It's one of the most famous photos of all time, and it's no wonder why.
The girl was a nameless teenage Afghani refugee who wound up on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. Seventeen years later, the photographer, Steve McCurry, decided to track her down.
After sifting through countless tips, chasing false leads and even daring to cross a conflict-ridden border, McCurry finally caught up to her again. Her name turned out to be Sharbat Gula, and McCurry had something to tell her. Something to show her, actually: her iconic photo. It had become the face most associated with the Afghan-Soviet war and an icon for the heavy toll of war in general. And Gula knew nothing about it until McCurry tracked her down.
How did she feel about her face being known to millions of people around the world? "Meh," she was quoted as saying, so long as you don't go looking for a source.
"Also it's kind of creepy, guys." -- same source.
In fact, she didn't really understand how a simple photo of her face could be important at all. To her, the photo had just been a brief moment in her life. A furious, pissed-off moment. In 1984, Gula had just fled from the ongoing Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, hoping like so many others to find safety in Pakistan. Instead, after losing her parents and trekking through the mountains with her siblings and grandmother, she found a crowded refugee camp.
After enduring all of this cosmically unfair bullshit, the young girl had her photo taken, for the first time in her life, at the refugee camp. McCurry didn't even learn her name and ended up imaginatively titling the photo "The Afghan Girl" as you might have guessed. While her picture helped to sell subscriptions of National Geographic to your grandfather, Gula was busy living in poverty and poor health. Oh, and she has to live in the mountains for much of the year now because the pollution in the city, where her husband earns a dollar a day, is too much for her asthma.
So we really can't blame her for not getting too excited about a photo that's done nothing to improve her existence. She still agreed to sit for a second photo by McCurry, though -- the second one in her entire life. She had to lower her veil for it, obviously, which is massively frowned upon in her culture, but she did it anyway because she was told there was a chance it could inspire others to help the people of Afghanistan.
One of the most famous photos of the most iconic music festival in history is this picture of a couple hugging under a blanket, the people and debris of Woodstock scattered behind them.
Nick and Bobbi Ercoline were just two teens in love when they heard about the festival on the radio and decided to travel a few towns over to check it out. Unbeknownst to them, a photographer snapped their picture. The first they knew about it was when the Woodstock album was released in 1970 and they went over to a friend's house to listen to it. Nick picked up the record sleeve and recognized their blanket. At this point, Bobbi figured she had to confess to her mom that she had been lying when she'd sworn she hadn't gone to the concert.
500,000 people. What were the chances?
Oh, and she might also have to mention that her image prominently adorned the poster of the Woodstock movie that would win the Academy Award for best documentary and would gross over $200 million (adjusted for 2011 dollars) and an album cover that would be purchased by millions of stoners from 1970 through the end of time.
Two years after the photo was taken, the couple got married. Over 40 years later, Nick and Bobbi are still together, have two sons and still live just outside Woodstock. While they still get recognized today after all the media attention their photo garnered, their foray into the counterculture didn't last: he works for the Man, i.e. the local government, and she is a school nurse.
You are looking at your chilling future, hipsters.
If you were an older gentleman from 2001 until this year, who is pretty much the worst person you could be confused with? How about Osama bin Laden?
Of course if you were accused of looking like the terrorist mastermind NOW, you would either have a serious head wound or give rise to some major conspiracy theories. But back in 2009, we were still pretty sure Osama was alive and every government agency in the world was looking for him.
So imagine the horror of one Spanish gentleman when he woke up one morning in late 2009 to find his face on the covers of newspapers around the world. Sure, he didn't remember buying a turban and while he had a beard, it was certainly not as impressive as the one in the photo. But it was definitely him. Except all the papers were saying it was what Osama bin Laden would look like today, thanks to the FBI's state-of-the-art age-progression technology.
"This is a Back to the Future plot, isn't it."
Only instead of using the fancy aging technology, somebody just used Google Image Search and Photoshop.
Making it worse was the fact that Gaspar Llamazares was a respected member of Spain's parliament and had been since 2000, meaning the U.S. government didn't just take some random guy's picture and turn him into a terrorist -- they did it to a lawmaker of an allied country.
While the FBI eventually removed the photo from its website, Llamazares said he no longer felt comfortable traveling to the U.S. and considered suing. Of course now that Bin Laden is dead, there isn't a problem anymore, unless those death photos end up being Photoshops of Llamazares with a head wound.
Please don't do this.
To learn about more unknown (yet famous) people and groups, check out 7 Inventors You Didn't Know You Wanted to Punch In the Face and 6 Secret Monopolies You Didn't Know Run the World.
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