What is it about photography that makes it such a powerful medium? The ability to capture images has inspired us beyond words and has provided us with many uses since its invention. There are very few things ever invented that have impacted the entire world quite like photography has. Photography makes a universal impact because it can accurately document and record people and things in a visual manner like nothing else.
Here is a listing of fifteen photographs that were powerful, compelling and went down in history. The photos are listed in chronological order, as they occurred in history.
First Photograph Ever Taken – View From the Window of Le Gras
The very first permanent photograph which was destroyed by accident later, was an image produced in 1822 by French inventor Joseph Niepce. View from the Window at Le Gras was the first permanent photograph created by Nicephore Niepce in 1826. Sunlight can be seen illuminating the buildings on each side of the grainy photo.
Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi
The image of four marines struggling to raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Japan is the most widely printed photograph of World War II. Taken by a U.S. Marine photographer under heavy Japanese fire in early 1945, the photo depicts America’s determination to take possession of the island. Photo by Joe Rosenthal
Taken in 1984 by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry, the world famous shot of 12 year old Sharbat Gula captured the attention of the world with her unforgettably beautiful eyes and innocence amid widespread war and turmoil surrounding her.
Looking Down Sacramento Street
Taken on the morning of April 18, 1906, this photograph was taken by Arnold Genthe in San Francisco, California following the devastating earthquake that nearly destroyed the entire city and which sparked the great fire that engulfed the west coast American community.
Taken in 1910 in Pennsylvania of breaker boys, or children who were forced to work separating coal from slate. This photograph assisted in leading America to ban child labor. Photographer: Lewis Hine.
The Lynching of Young Blacks
A photograph taken in 1930 in the state of Indiana, USA after two young black men were hung. The two were accused of raping a white girl and were lynched by a mob of ten thousand whites. The faces on the people in the crowd depict clearly what the sentiment was towards blacks during those days. Photographer: Lawrence Beitler
Deemed the one photograph that gave a face to the Great Depression, legendary photographer Dorthea Lange snapped this shot in 1936 of a pea-picking migrant worker and her children in rural California. The woman in the picture’s name is Florence Thompson, mother of seven whose husband died of tuberculosis. The family sustained themselves by eating birds killed by her children and vegetables taken from a nearby field.
Hitler in Paris
Hitler’s army had just captured Paris when Hitler went there to admire his newly acquired city. This powerful photograph was taken in June of 1940.
The Last Jew in Vinnista
This chilling photograph was discovered in a personal photo album of an Einsatzgruppen soldier. There were twenty-eight thousand Jews living in Vinnista at the time and all were killed. The man in the photograph is about to lose his life as well. The photograph was taken in the summer of 1941.
Probably one of the most famous photographs taken during World War II, this shot was snapped in New York City in June of 1945. The couple was celebrating the end of the war in Times Square and were captured on film by Alfred Eisenstaedt. The couple’s identity was never confirmed, although many people have come forward to say it was them.
The Body of Che Guevara
This famous photograph was taken after Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara was killed by the Bolivian army in 1967. His death was detrimental to the socialist revolutionary movement in both Latin America and the Third World. Photo by Freddy Alborta.
Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla
Eddie Adams, an Associated Press photographer, just happened to be passing by when he snapped this photograph in Vietnam in 1968 of Nguyen Ngoc Loan, national police chief of South Vietnam shooting and killing a Viet Cong army captain. This photo turned public opinion against the war and won Adams a Pulitzer Prize.
Footprint on the Moon
When U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon in July of 1969, he and his comrades had television cameras with them. This is a shot of the first human footprint on the Moon, which will remain there for millions of years. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took this photograph that astounded the world.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc
Taken in Vietnam in 1972, this photograph resonated around the world. The naked, horrified girl in the center of the picture is Kim Phuc who is fleeing a napalm attack which burned her back severely. This photograph is one of the most seen and republished of the Vietnam war era. Photograph by Nick Ut.
Without a doubt, this photograph of one single defiant person blocking tanks from emerging onto the square tells the story of the radical student rebellion that occurred in China in 1989. The man was spared, but soon the square filled with people and much blood was shed. Photographer: Stuart Franklin.