The Afghan girl – the new Barbie?

When you (a student) are dealing with iconic images (such as Steve McCurry’s ‘Afghan Girl’ photograph) and want to integrate the icon somehow into your own art, be careful: think through your reasons, the outcome, and what the audience (or examiner) response might be to the outcome.

As an examiner I frequently encounter iconic images that have been used (re-used?) in a piece of student art, and the Afghan girl is a good example.

Her face often becomes part of a visual statement about the role of women and/or about beauty. Students are often captivated by the power of those eyes and want to project that power into and through their own artwork.

It’s not a new or particularly original idea (in any case neither of those are visual arts assessment criteria) – I have already seen versions of the Afghan girl during the current examination session – but insofar as the original is so striking and powerful, it’s quite a risky business – because comparison with the original is unlikely to do the copy any favours.

It may be a way of trying to show “exploration of ideas reflecting cultural and historical awareness and artistic qualities” and if skilful enough might also show evidence of “technical competence”.

I blogged previously about the use of Barbie for similar purposes almost exactly two years ago (April 27th 2010)…

Aaaargh! Not another Barbie!



So welcome Afghan Girl!

The new (or alternative?) Barbie?

1 Comment
  • greg
    April 21, 2012

    I have been seeing her amongst the work that I am moderating this year – and she has certainly cropped up in my own students’ work over the years. It is hard to explain to students that there are certain images that will be seen dozens of times by every examiner and therefore might best be avoided. I have a recurring joke ban on the classic ‘half face/half robot (or skull)’ as a project in my department. I recently had a new student join my Y12 class half way through the term. My other students gasped as he unveiled a Photoshopped face/Terminator skull/robot combo as his proudest piece of work from his previous school – ‘It’s the forbidden image!!!’ shouted one student!

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