American Soldier Drinking From A Canteen

Behind the camera: W. Eugene Smith
Where: Taken during the Battle of Saipan
Photo Summary: An unshaven Angelo S. Klonis drinking from a canteen OR PFC Thomas E. Underwood of B/1/24th Marines
Picture Taken: June 27, 1944

In June of 1944 photojournalist, W. Eugene Smith was following the American troops as they fought their way across the Japanese island of Saipan. While following an elite unit of American troops he snapped a few shots of a Greek-American soldier, Angelo S. Klonis. This photo would decades later be chosen by Peter C. Bunnell, McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University as Smith’s best work. It was included in a Masters of American Photography Collectible Stamp Sheet, it went on to sell sixty million stamps.

Angelo S. Klonis

Smith took another picture of Klonis that has been used on a number of book covers including: Mammoth Book of Battles by Jon E. Lewis and The War of the World by Niall Ferguson

Smith took another picture of Klonis that has been used on a number of book covers including: Mammoth Book of Battles by Jon E. Lewis and The War of the World by Niall Ferguson

In 1936 Fifteen-year-old Angelo S. Klonis left his home in Kephallonia, Greece and stowed away on an American bound ship in hopes of a better life. Landing in L.A. California he worked his way across the country before finally settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1938. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 he felt the call of duty to serve his adopted homeland.  At first, he tried to join the Marines but was turned down because he wasn’t an American citizen, he then tried the army who accepted him into their ranks on August 10, 1942. His family says that Klonis served in multiple theaters during the war including Europe, Africa, even Norway.

Like many men of his generation, Angelo didn’t talk much about the war and after he died it fell on his son to investigate Angelo’s service. Much like James Bradly who spearheaded research into his Dad’s iconic picture at Iwo Jima Angelo S. Klonis’ son, Nick Klonis, research unearthed many secrets that Angelo had taken to the grave. Through perseverance and lots of luck Nick was able to uncover that Angelo was actually a member of an elite army unit that fought in both Europe and Pacific theaters of WWII. Incredibly Angelo S. Klonis took part in the DDay invasion on June 6, 1944 before just weeks later crossing the world to fight during the brutal Battle of Saipan (June 15 – July 9, 1944).

After the war, Angelo S. Klonis visited his family in Greece and met his future wife Angeliki (“Kiki”). They had three boys Evangelo, in 1952, Nicalaos (“Nick”) in 1954 and Demosthenes (“Demo”) in 1955 before moving back to live in Greece for 10 years before the Klonis family returned to America in 1969. In 1971 he bought a bar and named it “Evangelo’s” giving it a Polynesian style with bamboo and tiki torches, probably influenced by the time he spent in the Pacific.

Angelo S. Klonis died in 1989. While he remembers being photographed by Smith he never saw the photograph himself and only knew that it had been published while he was overseas.

Thomas E. Underwood

For decades it was accepted that the man in this photo was Angelo S. Klonis but recent research into his identity reveals that the man might be PFC Thomas E. Underwood of B/1/24th Marines. Geoffrey a researcher that documents the men of First Battalion, 24th Marines does a exhaustive two-part investigation into the man in the picture:

Underwood v. Klonis I
Underwood v. Klonis II

W. Eugene Smith

William Eugene Smith grew up in Wichita, Kansas, America. He learned the ropes of photojournalism while working for the local Wichita papers, The Wichita Eagle and The Beacon. Looking to work in the big leagues Smith moved to New York and started with Newsweek before refusing to compromise his standards he quit and joined Life Magazine in 1939. During World War II he covered many theaters of operation including the fighting in Saipan where he would take the famous picture that would eventually end up in the Masters of American Photography Collectible Stamp Sheet. In May of 1945, he was hit by Japanese fire and sent to Guam to be patched up.

After the war, he covered the plight of the working man in beautifully put together photo essays, a concept that he pioneered. His work in the UK is now seen as invaluable insights into working-class Britain. In 1955 he left LIFE magazine and joined the Magnum photo agency.

In 70s Japan, while trying to tell a story of exploitation of the locals around polluting factories he was attacked by Japanese thugs trying to prevent him from exposing Minamata disease to the world. His injuries from the attack kept him bedridden for weeks but he was still able to capture one of his most famous pictures Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath.

His war injuries plus the injuries suffered from his beating at the hands of Japanese industrialists caused him to collapse into a bitter world of pain med-addiction and self-destruction. After ending his second marriage he struggled in poverty for a few years before, on October 15, 1978, he suffered a massive stroke in a Tucson, Arizona, while he was shopping to buy cat food. He was 59 years old.

Smith’s Published Books

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James Dean in Times Square


Behind the camera: Dennis Stock
Where: Walking the streets of Times Square, New York
Photo Summary: James Dean walking in the rain in Times Square New York
Picture Taken: February 1955

James Dean’s fate as an iconic movie star would be guaranteed after this photo was published in a 1955 LIFE magazine issue. Only a few months later the star would die in a car crash out west. His image as a rebellious angst-ridden star would be forever sealed by his death.

Taking the picture

The photographer, Dennis Stock, had met James Dean in New York where the two talked and agreed to work together. Stock was at first hesitant about the shoot. But after Jimmy, Dennis always insisted on calling him James Dean Jimmy, invited him to a sneak premiere to Dean’s film, East of Eden, Stock was sold on the collaboration. In an interview to PBS remembers,

“As was customary in my business, I would solicit an assignment guarantee to cover expenses. The obvious magazine to approach was Life. If I was assigned to the Life editors, we could set up a schedule for visiting Indiana and New York. We further agreed that I would have the first exclusive rights to the picture story on Jimmy.”

Stock also recalled that Dean, perhaps pushing his star power too far, made some conditions on the photo shoot. He wanted a cover guarantee and an agreement that his friend to do the accompanying write-up. Stock recalls,

It was an unusual and highly egocentric gesture. I said I’d pass the request on to the editors. It was a foolhardy demand, which I never conveyed to the magazine, gambling on our growing friendship to keep the assignment afloat. I told Jimmy the editor’s answer was no. For days he acted like a spoiled kid, and then finally came around, making it possible for us to leave for Fairmount the first week in February, 1955.

They went to Fairmount to cover his small town Midwest childhood then went to New York to capture his budding movie stardom. In Fairmount they shot a number of interesting shots including one with a large hog. While Dean was agreeable in his hometown but in New York Dennis found the movie star to be grumpy and difficult to work with. Apparently, the night before the Times Square shot Dean’s insomnia had hit and the idea to take pictures in the cold wet and miserable weather took some convincing by the photographer. The photo essay titled, Moody new star, was published in the March 7, 1955, issue of LIFE magazine. On pg 128 this image was published with the caption:

Walking in Rain, Dean wanders anonymously down the middle of New York’s Times Square. His top-floor garret on Manhattan’s West Side is no more home to him, he says, than the farm in Indiana. But he feels that his continuing attempt to find out just where he belongs is the source of his strength as an actor.

James Dean


James Dean died at the young age of 24 on September 30, 1955, in a horrible car crash at the junction of highways 46 and 41 in California. His image of a rebel was created in one his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause. His other two movie roles, loner Cal Trask in East of Eden, and as the surly farmer Jett Rink in Giant only supported this rebel image. Cited as an actor with great talent his death guaranteed that we would only see this side of talent. In death, he was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only person to have two posthumous acting nominations.

Dennis Stock

The New York native Stock joined the navy at the young age of 16 to fight in World War II. After the war, he studied photography and in 1951 won the first prize in the Life young photographers competition. Catching the eye of famed photographer Robert Capa he was invited to become an associate member of Magnum, Stock had early assignments in Paris before he began shooting the Hollywood scene. Over the years he published a number of collections about the American jazz scene. He died on Jan. 11, 2010 from colon cancer in Sarasota, Florida. He was 81.

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Afghan Eyes Girl

Behind the camera: Steve McCurry
Where: Nasir Bagh refugee camp just outside Afghanistan on the Pakistan border
Photo Summary: Sharbat Gula looking at the camera
Picture Taken: Steve states that he meet her two years before the 1985 cover but then in 2003 says that he took the picture in 1984

Sharbat Gula (Pashto: شربت گلا “sweetwater flower girl”) (Sharbat is pronounced as Sherbet in English) has only been photographed twice in her life. Once by Steve McCurry when he took her picture and again when he tracked her down almost 20 years later. Sharbat’s haunting eyes which got her on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic Magazine were not touched up in any way, there was no strobes or extra lighting used to take the shot. The cover became one of National Geographic most popular covers and came to represent the plight of Afghan refugees at the time.

Covering Afghanistan

Debra Denker and photographer Steve McCurry were covering the war in Afghanistan in the ’80s as Afghan Mujaheddin (“holy warriors”) fought the USSR’s Soviet army. After sneaking into Afghanistan to witness the ongoing war, they also visited the sprawling refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border. In this conservative Muslim environment, Steve found it extremely difficult to talk to women who are not relatives, let alone get permission to photograph them. However, he was very determined to get a picture to have a visual representation of the Afghan refugee crisis from a female point of view.

I was kind of walking through the refugee camp one morning and I happened across a tent. Which was being used as an elementary school and there were about 15 to 20 students in a Pakistani structure.
So I went and asked the teacher if I could, umm you know photograph some of the students, if I could stay there for a while and she agreed and I noticed this one student, one young Afghan girl about 12 who had this very kind of haunted look in her eye and I asked the teacher about her and she told me her story, that she had to walk for about 2 weeks through the mountains of Afghanistan because her village had been ahh helicoptered, you know attacked by helicopter gunships and that umm that many of her family members had been killed and so they had this perilous trip through the mountains to get to this refugee camp and she was real traumatized and kind of freaked out as you can imagine. A 12 year old first she is in a village and then suddenly in another country…

So I think this particular portrait kind of summed up for me the trauma and the plight and the whole situation of suddenly you know having to flee your home and ending up in a refugee camp, you know hundreds of miles away.

National Geographic’s picture editor didn’t want to use the picture as it was too disturbing but finally relented and put the Afghan girl on the cover. The cover was and is a huge success. Steve recalls that “Right away, we got thousands of letters from people wanting to help her, send her money, adopt her, marry her,”. All these years later he still gets emails everyday wanting more information on the girl with the eyes.
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Tracking Sharbat


Afghanistan Pakistan eyes then and now

Sharbat Gula 17 years after her first picture.

Steve McCurry had tried several times to find the girl in his picture but was hampered by the remoteness of Afghanistan and the ongoing civil war. Finally in January 2002, along with a team from National Geographic he travelled to Afghanistan to locate the subject of the now-famous photograph. McCurry, upon learning that the Nasir Bagh refugee camp was soon to close, inquired of its remaining residents, one of whom knew Gula’s brother and was able to send word to her hometown. However, there were a number of women who came forward and identified themselves as erroneously as the famous Afghan Girl. In addition, after being shown the 1984 photo, a handful of young men falsely claimed Gula as their wife.

The team finally located Gula, then roughly age 30, in a remote region of Afghanistan. To confirm that Sharbat Gula was the same girl as the famous image the National Geographic EXPLORER team used the same iris-scanning technology and face-recognition techniques used by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Modern pictures of her were featured as part of a cover story on her life in the April 2002 issue of National Geographic and was the subject of a television documentary, entitled Search for the Afghan Girl, which aired in March 2002. In recognition of her, National Geographic set up the Afghan Girls Fund, a charitable organization with the goal of educating Afghan women.

Sharbat Gula

In 2012 Wired.com did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures


When Sharbat was finally tracked down by the Explorer team she told of her life in war-torn Afghanistan. An ethnic Pashtun she was born around 1972 in a small village in Afghanistan. Her earliest memories include sounds of war, planes overhead and bombs falling. She remembers it as a time of hunger where she would rise for prayer at dawn and go to bed hungry. Sometime in the early 80’s, her village was attacked by Soviet helicopter gunships that killed her parents. Her, her siblings and grandmother hiked over the mountains to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan.

She married Rahmat Gul in the late 1980s and returned to Afghanistan in 1992, eventually settling in the Taliban stronghold of Tora Bora. Gula had three daughters: Robina, Zahida, and Alia. A fourth daughter died in infancy. Sharbat has expressed the hope that her girls will receive the education she was never able to complete. McCurry has since set up a fund to see to her daughter’s education and any medical help they need.

Sharbat remembered Steve McCurry and getting her picture taken as it was the first time anybody had even taken her picture. Looking at the picture she recalled the holes in the red scarf she had worn, were from earlier in the day when she burned herself at the campfire. She recalls the time under the Taliban as peaceful and she regards the burka as a thing of beauty and a Muslim women’s duty to wear. While doing the interview she would not allow him to see her face, only lifting the veil when his face was behind his camera.

She had no idea that her face had become so famous and she had never seen her famous portrait before it was shown to her by the Explorer team in January 2002. At first, she was upset that her image was so widely seen, “but when I found out that I have been the cause of support/help for many people/refugees, then I became happy.” After meeting McCurry she stated that she wishes to live out of the limelight and, “will not give another media interview and she wishes not to be contacted”.

Sometime after McCurry found her she moved back to Pakistan. In 2012 her husband died from hepatitis C. While in Pakistan Sharbat purchased a fake ID so that she could purchase a home and educate her children. As tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan heightened the Pakistani government undertook an effort to force the millions of Afghani refugees to return to their war-torn country. Thousands of refugees were arrested for having fake IDs. One of the those caught up in this police action was Sharbat Gul. In the fall of 2016, she was arrested and spent 15 days in jail for possession of false papers. When the international media discovered her plight it caused headlines all over the world. Embarrassed the Pakistan government offered to allow her to stay but she refused and moved back to Kabul, Afghanistan in the spring of 2017. She told the BBC:

I told them that I am going to my country. I said: ‘You allowed me here for 35 years, but at the end treated me like this.’ It is enough. If I wanted to go back [to Pakistan], it will be just to offer prayer at the graves of my husband and daughter who are buried in front of the house we lived in.

As of 2017, she lives in Kabul under the protection of the Afghan government.

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1950 is an American photojournalist best known for his color photography. Throughout his career, he has covered many areas of international and civil conflict, including the Iran-Iraq war, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, and continuing coverage of Afghanistan. McCurry’s work has been featured in every major magazine in the world and frequently appears in National Geographic magazine. It was the Afghan war that launched his career when he snuck into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. His pictures were some of the first to show the battle between the Afghan Mujaheddin and Soviet forces.

Consent Controversy


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