Boy Found After Three-Year Search

In 2006 and 2007  I was on assignment for the National Geographic Magazine for a story on the Hazaras of Afghanistan.   I traveled west of Bamiyan City to a small village near the lakes at Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan’s first national park.


Lake at Band-e-Amir 2002

I was visiting a school when I photographed this boy, Ali Aqa, who wants to grow up and be a lawyer.  When the story was published, many people around the world wanted to help him achieve his dream, but it has taken years to find him.


Ali Aqa, 2007

His family is poor, his clothes used, but 15-year-old Ali Aqa isn’t deterred: He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan. “They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.” We have now located him with the help of the UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan) and school officials.  We are in the process of working with local educators to help him prepare to start his college education when he graduates from high school next year.


Qala-e Sabzi, Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan, 2007.

There is nothing more gratifying than helping people whom I have photographed because most often, it is impossible to locate them again.


Bamiyan City, Afghanistan 2002


47 Responses to “Boy Found After Three-Year Search”

  1. Bless Ali and his family. May all of their dreams come true and may Afghanistan see peace and a return of indigenous culture again.

  2. although I accidentally enter this blog .. but I was so touched by your powerful photograph that can really describe the whole story of life.. thank you for sharing this!

  3. David Martinelli Says:

    Although a year on from the original response posting. It is fabulous that effort was made to track down this young boy and give him the assistance to achieve his dream. Brilliant. Not just a remarkable photographer, but those who provided the drive to find him. Inspiring, keep it up!

  4. salam.
    your work is great i love the pictures

  5. Mr. McCurry,

    These days, many publishers want ‘model release’ from your subjects, which is very frustrating when you’re a travel/street photographer. After making photos, chances are, the photographer will never meet his subject again. And then, there’s this question of language. What can be done? You just can’t carry a pen-paper and an interpreter all the time with you? What’s your opinion about this trend? What do you do in similar situations?



  6. Célia Campos Says:

    This exciting story of the boy you will help.
    Through his wonderful art make a difference!
    Sorry my english !

  7. Célia Campos Says:

    Emocionante esta história do garoto que você vai ajudar .
    ] Através de sua arte maravilhosa fazer a diferença !!

  8. Hats off to you Says:

    amazing photos and inspiring humanitarian gesture.. best of luck ..

  9. […] only one of the top National Geographic photographers (which I aspire to be someday), but he also gives back to those he takes photographs of. I also find him inspiring, because in a recent interview he gave, […]

  10. Hi Steve,
    Truly great effort.
    Hope for the best.
    Partha Pal, India

  11. Nan Plez Says:

    You just reassured me that returning to school at the age of 35 to pursue my dream of becoming a photojournalist is a most worthwhile venture. I am a student at Columbia College. Tommorrow, I am giving a presentation about you and your work.

    Thank you for the inspiration and sharing the stories behind your photos.

    Best, Nan

  12. aswirly Says:

    This is an amazing and touching story. How wonderful to have your image help this boy’s future.

  13. Truly great.

    Lovely photos too. You are awesome man.

  14. i like the last photo… nice view, thx 4 sharing…

  15. I love the photographs! One of my favorite books is, “The Bookseller of Kabul”. Another selection, “The Yacoubian Building”. What a majestic land with deep historical and cultural roots.


    Tammy Swofford

  16. Goodness prevails. Your work has always been an inspiration, Steve.. and now your heart is also!

  17. Great pictures Steve! Great from Holland /

  18. Hello, I like your work, see you in Sao Paulo, Ignacio

  19. Alex McKellar Says:

    Steve, your stories and photos never cease to inspire. Please don’t stop writing this blog – it is brilliant!

  20. Once again you are an example for all us. Thank you.

  21. Mr. McCurry,
    You are not only a legendary photography, but you are also a good man.
    I tip my hat to you for doing your deed as a humanitarian. You are the voice of those less unfortunate than us, I pray and hope that you continue to educate us and open our eyes to the rest of the world that needs our attention.

    Thank you.

  22. Dear Steve,

    I like this post very much. Simple but touching with compelling images you always made. It shows simple things like dreams other people wouldn’t see until the photographer raise it. A simple dream in a difficult situation. I like your effort gave positive responds to many people.

    best regards,

    Jos Runarka

  23. i find this number of nat.geo in my colection and reed one more time story abouth hazars from afganistan. yes ! absolutely great story and photographs. great work
    all the best

  24. My best wishes to Ali for higher education….

    My best wishes to you also for your future projects… Good to see and know that a iconic photographer doing some great social work too:)


  25. great story n beautiful photos..:) Thanks a lot for share..

  26. Great job and wonderful story (of course, the photos are wonderful too)!

  27. […] 14, 2010 Photographer Steve McCurry ’74 has a great story on his blog about one of his former photography subjects, Ali […]

  28. Great story and thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures of Afghanistan.
    Truly a magnificent landscape. Even shockingly beautiful, and I think it is so important for people to see the beauty as well as destruction. Appreciating will hopefully make people want to help and have compassion.

    Thank you.

  29. Steve,
    I’m a Muslim, Ali-aqa is a Muslim and Talibans are Muslim; this might be literally true, but doubtlessly there is an obvious contradiction here, at least between that oppressed Afghan boy and his coreligionist, but oppressive Talibans. For years, this was a paradox for me as a Muslim who merely inherits Islam from his parents. I had no background knowledge of the basic idea behind Islam that leads to such contradictory reflections.
    All answers that were given to me were illogical and somewhat sophistry; so I decided to answer it by myself. I started studying the books of a well-known Iranian sociologist and historian who his thoughts were severely excommunicated by the clerics of the time; but attracted a vast number of non-Muslims to Islam.
    In short, he defined Islam as an ideology between materialism and idealism, based upon the unique pillar of “people”; which any deviation from it, will lead to falling into either a mere idealism (seclusion, and incuriosity toward the society’s future) or a mere materialism (class conflict and eventually oppression). For him, the unique slogan of Islam is: we should search for god or nirvana not in the heaven; but in the “true spirit of people”. However, such a definition is severely metamorphosed today.
    With the goal of understanding the meaning of the “true spirit of people”, I started studying his large book “The human”; but after reading about sixty papers, I accidentally became familiar with you, through one of my friends.
    I heard nothing about you until that time, but I saw your portraits of the people around the world, one after another and dive even deeper into the “true spirit of people” which I was seeking it for years. It’s about three weeks that I have not enough time to continue reading “The human”, because seeing either one of your shots takes a relatively long time!
    You taught me Islam’s idealistic aspect better than any cleric, with your photos; and its materialistic aspect by helping people like Ali-aqa and Sharbat to reach their dreams. Your work in short, shows the true spirit of people.

    Thanks again

  30. What’s he look like now?

  31. I really do hope this child could achieve his dream and being a good lawyer in the future! And I wonder what would it be at ten years from now.:)

  32. great story, thanks so much for sharing

  33. Sharanya Says:

    It reminded me of Sharbat Gula. Thank you for sharing this. I hope that you will have more such stories to tell.

  34. I love your photographic style, but I’m also enjoying your comments.
    “Salut i sort”.

  35. Robert Pljuscec Says:

    To do photography and to help people with these photos, this truly is as good as it gets! Best job in the world!

  36. This is such a beautiful to come across at this point in my life. At a time when i have taken on my new profession as documentary & human rights photographer with the hope that it can make a difference.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Alka Nag

  37. What a wonderful story…thanks for sharing. John

  38. This is an incredible story. And it makes me think of all the persons who are lucky enough to have an education but take it for granted., they could be helping boys like these instead.

  39. Jeff Donovan Says:

    Right on!!! Truly making a positive difference in the world.

  40. Lovely story. Are you going to follow him in the future?

  41. This is really fantastic !
    I love when photography can really make a difference and bring some help to those people.
    (sorry for my bad english as I’m french)

  42. Steve,
    Thanks for sharing this story.
    This made me believe once again that through photography there’s always an opportunity to help, assist, show compassion.
    I’ve been thinking a lot in how we can use this art in order to help people, and this is just one example… giving voice to the unheard people.
    Thank you again,


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