to the photographer.

T. Roger Thomas said...

I read the article in the fall of last year and was really moved by the story of the girl in this instantly iconic image.

Astronomy Pirate said...

This is a picture that makes me sad, that we can still live in a world were such sort of treatment towards women is accepted and even encouraged. It is great that Bibi made it to safer conditions and reconstruction, but I still worry about all the other women brutally assaulted every day in these disparaging conditions.

Moobeat said...

wow

Triper said...

I heard about her story.. very sad story.

Jacob said...

Its such a sad part of history!

Laughing Vault said...

poor girl, im sad :(

Jaccstev said...

That photo of Afghan girl is really shocking!

HiFi said...

This shocked me when I first heard about it. Unbelievable what happens in uncivilized nations.

whopressedplay said...

that is shocking! urghh, interesting though.

liquidelle said...

that's hard to look at. it's too bad these things have happened.

Rob said...

a good photo, a messed up story. Shame that people are still harmed like that.

InfoTube said...

Beautiful.

Necroticism said...

Yeah, you're attracted to the photo. It's very strange.

sildude said...

Humanity is so sick.

Blk Jesus said...

wow poor girl! glad everything got better

Marian said...

this makes me lose my faith in humans

Sunshine said...

such a sad story, but she is still beautiful!

Rorschach Redemption said...

Potent and disturbing.

pixel said...

hard to look at and to look away as well

Anonymous said...

The picture shows it: Islam is peace....

Johnny Mustang said...

@Robert
"Luckily she is now living in the States."
What's so lucky about that?

Faisal Raza said...

please believe me in, Islam doesn't teaches its followers to crush others but the social values.
In these areas religion is at third in priority, first the person's own will,the second will of society and then religion whatever it is.
No religion teaches brutality to its followers. Women in Eastern side considered as personal property. Before marriage it owned by father, brother, if they are not present then uncles or cousins are masters. In case they are not available the neighbors will have the property rights. This is the concept about a woman here in Asian side. Not Islam is the reason in Hinduism the story is same even in Christians people have the same mentality.

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