20 Most Influential Photographs Ever!


"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.” Eddie Adams

Since the very first photo in 1826, the power & influence of the photo continues to evoke emotion & change. Of course before television & screens (hard to imagine) pictures in newspapers were the only way of truly visualising the world. Images are now cliche, we are all to used to seeing extreme & far off places as familiar.

1. Jeff Widener, 1989, China

The day after the Tiananmen Square massacre, this image of one person stopping a military force had come to represent how individually, maybe we can make a difference. Decades after Tank Man became a global hero, he remains unidentified. The anonymity makes the photograph all the more universal, a symbol of resistance to unjust regimes everywhere.


2. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, 1826,

This is the first ever photograph made by an experimenting scientist, which led to influence everything else and changed the world forever.


3. Malcolm Browne, 1963,

Captured a Buddhists Monk seemingly serene, self sacrificing himself to protest to the world abut the treatment of Buddhists. President Kennedy commented, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.” Browne’s photo forced people to question the U.S.’s association with Diem’s government.


4. Dorothea Lange, 1936,

There was no work for the homeless pickers, so the 32-year-old Thompson sold the tires from her car to buy food, which was supplemented with birds killed by the children. The picture informed the authorities of the plight of those at the encampment, and they sent 20,000 pounds of food. Migrant Mother has become the most iconic picture of the Depression. Through an intimate portrait of the toll being exacted across the land, Lange gave a face to a suffering nation.


5. Nick Ut 1972,

In Vietnam, when an American plane dropped napalm on a village, scolding civilians with burning tar that stuck like glue. “I took a lot of water and poured it on her body. She was screaming, ‘Too hot! Too hot!’” Ut took Kim Phuc to a hospital where she survived. Ut’s photo of the raw impact of conflict underscored that the war was doing more harm than good. The photo quickly became a cultural shorthand for the atrocities of the Vietnam War which turn public opinion and ended the war.


6. Alberto Korda, 1960,

Took his iconic photograph of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, was appropriated by artists, causes and admen around the world, appearing on everything from protest art to underwear to soft drinks. It has become the cultural shorthand for rebellion and one of the most recognisable & reproduced images of all time, with its influence long since transcending its steely-eyed subject.


7. John Paul Filo, 1970, US,

Kent state University shootings lasted 13 seconds. When it was over, 4 students were dead, 9 were wounded, and the innocence of a generation was shattered. The demonstrators were part of a national wave of student discontent spurred by the new presence of U.S. troops in Cambodia, It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and has since become the visual symbol of a hopeful nation’s lost youth.


8. Kevin Carter, 1993, Sudan,

Exposed the extreme famine to the world, there he heard whimpering & came across an emaciated toddler who had collapsed on the way to a feeding centre. Carter had reportedly been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, controversy arose suggesting he should have helped. The image helped support for aid to Africa but his image quickly became a wrenching case study in the debate over when photographers should intervene. Subsequent research seemed to reveal that the child did survive yet Kevin Carter took his own life, haunted by his visions and losing his fellow photographer friend.


9. Unknown Photographer, New York, 1932,

This image had a massive impact to American's representing hard work, fearlessness & the every man in a much troubled time of the depression. Still today it is the most reproduced New York image representing a romantic notion of graft and resoluteness.


10. Robert Capa, 1936, Spanish Civil War,

The most famous war photograph, captures a man just being shot, almost gracefully falling. Capa’s image elevated war photography to a new level long before journalists were formally embedded with combat troops, showing how crucial, if dangerous, it is for photographers to be in the middle of the action.


11. Peter Leibing, 1961,

This picture shows the first East German solider running for freedom, this was heavily used to represent freedom and incited other defectors into West Germany but made the East build the Berlin Wall as a result. Schumann was sadly haunted by this guilt, he committed suicide in 1998.


12. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, 1895,

This is the first photograph of inside our body, known as an X-Ray using electromagnet rays. Anna who pictured commented. “I have seen my death,”. For many millions of other people, it has meant life.


13. Eadweard Muybridge, 1878,

Was obsessed to find out if a horse was fully off the ground when galloping, in his effort created the moving image we know as cinema.


14. Richard Drew, 2001,

On a day of mass tragedy, Falling Man is one of the only widely seen pictures that shows someone about to die, but somehow he has a strange peacefulness in his body language like a dancer. Falling Man’s identity is still unknown, The true power is less about who its subject was and more about what he became: a makeshift Unknown Soldier in an often unknown & uncertain war, suspended forever in history.


15. Lewis Hine, 1908,

Sneaked into factories with the purpose to make people face the reality of child workers. Exposing the horrors worked, leading to regulatory legislation & cutting the number of child labourers nearly in half in one decade.


16. Nilufer Demir, 2015,

Turkey, “There was nothing left to do for him.” Demir raised her camera. "I thought, This is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body." The image became the defining photograph of an ongoing war at that time had killed some 220,000 people. It was taken not in Syria, a country the world preferred to ignore, but on the doorstep of Europe, where its refugees were heading creating global sympathy to let the people in Europe. Within a week, trainloads of Syrians were arriving in Germany to cheers, as a war lamented but not felt suddenly brimmed with emotions unlocked by a picture of one small, still form.


17. Jacob Riis, 1888, New York,

This photographer took images of poverty, which was never done before, that the mass media chose to ignore, after this publication led to Theodore Roosevelt stepping in to help. Photojournalism was born.


18. Lieutenant Charles Levy, 1945,

Nagasaki, The officer shot photographs of the new weapon’s awful power as it yanked the life out of some 80,000 people in the city. It forced Emperor Hirohito to announce Japan’s unconditional surrender. Nothing like this had been seen before, the effect of this image shaped American opinion in favour of the nuclear bomb, leading the nation to celebrate the atomic age and proving, yet again, that history is written by the victors.


19. Don McCullin, 1969,

Much of the world learned of the enormity of the mass starvation & disease that took the lives of possibly millions. None proved as powerful as British war photographer Don McCullin’s picture of a 9-year-old albino child. This photo profoundly influenced public opinion, pressured governments to take action, and led to massive airlifts of food, medicine and weapons. McCullin hoped it would “break the hearts and spirits of secure people.”


20. William Anders, 1968,

Space, when it comes to humanity’s first true grasp of the beauty, fragility and loneliness of our world, The image is our first full-colour view of our planet from off of it, helped to launch the environmental movement. And, just as important, it helped human beings recognise that in a cold & punishing cosmos, we’ve got it pretty good.


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