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13 Photographs That Changed the World

Any picture can speak 1,000 words, but only a select few say something poignant enough to galvanize an entire society. The following photographs screamed so loudly that the entire world stopped to take notice.

1. The Photograph That Raised the Photojournalistic Stakes:
"Omaha Beach, Normandy, France"
Robert Capa, 1944

"If your pictures aren't good enough," war photographer Robert Capa used to say, "you aren't close enough." Words to die by, yes, but the man knew of what he spoke. After all, his most memorable shots were taken on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he landed alongside the first waves of infantry at Omaha Beach.

Caught under heavy fire, Capa dove for what little cover he could find, then shot all the film in his camera, and got out - just barely. He escaped with his life, but not much else. Of the four rolls of film Capa took of the horrific D-Day battle, all but 11 exposures were ruined by an overeager lab assistant, who melted the film in his rush to develop it. (He was trying to meet the deadline for the next issue of Life magazine.)

In an ironic twist, however, that same mistake gave the few surviving exposures their famously surreal look ("slightly out of focus," Life incorrectly explained upon printing them). More than 50 years later, director Steven Spielberg would go to great lengths to reproduce the look of that "error" for his harrowing D-Day landing sequence in "Saving Private Ryan," even stripping the coating from his camera lenses to echo Capa's notorious shots.

2. The Photograph That Gave a Face to the Great Depression
"Migrant Mother"
Dorothea Lange, 1936

As era-defining photographs go, "Migrant Mother" pretty much takes the cake. For many, Florence Owens Thompson is the face of the Great Depression, thanks to legendary shutterbug Dorothea Lange. Lange captured the image while visiting a dusty California pea-pickers' camp in February 1936, and in doing so, captured the resilience of a proud nation facing desperate times.

Unbelievably, Thompson's story is as compelling as her portrait. Just 32 years old when Lange approached her ("as if drawn by a magnet," Lange said). Thompson was a mother of seven who'd lost her husband to tuberculosis. Stranded at a migratory labor farm in Nipomo, Calif. her family sustained themselves on birds killed by her kids and vegetables taken from a nearby field - as meager a living as any earned by the other 2,500 workers there. The photo's impact was staggering. Reproduced in newspapers everywhere, Thompson's haunted face triggered an immediate public outcry, quickly prompting politicos from the federal Resettlement Administration to send food and supplies. Sadly, however, Thompson and her family had already moved on, receiving nary a wedge of government cheese for their high-profile misery. In fact, no one knew the identity of the photographed woman until Thompson revealed herself years later in a 1976 newspaper article.

3. The Photograph That Brought the Battlefield Home
"Federal Dead on the Field of Battle of First Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania"
Mathew Brady, 1863

As one of the world's first war photographers, Mathew Brady didn't start
out having as action-packed a career as you might think. A successful daguerreotypist and a distinguished gentleman, Brady was known for his portraits of notable people such as Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. In other words, he was hardly a photojournalist in the trenches.

In fact, Brady had everything to lose by making a career move - his money, his business, and quite possibly his life. Nevertheless, he decided to risk it all and follow the Union Army into battle with his camera, saying, "A spirit in my feet said, 'Go!'" And go he did - at least until he got a good look at the pointy end of a Confederate bayonet.

After narrowly escaping capture at the first Battle of Bull Run, Brady's chatty feet quieted down a bit, and he began sending assistants in his place. In the span of only a few years, Brady and his team shot more than 7,000 photographs - an astounding number when you consider that developing a single plate required a horse-drawn-wagon-full of cumbersome equipment and noxious chemicals. Not exactly what you'd call "point-and-shoot."

Tethered as he was to his equine-powered darkroom and with film speeds being much slower then, Brady produced war photos that are understandably light on the action and heavy on the aftermath. Still, they mark the first time Americans were so immediately confronted with the grim realities of the battlefield.

4. The Photograph That Ended a War But Ruined a Life
"Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief"

Eddie Adams, 1968

"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world," AP photojournalist Eddie Adams once wrote. A fitting quote for Adams, because his 1968 photograph of an officer shooting a handcuffed prisoner in the head at point-blank range not only earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, but also went a long way toward souring Americans' attitudes about the Vietnam War.

For all the image's political impact, though, the situation wasn't as black-and-white as it's rendered. What Adams' photograph doesn't reveal is that the man being shot was the captain of a Vietcong "revenge squad" that had executed dozens of unarmed civilians earlier the same day. Regardless, it instantly became an icon of the war's savagery and made the official pulling the trigger - General Nguyen Ngoc Loan - its iconic villain.

Sadly, the photograph's legacy would haunt Loan for the rest of his life. Following the war, he was reviled where ever he went. After an Australian VA hospital refused to treat him, he was transferred to the United States, where he was met with a massive (though unsuccessful) campaign to deport him. He eventually settled in Virginia and opened a restaurant but was forced to close it down as soon as his past caught up with him. Vandals scrawled "we know who you are" on his walls, and business dried up.

Adams felt so bad for Loan that he apologized for having taken the photo at all, admitting, "The general killed the Vietcong; I killed the general with my camera."

5. The Photograph That Isn't as Romantic as You Might Think
"V-J Day, Times Square, 1945", a.k.a. "The Kiss"
Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945

On August 14, 1945, the news of Japan's surrender was announced in the United States, signaling the end of World War II. Riotous celebrations erupted in the streets, but perhaps none were more relieved than those in uniform. Although many of them had recently returned from victory in
Europe, they faced the prospect of having to ship out yet again, this time to the bloody Pacific.

Among the overjoyed masses gathered in Times Square that day was one of the most talented photojournalists of the 20th century, a German immigrant named Alfred Eisenstaedt. While snapping pictures of the celebration, he spotted a sailor "running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight." He later explained that, "whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make any difference."

Of course, a photo of the sailor planting a wet one on a senior citizen wouldn't have made the cover of Life, but when he locked lips with an attractive nurse, the image was circulated in newspapers across the country. Needless to say, "V-J Day" didn't capture a highly anticipated embrace by long-lost lovers, but it also wasn't staged, as many critics have claimed. In any case, the image remains an enduring symbol of America's exuberance at the end of a long struggle.

6. The Photograph That Destroyed an Industry
Murray Becker, 1937

Forget the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the comparatively unphotogenic accident at Chernobyl. Thanks to the power of images, the explosion of the Hindenburg on May 6, 1937, claims the dubious honor of being the quintessential disaster of the 20th century.

In the grand scheme of things, however, the Hindenburg wasn't all that disastrous. Of the 97 people aboard, a surprising 62 survived. (in fact, it wasn't even the worst Zeppelin crash of the 20th century. Just four years earlier, the U.S.S. Akron had crashed into the Atlantic killing more than twice as many people.) But when calculating the epic status of a catastrophe, terrifying photographs and quotable quotes ("Oh, the humanity!") far outweigh body counts.

Assembled as part of a massive PR campaign by the Hindenburg's parent company in Germany, no fewer than 22 photographers, reporters, and newsreel cameramen were on the scene in Lakehurst, N.J. when the airship went down. Worldwide publicity of the well-documented disaster shattered the public's faith in Zeppelins, which were, at the time, considered the safest mode of air travel available.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Zeppelins had operated regular flights, totting civilians back and forth between Germany and the Americas. But all of that stopped in 1937. The incident effectively killed the use of dirigibles as a commercially viable mode of passenger transport, ending the golden age of the airship not with a whimper, but with a horrific bang that was photographed and then syndicated around the globe.

7. The Photograph That Saved the Planet
"The Tetons - Snake River"
Ansel Adams, 1942

Some claim photography can be divided into two eras: Before Adams and After Adams. In Times B.A., for instance, photography wasn't widely considered an art form. Rather, photographers attempted to make their pictures more "artistic" (i.e., more like paintings) by subjecting their exposures to all sorts of extreme manipulations, from coating their lenses with petroleum jelly to scratching the surfaces of their negatives with needles. Then came Ansel Adams, helping shutterbugs everywhere get over their collective inferiority complex.

Brashly declaring photography to be "a blazing poetry of the real," Adams eschewed manipulations, claiming they were simply derivative of other art forms. Instead, he preached the value of "pure photography." In an era when handheld point-and-shoot cameras were quickly becoming the norm, Adams and other landscape photographers clung to their bulky, old-fashioned large-format cameras. Ultimately, Adams' pictures turned photography into fine art. What's more, they shaped the way Americans thought of their nation's wilderness and, with that, how to preserve it.

Adams' passion for the land wasn't limited to vistas he framed through the lens. In 1936, he accompanied his photos to Washington to lobby for the preservation of the Kings Canyon area in California. Sure enough, he was successful, and it was declared a national park.

8. The Photograph That Kept Che Alive
"The Corpse of Che Guevara"
Freddy Alborta, 1967

Sociopathic thug? Socialist luminary? Or as existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre called him, "the most complete human being of our age"? Whatever you believe, there's no denying that Ernesto "Che" Guevara has become the patron saint of revolutionaries. Undeniably, he is a man of mythical status - a reputation that persists less because of how he lived than because of how he died.

Unenthused by his efforts to incite revolution among the poor and oppressed in Bolivia, the nation's army (trained and equipped by the U.S. military and the CIA) captured and executed Guevara in 1967. But before dumping his body in a secret grave, they gathered around for a strategic photo op. They wanted to prove to the world that Che was dead, in hopes that his political movement would die with him. in fact, anticipating charges that the photo had been faked, Che's thoughtful captors amputated his hands and preserved them in formaldehyde.

But by killing the man, Bolivian officials unwittingly birthed his legend. The photo, which circulated around the world, bore a striking resemblance to Renaissance paintings of Christ taken down from the cross. Even as Che's killers preened and gloated above him (the officer on the right seems to be inadvertently pointing to a wound on Guevara's body near where Christ's final wound was inflicted), Che's eerily peaceful face was described as showing forgiveness. The photo's allegorical significance certainly wasn't lost on the revolutionary protesters of the era. They quickly adopted "Che lives!" as a slogan and rallying cry. Thanks to this photograph, "the passion of the Che" ensured that he would live on forever as a martyr for the socialist cause.

9. The Photograph that Allowed Geniuses to Have a Sense of Humor
"Einstein with his Tongue Out"
Arthur Sasse, 1951

Arthur Sasse/AFP-Getty Images

You may appreciate this memorable portrait as much as the next fellow, but it's still fair to wonder: "Did it really change history?" Rest assured, we think it did. While Einstein certainly changed history with his contributions to nuclear physics and quantum mechanics, this photo changed the way history looked at Einstein. By humanizing a man known chiefly for his brilliance, this image is the reason Einstein's name has become synonymous not only with "genius," but also with "wacky genius."

So why the history-making tongue? It seems Professor Einstein, hoping to enjoy his 72nd birthday in peace, was stuck on the Princeton campus enduring incessant hounding by the press. Upon being prodded to smile for the camera for what seemed like the millionth time, he gave photographer Arthur Sasse a good look at his uvula instead. This being no ordinary tongue, the resulting photo became an instant classic, thus ensuring that the distinguished Novel Prize-winner would be remembered as much for his personality as for his brain.

10. The Photograph That Made the Surreal Real
"Dalí Atomicus"
Philippe Halsman, 1948

Philippe Halsman / Estate of Philippe Halsman

Philippe Halsman is quite possibly the only photographer to have made a career out of taking portraits of people jumping. But he claimed the act of leaping revealed his subjects' true selves, and looking at his most famous jump, "Dalí Atomicus," it's pretty hard to disagree.

The photograph is Halsman's homage both to the new atomic age (prompted by physicist' then-recent announcement that all matter hangs in a constant state of suspension) and to Dalí's surrealist masterpiece "Leda Atomica" (seen on the right, behind the cats, and unfinished at the time). It took six hours, 28 jumps, and a roomful of assistants throwing angry cats and buckets of water into the air to get the perfect exposure.

But before settling on the "Atomicus" we know today, Halsman rejected a number of other concepts for the shot. One was the idea of throwing milk instead of water, but that was abandoned for fear that viewers, fresh from the privations of World War II, would condemn it as a waste of milk. Another involved exploding a cat in order to capture it "in suspension," though that arguably would have been a waste of cats.

Halsman's methods were as unique as they were effective. His celebrity "jump" portraits appeared on at least seven Life magazine covers and helped usher in a new - and radically more adventurous - era of portrait photography.

11. The Photograph That Lied
"Loch Ness Monster" a.k.a. "The Surgeon's Photo"
Ian Wetherell, 1934

While strange sightings around Scotland's murky Loch Ness date back to 565 C.E., it wasn't until photography reached the Loch that Nessie Fever really took off. The now-legendary (and legendarily blurry) "surgeon's photo," reportedly taken in April of 1934, fueled decades of frenzied speculation, several costly underwater searches, and a local tourism industry that rakes in several million dollars each year.

But the party almost ended in 1994, when a report was published saying that model-maker Christian Spurling admitted to faking the photo. According to Spurling's statement, his stepfather, Marmaduke Wetherell, worked as a big game hunter and had been hired by London's Daily Mail to find the beast. But rather than smoke out the creature, he decided to fake it. Wetherell, joined by Spurling and his son, Ian, built their own monster to float on the lake's surface using a toy submarine and some wood putty. Ian actually took the photo, but to lend more credibility to the story, they convinced an upstanding pillar of the community - surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson - to claim it as his own. Just goes to prove the old adage, "The camera never lies." People, on the other hand, do.

12. The Photograph That Almost Wasn't
"Gandhi at his Spinning Wheel"
Margaret Bourke-White, 1946

"Gandhi at his Spinning Wheel," the defining portrait of one of the 20th century's most influential figures, almost didn't happen, thanks to the Mahatma's strict demands. Granted a rare opportunity to photograph India's leader; Life staffer Margaret Bourke-White was all set to shoot when Gandhi's secretaries stopped her cold: If she was going to photograph Gandhi at the spinning wheel (a symbol for India's struggle for independence), she first had to learn to use one herself.

But that wasn't all. The ascetic Mahatma wasn't to be spoken to (it being his day of silence.) And because he detested bright light, Bourke-White was only allowed to use three flashbulbs. Having cleared all these hurdles, however, there was still one more - the humid Indian weather, which wreaked havoc on her camera equipment. When time finally came to shoot, Bourke-White's first flashbulb failed. And while the second one worked, she forgot to pull the slide, rendering it blank.

She thought it was all over, but luckily, the third attempt was successful. In the end, she came away with an image that became Gandhi's most enduring representation. it was also among the last portraits of his life; he was assassinated less than two years later.

13. The Photograph That Foreshadowed the Future
"Le Violon d'Ingres"
Man Ray, 1924

Before there was photoshop, there was Man Ray. One of the world's most original photographers, Ray was tireless experimenter. In fact, his work was so inventive that he eventually left the camera behind altogether, creating his surreal "Rayographs" entirely in the darkroom.

"Le Violon d'Ingres" is perhaps his best-known photograph, and one of his earliest. Like many pieces from the Dada movement (which Ray is credited with bringing to the United States), it's a visual pun. By drawing f-holes on his model's back, he points out the similarities between the body of a woman and the body of a violin. But it's a literal pun, as well. Both the model's dress and pose echo a famous painting by French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominiqe Ingres, whose hobbies were depicting female nudes and playing the violin.

More than just highbrow it, however, Ray's work was far ahead of its time. By ridiculing a now-obsolete concept - the photographic image as literal interpretation of reality - his pictures foreshadowed our own digital revolution.


The article above was written by Ransom Riggs for the Jan - Feb 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine, featured on Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss.

Be sure to check out mental_floss' fantastic website and blog:

If you like this post, you'd probably also like: The Wonderful World of Early Photography

I went to an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos here in St. Louis... there are so many amazing ones! Nice list though, because it veers away from the cliches (I'm sorry, but some photos [insert iwo jima] have been used to the point of exhaustion).
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Are you absolutely out of your mind? Iwo Jima is one of the most powerful photographs in the world. Overused? Perhaps, but I don't know where, but a cliche? Seems a bit harsh.
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The article fails to mention that the viet cong
revenge squad had just murdered General Nguyen
Ngoc Loan's son and grandson among others after
entering his home. I'm told that shortly before
the photo he was holding his dead grandson's

The context in which this photo was published
turned it into propaganda pure and simple.

It's still murder. But given the circumstances
does it seem so cold blooded and ruthless. How
many people could resist such temptation?
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This is probably the most famous photo in Canada.

It was taken during the Oka Crisis (a Mohawk standoff) in Quebec in 1990.
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Nice list, but where's the picture of all those deer in that Wisconsin backyard?

You can't possibly list all the pictures, bottom line. I'd add any picture of the space shuttle Challenger exploding and the planes going to the WTC.
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I was wondering why everything got so laggy all of a sudden...

And Ted's right. There are literally thousands of pictures that could have been listed. But you have to admit, the ones featured are definitely powerful.

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Iwo Jima shouldn't really count! Although it is a very good was staged. The famous photo is atually the SECOND raising of the flag at Iwo...the photographer missed the first one and made them do it again.
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whoa whoa ryan. the 2nd photo was not staged, just misinterpreted. it was a 2nd raising of the flag, but it was a replacement flag that time. the commanding officer over iwo wanted the original flag preserved and ordered the replacement put up. the photographer that took the picture almost missed the shot and essentially "fired from the hip" to get it.

its an incredibly powerful photo with a lot of myths behind it. read "flags of our fathers" and you will understand a lot more about that time.
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I would have to name this as one of the most powerful photos I have ever seen:
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Powerfull yes, but do you not feel a little US, western baised? They are supposed to be the pictures that changed the World not just America.
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Good compilation... has a little American bias though...

In Australia these are some of our photo moments:

Certainly Tankman and Napalm girl should be in the top 10?
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Great photos, great thread.
Anonymous of Course Thanks for the context about that picture. If the photographer had shown the same man holding his grandson who had been killed by the Viet Cong, history might have been different.
About Ansel Adams, it is not fully accurate to say that he didn't manipulate his pictures. He spent a lot of time in the dark room developing his photos in different ways to get the effect he was looking for.
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The Iwo Jima photo was posed... after he took it once which isnt the image we are used to seeing, and didnt like it, he asked them to relift the flag and took the photo that became so famous.
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BRADY IS IN HERE!?!?!?!?! he staged all his shots hours (if not days) after the battle took place...often dragging corpses to places better suited for a photograph.
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One of the most memorable photos of my life time was from Kent State in 1968. I can't remember what it was titled, but it was of a young female college student poised over a body. It captured the division of the country over the Vietnam war.
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About the Einstein photo, you wrote "he gave photographer Arthur Sasse a good look at his uvula." The uvula is the hanging piece of flesh at the back of one's throat. It's not visible in the picture. Get your anatomy right.
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The naplam girl should be top 10.
Same with the burning monk.

What about John Lennon's glasses? Yes, its staged, but its powerful.
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To be fair, the organizational theme of the pictures is "photographs that changed the world". He does include a case for why each of the pictures changed the world in some particular way. I can't say I understand or agree with the entire collection, but it is very nice nonetheless. I don't think the Iwo Jima shot really meets the criteria, despite the fact that it is a great picture. I happen to like the Chinese "tank man". But in what way did it change the world? I think the biggest omission is the picture of the Earth. That one had a profound influence on the ecology movement and really did "change the world."
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Great List, a little bias towards America I agree, and adding some of the suggested photos here would make it even more.

My only question is why every time someone makes a list like this, someone has to try and proves its "unworthiness" ans make corrections to the text. It is a blog, yes, so comments are welcomed. But; be a little realistic and thankful that someone made this list for YOUR pleasure, jeez.
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Very good suggestions - I'm sure there are many other photographs that could have been included in the list (it's a mentalfloss story). Iwo Jima and Tank man are two very influential photos indeed.

Vedant (#32): Einstein helped lay the foundation for quantum mechanics.

Thank you Marc and mimi c for the defense. Thank you everyone for the kind words of thanks.
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also, i did think this was a bit US-centric but I think a lot of people in the comments are suggesting not 'photographs that changed the world' but 'photographs of events that changed the world'.
iwo jima, 'tank man' and the burning monk should have been included though. I also suggest these two:
and perhaps to a lesser extent
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I agree, while this list is very good - and I wholeheartedly thank you for putting it together for us - it's very much biased towards the U.S. Of course, if the U.S. so much as sneezes, the rest of the world reaches for their handkerchiefs, thanks to the globalisation.
However, very few pictures indeed have had an actual impact on politics and thus changed the world. Yes, the exploding 'Challenger' Photo is missing, but inhowfar has it changed the world? We still send people into space. Yes, the 'tankman' photo is missing, but what has changed in China since then? We choose to look the other way and try to get into business with the regime.
Yes, the picture of that Afghan girl with the piercing green eyes is missing, but what did it change? Are there no more refugees in Afghanistan?

There are so many excellent photos depicting the horrors of war (any war, for that matter). Has it kept us from going to war? We have seen bodies on the field of Gettysburg, bodies piled high in Auschwitz, bodies draged through the ruins of Mogadishu and bodies from virtually every corner of the earth. Has it kept us from killing? Now we have seen Saddam hang for his deeds, but will it keep us from shaking hands and making business with the next devil? I doubt it.

These pictures are like matches. They have the potential to ignite a flame, but more often than not we choose to extinguish it. It's up to every one of us to change the world.
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I think the list was wonderful. IF there was a good shot of the September 11th attacks, that would probably belong there too. It is recent, but it has had so much change on the whole world.

Doctor Bob, If you don't know Goatse, be very, very careful before you go searching for it. It is disgusting.
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Interesting exhibit. There is something to consider before everyone complains that their favorite photo was left off the list. These are photos which galvanized ACTION from people. The effect of any of these photos cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the social , political, cultural environment of the time in which it was shot. The "people taking action because of the picture" effect is probably more an influence of these three influences than the photo itself. So, these cannot be considered the best photos ever taken.
Though "tank-man" did not stir the world into action,it was complelling and it certainly is a piece of high art, compositionally perfect, and capturing in essence the eternal struggle of the individual against the tyranny of the majority.
To me, that is what defines great art as opposed to momentary calls to action. Masterpieces distill the essence of the human experience, transcending even the circumstances in which the photo was taken.
In this regard, a few in your exhibit I would regard as
masterpieces...certainly the depression era shot,and the Ansel Adams. My favorites off the list? Tank-man, and the picture of Earthrise from the back of the moon.
Thanks for the spread on photography...good work!
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I think this is a good selection of photographs. However, I believe that the photo of the Marines raising the flag on Mt Surabachi on Iwo Jima should definitely be on this list
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It hurts me how many people refuse to read all the comments before repeating something someone else already said.

Kudos on putting together an interesting list, and introducing me to a couple of events and photographers that I'd not yet seen, and further illuminating several that I already had.

I'll allow you artistic license on Einstein's uvula, because regardless of its accuracy, it was FUNNY. Anti-kudos to the nit-pickers among us.

Who else has the right to say what should be included on YOUR list? None, I submit. Although I have to say I was deeply and profoundly moved by the image Self Immolation when I first saw it. It changed me, if not the world.

And to the naysayers: Start your own blog, post your own list, and wait for the loyal readers to show up. If you're interesting enough, you'll have your own crop of people disagreeing with everything you say. Congratulations.
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The little girl in Vietnam running from napalm photo is of an equal historic value.
It's a great list otherwise, but needs updating.
And for an update of the present times, the torture victim in Abu Grahib, the one with a hood and electrods on a box would capture Bush's America nicely.
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I think I'd include the first photo ever taken, as that did help to kick all of this off.
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Indeed, if there is one photo that "changed the world", it is the "napalm girl".
As it was published the support for the Vietnam war was significant reduced.
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Thanks for the list, but Brady did not make the Gettysburg photo (he got to the battlefield ten days or more later, after the dead were buried - credit goes to his former employee, Alexander Gardner, with colleagues). It was also Gardner, under Brady's employ at the time, who made the ANTIETAM pictures nearly a year before that really brought the realities of war home.

And to the poster who claimed Brady moved bodies around - it was Gardner and colleagues, who, in one (other) Gettysburg instance, are believed to have moved a body.
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Excellent list of photos there! And fascinating debate here afterwards.

Being from South Africa I have to added the photo that helped to change our country - where school boy Hector Peterson was shot & killed by police during a student protest in 1976.

A link for more about that story:
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In Australia, at the end of WWII, we had a man dancing
down the street, this was captured on cinefilm, but the
still was published in the newspapers.

Well worth adding to the list.

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I love this list, and while others have brought up other photographs that are very moving photographs, one must remember that this is a list of -photographs- that changed the world, not photographs of -events- that changed the world.
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Terry #61 said "It hurts me how many people refuse to read all the comments before repeating something someone else already said."

OH MY GOD...!!! I'll bet she's a ton of fun at a party...LOL....

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Picture 1: An american soldier
Picture 2: A poor american family
Picture 3: The American Civil War
Picture 4: A war America was a part of
Picture 5: Americans coming home
Picture 6: A catastrophy in America
Picture 7: American nature

Since it is only natural for us to think we are the center of the universe, wouldn't it be fun if you would ask people from around the world to choose their own list of pictures?
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Thank you for the time you put into this list. Iwo Jima wasn't staged as many say, it was the second raising of the flag, a replacement flag. Still, to think that photographers were that close to the action armed with a camera...
On another American view, I think the still images of JFK's assasination, or the image of the young Asian restaurant employee kneeling over Robert Kennedy's body have a valid reason to be here.
They were reminders to the split of our country, and our hatred towards others' beliefs.

unfortunately, no one ever shot that ONE single image of Martin Luther King JR. that is the ONE timeless image of a great man.
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I think you should change the title to a bunch of photograph's that changed America's world. For most westerners they're recognisable but hardly draw the same kind of emotion. However, there are some good ones there.

The dancing man works a lot better as a symbol of the end of WW2 for Australians.,0.jpg
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Rubbish. These are for the most part early paparazzi. Take a look at some serious stuff like that ols Brit Bill Brandt for instance. Cant see why Ansel Adams even made it into this list either. So, he tkes boring pictures of stuff that's in front of his face on a huge camera and we bow down? Nope - he is simply good printer. Nature did all the work.
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I must be the oddman out here, cause I thought the list sucked. Some of the good ones were the VJ day one and the one with the vietcong soldier being shot. The Mohatma Ghandi one was pretty good too. But the rest of the pictures werent really that influential. The D-Day picture isnt even all that famous, or special. The one that pops into mind is the soldiers filling off the Higgins boat with one looking back. Oh yea, the Che Guevara and Hindenberg were influential on second thought.
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People are still just naming photos of events that changed the world, not photos that changed the world.

I can't say for sure if it changed the whole world, though I have heard it argued... The photos (and video) from Birmingham, Alabama, with the cops beating the crap out of civil rights demonstrators, mostly Black, and shooting fire hoses at them, and releasing dogs on them, and all that violence from so-called 'respected authorities, really got to people at least in this country, and showed how Jim Crow really worked. I think just like the photos from Vietnam helped turned people against the war, these images from the south really drove American racism home for White America and they understood what the protests were all about.

Also honorable mention: the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and the connection it had to the other struggles around the globe in 1968
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"Cant see why Ansel Adams even made it into this list either. So, he tkes boring pictures of stuff that’s in front of his face on a huge camera and we bow down? Nope - he is simply good printer. Nature did all the work."

We could differ about Adams' place on this list, but it isn't anything ike you describe it...

Troll? ;-)
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Hey, Timo from Finland:

Picture 1: A French battlefield in a world war
Picture 2: A symbol of a worldwide depression
Picture 3: agreed
Picture 4: agreed
Picture 5: Celebration of the end of a world war (the Australian dancing man would have the same effect)
Picture 6: A German zeppelin on fire
Picture 7: no comment, as I need to learn more about A.A.

The point is, the descriptions of the pictures aren't as simple and uniquely American as you make them out to be.

And more generally, to those who say "But picture number whatever didn't change anything..." I would argue that very few pictures actually have changed the world, making such a list extremely difficult in the first place. That being said, the tank man photo and Earthrise would make my list.
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Although many of these photographs are unique and amazing images that portray the world we live in like nothing else could, I believe the statement that they "changed the world" is exaggerated for most of them. If you want an example of a photographer who made a concrete impact on the world in which he lived, read up on Lewis Hine. His photographs of children working in factories effectively began a public outcry that led to the United States' first child labor laws. This one, of a girl in a textile mill is one of his better known photographs.
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Excelente recopilación aunque podría agregar la siguiente:

La fotografía más famosa de la historia de la ciencia

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A lot of these pictures changed photography, that is true. But without "Napalm Girl" or "Birmingham Dogs" you can't have a serious list of "photographs that changed the world". "Napalm Girl" was a tipping point in support for the Vietnam War.

"Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut describes the day in June 1972 when he photographed a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, fleeing her village after a napalm attack - a picture that won him a Pulitzer prize." -BBC News

Birmingham Dogs:
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The image of the shooting of the Viet Cong prisoner is a crop of the original image.

I found a copy of the full image at
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I think there's a big difference between "changing the world" and changing people's mindsets. Ansel Adams I absolutely love and adore, but he changed people's perceptions about photography -- that's all he did. Ben & Jerry changed my perception about ice cream. SFW?

I think Tank Man does belong on the list. There's no WAY that the Napalm Girl should be off the list -- it's right up there with the Vietcong Execution as to the souring of the perception of the war -- after all, it was AMERICAN napalm, and this was one of the first times Americans really got a look at just how their government decided to fight that war.

Some of the list above are absolutely spot on, but Hindenburg? No. I have the Einstein photo on my fridge, but that had no impact on the world, all it did was show that he had a personality. Ditto with Ghandi. Portraits don't change anything -- except when they're of the Migrant working mother. That's reality -- that's capturing pain in a moment in time and exposing what's real. That's what photography is about.

Life's book "100 Photographs that Changed the World" are really bang on.

And how does the photo of Hiroshima not rate? A mushroom cloud hiding the deaths of 150,000 people transpiring in an instant? For the first time we really, really saw the power of technology and science and war and we learned just how horrifically destructive we are as a people. That changed us all forever. Hearing about it and knowing the facts and figures was something, but seeing it... Well.

Then there are the lynchings from 1930.

It's a big-ass list, to be sure. I found this list interesting, but I disagree with about half of them as far as their importance goes. Still, nice effort.
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Anonymous of Course: Thanks for the context about that picture. If the photographer had shown the same man holding his grandson who had been killed by the Viet Cong, history might have been different.

The US military remained in Vietnam for more than 5 years after that photo was published. Whatever people in America may have felt when seeing that photo and other news out of Vietnam in early 1968, it didn't really change the course of the war, and those who turned against the war found plenty more reasons to do so after Feb. '68, anyway.
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William Henry Jackson should be here, not sure exactly which image, probably "Old Faithful". His pictures had a huge impact on getting Yellowstone designated as a national park, leading to the development of the U.S. national park system in general, which in turn inspired many other country's national park systems. Unlike Adams, one can point to a very real, very enduring non-photo-world effect from his landscape images.
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There's also the more recent, and unfortunate photo:

That probably changed more minds about American foreign policy the world over in the past 10 years than any other single photo...
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mtwinkie - the Oka picture is certainly a famous Canadian icon now, but it would have looked a lot better if the troops had slaughtered the filthy terrorists manm, woman, and child, and piled their bodies up and then had a photo taken urinating on the lot of them. I would have liked to see that.
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This selection is very kind to the US and the west. Notably Napalm Girl is missing and what about the pics of the Lebanon after Israel was given the blessing of the West to bomb it for a few weeks. One of these maybe ?
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