Historical photos that changed the world
by Anant Agarwal
There is no formula for an iconic photo. Some images are on our list because they are the first of their kind, others because they shape the way we think. And some, because they directly change the way we live.
The result ended up with not only a collection of superb historical photos but incredible human experiences as well.
1. ‘’THE STEERAGE’’
PHOTOGRAPHER- ALFRED STIEGLITZ
The Steerage is a black and white photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image, both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism.
“A round straw hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railings made of chain.” Stieglitz later wrote, "I stood spellbound for a while. I saw shapes related to one another—a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me." -ALFRED STIEGLITZ
2. MIGRANT MOTHER
PHOTOGRAPHER- DOROTHEA LANGE
In an assignment for the Resettlement Administration, Dorothea Lange was tasked to capture the plight of those most affected by the Great Depression in 1936.
Dorothea Lange's photograph of a struggling mother with her children in 1936 became an icon of the Great Depression.
‘’I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet," Lange recalled in 1960.
3. “THE TETONS AND THE SNAKE RIVER‘’
PHOTOGRAPHER- ANSEL ADAMS
This photograph was shot in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming in 1942. The black and white photograph shows a mesmerizing combination of the turning Snake River in the background of Teton mountain range. Tetons is among the rarest of Adams’s large-format photographs due to the limited quantity ever printed.
4. “VJ DAY IN TIMES SQUARE” OR “THE KISS”
PHOTOGRAPHER- ALFRED EISENSTAEDT
Alfred Eisenstaedt’s mission through this photograph was “to find and catch the storytelling moment.” In this post-WWII photograph in Times Square, he did just that. It’s his photo of two unknowns—a U.S. Navy sailor and a woman in a nurse’s uniform locked in an ecstatic embrace during the “Victory over Japan Day” celebrations in New York City’s Times Square on August 14, 1945—that’s his most famous.
“People tell me that when I’m in heaven, they will remember this picture.” -ALFRED EISENSTAEDT
5. M.ALI VS. SONNY LISTON
PHOTOGRAPHER- NEIL LIEFER
Neil Leifer’s iconic photograph of the moment, when Ali stood over Liston, shouting, ‘get up and fight, sucker’
Leifer had taken that ringside spot in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965, as 23-year-old heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali squared off against 34-year-old Sonny Liston.
It has become one of the most iconic images in sporting history.
6. ’’SAIGON EXECUTION ‘’
PHOTOGRAPHER- EDDIE ADAMS
The photograph is one of the most iconic photos of the Vietnam War. It was at the height of the 1968 Tet Offensive, while prisoners were being rounded up in Saigon.
The photo, taken with perfect timing as the bullet entered the man’s head, won Eddie Adams the Pulitzer Prize and has been reproduced countless times as an example of the brutality of war, and especially of the American war effort in Vietnam.
7. THE TERROR OF WAR
PHOTOGRAPHER- NICK UT
Associated Press photographer Nick Ut photographed terrified children running from the site of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in 1972.
War photographer Nick Ut, captured one of the most harrowing images in the history of the Vietnam War. More often than not, the faces of those who suffer through the collateral damage of war are not seen. Nick Ut won a Pulitzer Prize for this famous image in 1973.
8. ‘’AFGHAN GIRL’’
PHOTOGRAPHER- STEVE MCCURRY
McCurry photographed the “Afghan Girl” who was later identified as Sharbat Gula , in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. Gula was ten years old at the time, studying in a tent school. McCurry said that he had been drawn to her by her piercing green eyes and he’d wanted to take a photo of her.
The photo was published on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, and the magazine stated that the girl’s eyes were “reflecting the fear of war.”
9. ’’TANK MAN’’
PHOTOGRAPHER - JEFF WIDENER
Following a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of student demonstrators in Beijing, a lone Chinese protester steps in front of People's Liberation Army tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Widener lined up his lens just as a man carrying shopping bags stepped in front of the war machines, waving his arms and refusing to move.
10. PALE BLUE DOT
PHOTOGRAPHER- THE VOYAGER 1 SPACE PROBE
Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers.
In the photograph, Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight reflected by the camera.
11. STARVING CHILD AND VULTURE
PHOTOGRAPHER- KEVIN CARTER
Perhaps one of the most widely recognized and critiqued photographs of the 21st Century . This image is another Pulitzer Prize-winning image. As famous for its social impact, as it is for the ethical issues it raised.
In 1993 South African photo journalist Kevin Carter travelled to Sudan to photograph the famine. His image of a collapsed child, with a vulture stalking over her, not only caused public outrage because of the horrific subject. It also stirred up a lot of criticism directed toward the photographer, for photographing the child, rather than helping her.