Behind the Cover: October 2013

A closer look at ten of the images on our October cover inset.

A familiar face looks out from the October cover of National Geographicmagazine. It belongs to Sharbat Gula, better known as the "Afghan girl." Her intense, haunting portrait was taken by photographer Steve McCurry in 1984, when he met the orphaned Gula–then about 12 years old–at a refugee camp in Afghanistan.

The picture, first published on the cover of the June 1985 edition, became an instant icon. Small wonder, then, that National Geographic's editors chose to put Gula on the cover again for the 125th anniversary issue, which focuses on the power of photography. (See National Geographic magazine's update on Gula in "A Life Revealed.")

"For me personally, the Afghan girl photo is such a meaningful choice for the anniversary issue because she makes me wonder what she is thinking and what she has been through," says Editor in Chief Chris Johns. "We wanted to honor the impact this picture had on readers around the world. Great photos stand the test of time. It is as relevant today as when it was made."

"She is our Mona Lisa," adds director of photography Sarah Leen. "She is woven into our history, and we are woven into hers."

This time the Afghan girl has company on the cover. A pullout features more than 100 photos, most of which were published in past issues. Here's a bit of background on ten of the most intriguing.

Read This Next

What drives elephant poaching? It’s not greed
How old are you, really? The answer is written on your face.
The rise of vegan safaris

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet