Blog - BS Data, hackery, stories

On the power of editors

If you ever spent some time in a doctor's waiting room, it is very likely that you know this photograph:

Steve McCurry
PAKISTAN. Peshawar. 1984. Afghan Girl at Nasir Bagh refugee camp.[/caption]


This iconic image is probably one of the most famous photograph in the world. In fact, its author, Steve McCurry, is almost outmatched by this picture: his Wikipedia page begins with this sentence:

Steve McCurry (born February 24, 1950) is an American photojournalist best known for his photograph, "Afghan Girl" that originally appeared in National Geographic magazine.

And I bet that many of my photographers friends could not describe other images from McCurry. Still, the man won a Robert Capa Gold Medal and four World Press Photo in a single year.


Steve McCurry went on the TODAY show to promote his new book 'Untold: The Stories Behind The Photographs' which, as you can understand, offers the behind-the-scenes point of view of a veteran photojournalist who photographed many iconic images. The book, edited by Phaidon (preview here), seems quite similar to the Magnum Contact Sheets book, in its intent to provide more content and stories around world famous images.

On the show, Steve McCurry revealed that the National Geographic editor, back in 1985, chose another picture of Sharbat Gula, the 'Afghan girl' instead of the one we all know.

This story is typically something I'd discuss with my photographer friends, and the debate is likely to be heated between those who think that the image we know is better and those who think that the editor's choice would have become equally famous.

The story actually illustrates the power that editors have on the news, on the image, and on the products of information we receive everyday. It is quite impossible to know what would have been the destiny of this image, though...
And here I finally come to my point: it is the editors who make the news


PS: this photograph is included in this article is the property of Steve McCurry and Magnum photos, and distributed with the blessing of Magnum bloggers-friendly policy.