The origins of photography, as we know it today, can be traced back to the late 1830s in France, when inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce captured the first ever permanent recorded image – a crude shot of the view from his studio’s window in France.
Images have a way of cutting through and triggering an immediate emotional response like nothing else can. They open a window for us to view the world through the eyes of the photographer.
Photography has helped to reinforced history making it more tangible and real. It has also made the camera an important tool not only to document history but also to help change it. Here are some iconic photographs from around the wold
Gandhi and the Spinning Wheel by 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.
Starving Child and Vulture by Kevin Carter, 1993
Kevin Carter’s iconic photograph of a starving Sudanese girl, who collapsed on her way to a feeding centre while a vulture waited nearby, will always remain controversial because of the unintended suspense it creates. Both the child and the vulture are still, but it’s a throbbing stillness, one that makes the viewer desperate for a second frame. Logically, the composition suggests only two possibilities — either the vulture feasted on the child, which the viewer feels certain was only a matter of time when the photo was taken, or it did not. But these possibilities don’t exist just as possibilities, they become loaded with emotion and turn into haunting questions.
The Terror of War by Nick Ut, 1972
“The Terror of War”, also known as the “Napalm Girl”, is a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by photojournalist Nick Ut, a Vietnamese American photographer who was working for the Associated Press at that time. After his brother was killed in 1965 at the age of 27, Nick joined AP in 1966. He first worked in the darkroom, and later became a combat photographer just like his brother.
The photo we are looking at was taken with a Leica M2 on Kodak 400 tri x film as only 400 and 200 versions were available in Vietnam. The camera still exists and is stored in a museum in Washington DC.
V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945
“V-J Day in Times Square” is a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt that portrays an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on Victory over Japan Day in Times Square, New York City, on August 14, 1945. The image shows a man in a dark sailor’s uniform and hat, and a woman in a white dress embracing in what appears to be a romantic kiss. The woman’s right leg is slightly lifted while her left arm hangs behind her with her hand resting on the back of her thigh. The sailor is leaning over the woman, holding her at the waist with his right hand.
The sailor’s left arm holds the woman’s head, and at the same time, shields her face from the photographers view. While their faces are not completely visible, it appears that they know each other, and are a couple. Onlookers of this iconic duo are pictured in the background with smiles on their faces while tall New York City buildings and crowds of people frame the kissing couple
Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, 1936
Dorothea Lange took this photograph in 1936, while employed by the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) program, formed during the Great Depression to raise awareness of and provide aid to impoverished farmers. In Nipomo, California, Lange came across Florence Owens Thompson and her children in a camp filled with field workers whose livelihoods were devastated by the failure of the pea crops. Recalling her encounter with Thompson years later, she said, “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction.”1 One photograph from that shoot, now known as Migrant Mother, was widely circulated to magazines and newspapers and became a symbol of the plight of migrant farm workers during the Great Depression.
As Lange described Thompson’s situation, “She and her children had been living on frozen vegetables from the field and wild birds the children caught. The pea crop had frozen; there was no work. Yet they could not move on, for she had just sold the tires from the car to buy food.” However, Thompson later contested Lange’s account. When a reporter interviewed her in the 1970s, she insisted that she and Lange did not speak to each other, nor did she sell the tires of her car. Thompson said that Lange had either confused her for another farmer or embellished what she had understood of her situation in order to make a better story.
Tank Man by Stuart Franklin, 1989
In one of the strongest statements of dissent, an unidentified Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 5, 1989,
the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests. The crackdown had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of student demonstrators in Beijing.
Captured by at least five famous photographers including Stuart Franklin, the image became a symbol of resistance in the face of oppression. Franklin won the World Press Photo Award for Spot News for the image, which still faces heavy censorship in China.
Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1932
What’s up photography fans? Today I would like to talk about a very special photo, one that marks the beginning of snapshot photography. It was taken by legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Let’s check out the “Place de l’Europe Gare, Saint Lazare”
“Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare” is said to be the best photo Henri Cartier-Bresson ever took. It is the embodiment of Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moments. It was possible because Cartier-Bresson had access to a candid camera, a small Leica that allowed him to be more flexible. Unlike big cameras on tripods, his Leica was handheld and let him move much more freely. Nowadays, we are used to photos like this, but back in 1932 it was a new approach.
Portrait of Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh, 1941
Karsh photographed the great wartime leader on a visit to the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. In a moment of boldness, Karsh snatched a cigar from Churchill’s mouth. ‘By the time I got back to my camera,’ he later recalled, ‘he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me.’ It became one of the best-known photographs of Churchill and Karsh acknowledged that its success ‘changed my life.
‘ Dubbed the ‘Roaring lion’, this became one of the most enduring of Churchill’s portraits and is among the most widely reproduced photographs in the history of photography.
Guerrillero Heroico by Alberto Korda, 1960
Alberto Korda was a Cuban photographer best known for his iconic image of Che Guevara. “There’s something about his eyes in the photo. A kind of mystery. His personality comes through,” he once said of the image. Born Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez on September 14, 1928 in Havana, Cuba, he began working as a photographer’s assistant as a young man and later for the newspaper Revolución. In 1960, while working on assignment, Korda took the famous photo of Guevara at a protest rally, after a Belgian freighter, carrying arms to Cuba, was blown up by counterrevolutionaries. Later in his career, he worked as Fidel Castro’s official photographer, often humanizing the revolutionary leader’s image by depicting him at ease with friends such as Ernest Hemmingway.
Korda died on May 25, 2001 in Paris, France, while visiting for an exhibition of his work. Today, the photographer’s works are held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, and the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, among others.
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal, 1945
On Feb. 23, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima (Feb. 19 to March 26), six Marines planted the U.S. flag at the summit of Mount Suribachi. The scene was photographed by journalist Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press and his image soon became famous around the world.
What many people do not know is that this iconic photo actually shows the second flag to be raised on Iwo Jima that day.
Images from “artisera”