The history of photography has been marked by many clichés that have remained etched in the minds of the whole world.
Great photojournalism reports, film photography, digital photography, fashion photography, landscape photography, portraits, historical events, or artistic photography, all styles of photos are part of the ranking of the most famous shots in the history of the Photo.
Accompanied by Leica, Canon, Nikon cameras, many photographers have become famous after taking a memorable shot.
Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon and Robert Doisneau are not the only ones to have left their mark.
Other photographers, also called press photographer, photojournalist, war photographer or photojournalist, produced more poignant images than the others.
Integrated into agencies such as Magnum or Gamma-Rapho, the great photographers have made a name for themselves.
1. The Kiss of the Town Hall by Robert Doisneau
Published in the American magazine Life in 1950, the photo “ The Kiss at City Hall ” has toured the globe.
And for good reason, this photo has become the symbol of the current of humanist photography. A current carried by Robert Doisneau , the author of this photo, with the desire to show the most beautiful things of humanity after so many years at war.
Robert Doisneau then tends to photograph the men and women of Paris and elsewhere.
Kiss from the Town Hall by Robert Doisneau. He likes to capture everyday moments.
The artist photographs schoolchildren, couples, but also homeless people.
A way for him to freeze the society of the time .
2. The Girl and the Vulture by Kevin Carter
This photograph has long been controversial.
Taken in 1993 by young photographer Kevin Carter , it shows the harshness of the famine in southern Sudan.
Kevin Carter, to bear witness to this misery and make international opinion react, captures a young girl who is emaciated and curled up on herself.
Behind, a vulture seems to be watching her.
The photographer receives the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, only, the latter is accused of not having reacted to this situation. He will end his life a few months later.
We will finally learn that the little girl has been found safe and sound.
To discover the context of this photo, I strongly recommend the film “ The Bang Bang Club ”.
3. Steve McCurry’s green-eyed Afghan girl
You have surely already crossed the gaze of the young Afghan girl with green eyes.
Captured in June 1984, the photo notably made the front page of the famous National Geographic . The whole world then discovers Sharbat Gula, a 12-year-old refugee girl in Pakistan.
The color of his eyes marked our minds. The girl was recently found and reunited with the now very famous photographer Steve McCurry.
4. Tank Man by Jeff Widener
Jeff Widener ‘s photo , taken in 1989, symbolizes a student’s rebellion in the face of Chinese military repression.
This photo is taken during a demonstration demanding more freedom and less corruption. Faced with more and more demonstrators, the Chinese government sends its army.
The student then refuses to let the tanks pass.
For his part, the driver also refuses to move forward, going against the orders of his superiors.
Also discover what humanist photography is!
5. Heart of Voh by Yann Arthus Bertrand
Cover of the magnificent book The Earth seen from the sky , the Heart of Voh is one of the most famous photographs of the no less famous Yann Arthus Bertrand .
Taken in 1990, the photo represents the mangrove, a forest between land and water, located in New Caledonia.
This type of vegetation is found on more than 75% of the surface of tropical coasts. This represents nearly 15 million hectares on the globe .
This landscape is gradually disappearing in the face of increasingly important resource exploitation.
By taking this photo, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a fan of landscape photography, hopes to raise awareness of the ecological problems of this century.
6. VJ Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt
It was at the end of the Second World War that photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured this moment between an American soldier and a nurse in Times Square in the United States.
This photo, published in Life magazine , was taken on the day of the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945 .
As with Robert Doisneau’s Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville , many people have claimed to be the protagonists of the photo.
It was finally Greta Friedman who was recognized as the woman in this famous photo that you will study in the reindeer photo course.
7. Girl burned with napalm by Nick Ut
The Vietnam War (1955-1975) has always been controversial.
Demonstrations, demands, many people at the time demanded an end to the massacre.
This photo then represents this massacre that we are trying to stop.
A burnt young girl is fleeing from attacks using napalm, the jelly-like gasoline used for incendiary bombs.
8. Young Omayra Sanchez from Nevado del Ruiz by Frank Fournier
The story behind this photo is as tragic as it sounds.
We see a young Colombian trapped in the rubble of her house following the volcanic eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in 1985 , near the town of Armero.
Omayra Sanchez, the young girl, was then trapped for three days before succumbing to her injuries.
Trapped by debris and mud, the rescuers were unable to free her in time. The 13-year-old girl then dies before the eyes of the whole world.
The photographer Frank Fournier will then say ” I wanted people to know who she was “.
9. Activist from Manaus by Luiz Vasconcelos
Brazil is the land of all desires.
Many companies try to dislodge thousands of people in order to install large electric dams there in the name of modernity and comfort.
The photographer Luiz Vasconcelos then on the spot captures a strong moment of the resistance.
A woman from the landless movement resists the police. The latter having come to dislodge the inhabitants of the lands stolen by the State.
An important photo when you know the great repressions of the Brazilian government against journalists. You can study it in the Nantes photo course .
10. The Saigon Execution by Eddie Adams
In the middle of the Vietnam War, photographer Eddie Adams follows a country’s army for a few days.
He then witnesses the execution of a communist prisoner when he believes he is participating in a simple interrogation.
Having obtained the Pulitzer Prize , he will say of this photo: “ The colonel killed the prisoner, I killed the colonel with my camera. »
11. The Death of Aylan by Nilüfer Demir
In September 2015, a photo awakens consciences: a little refugee is found dead on a Turkish beach .
The photo then goes around the world and questions the treatment of Syrian migrants wishing to go to Europe.
Photographer Nilüfer Demir then explains “ By photographing them, I simply wanted to reflect the drama of these people ”.
12. The portrait of Che by Alberto Korda
On a t-shirt, a bag or a cap, the portrait of Che is diffused almost everywhere.
But what is the story of this shot?
We learn it during photography, but here too!
It was Alberto Korda who took the famous portrait of the revolutionary in May 1960 during the burial of the victims of the Courbre explosion.
The photo will be awarded the title of ” the world’s most famous photograph and graphic icon of the 20th century ” by the Institute of Art of Maryland.
13. The Falling Man by Richard Drew
Taken during the September 11, 2001 attacks , the photo depicts a man falling from one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
It’s a strong cliché, during a Paris photo course, for example!
Several people threw themselves into the void in order to avoid choking on the toxic fumes from the floors close to the impact with the planes.
14. The Windows Wallpaper by Chuck O’Rear
In January 1995, Chuck O’Rear , National Geogrpahic photographer took this photo in Napa County, California.
It then becomes the regular Windows wallpaper.
Several photographs of the artist will then be used as wallpapers.
This shot shocked a whole country and the whole world.
The Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolates himself in the middle of the streets in Saigon in order to denounce the anti-Buddhist acts of the time. June 11, 1963 then marks the history of the country and marks the spirits .
16. The American Victory by Joe Rosenthal
This photo represents quite a symbol for the American army, finally triumphing over the Japanese troops after more than a month of conflict!
This photograph was taken in 1945, at the end of the Second World War, while an American troop lays a flag on Iwo Jima , a Japanese island. This moment is particularly significant in American history as it marks a turning point in the war against Japan.
Indeed, the battle of Iwo Jima is an important event of the war of the Pacific carried out by the American forces against the small island forming part of the archipelago of Ogasawara, strategic point solidly defended by the Japanese imperial army which lasted more one month.
The result of the battle was more than 20,000 Japanese casualties for nearly 7,000 Americans killed. The battle was widely publicized by the photo above, showing Marines erecting a flag atop Mount Suribachi, even though the fighting was not over.
17. The Hindenburg Air Disaster
The accident of the Hindenburg airship put an end to the adventure of transatlantic transport in this type of machine and also marked the beginning of the era of democratization of the plane!
The LZ 129 Hindenburg of the German firm Zeppelin is the largest commercial airship built in history, assigned to the Europe-United States line. Built in 1936 under the Third Reich, the airship then showed the technological prowess of the time to the whole world.
Its maiden flight took place on March 4, 1936 and the airship was active for 14 months of service before its destruction. Unfortunately, since the machine contained many civilians, on May 6, 1937, while the airship was about to complete its first crossing of the year, an incident occurred above Lakehurst in New Jersey.
While the flight had gone well, the landing was delayed by a thunderstorm, then a fire broke out in the stern of the airship. Quickly, the fire is fueled by fuel reserves and the craft crashes : it only took 34 seconds to reach the ground. The black and white photo shows this fall.
Result: 35 dead out of 97 passengers. This shocking moment was filmed by several film news companies such as Pathé, Paramount and Universal because the landing of the airships generally attracted the public and the journalists.
18. Neil Armstrong after walking on the Moon
We don’t have the opportunity every day to be the first man to set foot on the Moon… but when it happens, it must be quite a shock, even for an experienced astronaut!
You’ve probably seen footage of the 1969 lunar operation, Apollo 11 , in which 3 astronauts left Earth to travel to the Moon. This great event marked once and for all the American superiority in the conquest of space against the USSR.
The three men in this operation were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins . Launched by the Saturn V rocket, the astronauts aimed to collect lunar rock and place scientific instruments on the surface of our natural satellite.
The only two to have been able to walk on the moon were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins having remained in orbit while waiting for them. On Monday, July 21, 1969, Armstrong took the first step on the Moon and declared this famous phrase:
“It’s a small step for a man, but a giant leap for humanity”
The photo was taken just after their exit from the lunar module by Buzz Aldrin and shows Neil Armstrong’s joy at having been able to access the immense honor of being the first man to set foot on the Moon!
Study it in a Montpellier photo course.
19. Simply Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was more than a symbol: she embodied Hollywood and the American dream like no one!
Impossible that you do not know the famous Marilyn Monroe. This American actress, singer and model is a cultural icon in the United States because of her many talents, her successful professional career and the terrible circumstances of her death.
From the beginning of the 1950s, she became a Hollywood movie star as well as a sex symbol for all of America and played in many films that are now very well known, such as:
- Men prefer blondes,
- Seven years of reflection,
- The Prince and the Dancer,
- Some like it hot
- The Deranged.
The photo above is totally cult: it shows Marilyn with her famous white dress above a metro entrance that causes her dress to rise. The photo was captured by the press during the filming of Seven Years of Reflection , in 1955. It marked the spirits of the time and is still as well known today.
Despite her immense notoriety, Marilyn Monroe saw her career decline and her chaotic personal life led her to commit suicide at the age of 36 . At least, that’s one of the possibilities, because it’s also possible that she got murdered or overdosed on drugs.
20. The Loch Ness Monster
Strange that the quality of the photo is so bad at such a time… isn’t it?
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster is a story as old as the world. Indeed, for a long time in Scotland, it has been said that there exist in the rivers and lochs aquatic creatures similar to water dragons. These water spirits frightened even parents who did not allow their children to bathe.
It was therefore not surprising that Loch Ness was also subject to these legends, all the more so when we know that this body of water has special properties: on the surface of the lake there is a thermal inversion layer which is the origin of mirages for the spectators.
In the 1930s, the road along the lake was extended and so the workers cut down pine trees and dropped the trunks into the lake. Thus, these become subjects of controversy for all who believe to see a monster there and testify in this sense. Around 1933-1934, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster became global.
The photo, taken in 1934, that we present to you above clearly shows this terrifying monster… except that obviously it is a fake . The “surgeon’s photo” was a spectacular revelation at the time, fueling rumors and attracting more and more tourists.
21. The selfie with 3 million retweets
This is the selfie that contains the most stars in history!
In 2014, during the Oscars ceremony , many celebrities were awarded. However, that’s not the only thing that happened that night! Stars have decided to mark the occasion by taking a selfie together with their mobile phone.
This photograph, which is by the way an excellent publicity stunt for Samsung, was the subject of a challenge: to be the most retweeted photo on the social network Twitter. Obviously, the challenge instantly hit the mark and the photo was retweeted more than 3 million times , just that!
In the photo, we can notably see Bradley Cooper , Ellen DeGeneres , Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep or even Kevin Spacey. Among the famous photos, this selfie is one of the most viewed images and deserves to be in this ranking!
22. Nagasaki Mushroom Cloud
The Nagasaki disaster reminds us that Peace is the most important thing to take away from our history.
We change the atmosphere with this terrible photo of the atomic mushroom cloud which rose in 1945 above Nagasaki in Japan. This image, capturing the horrors of war , was taken by Lieutenant Charles Levy just after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the last American strategic bombings on Japan. They took place on August 6 and 9, 1945 , claiming the lives of over 500,000 Japanese civilians. However, these cities had been chosen to be strategic points for the Imperial Japanese Army.
The Japanese regime had chosen to refuse the conditions offered at the Potsdam conference and therefore to surrender. The Americans therefore had several reasons to drop these bombs on Japan:
- Force Japan to capitulate and transition to democratic rule by ousting Emperor Hirohito,
- Full-scale testing of their two new weapons (one uranium bomb, one plutonium),
- Show American military superiority to other nations and especially to the USSR.
Nevertheless, the use of these bombs (the only one in a war still today) is considered one of the main war crimes of the Allies by many people. We hope that history will never have to repeat itself.
23. Kate and William’s Wedding
In this photo, three people have or will have to wear the crown of England!
In 2011, if you turned on the television, especially in the United Kingdom, it was difficult to miss the journalists reporting on the royal wedding between Prince William , Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton . Their couple as well as the preparations for this celebration were highly publicized.
The wedding is an opportunity to remember that no heir in 400 years had married a person of non-royal blood. The commoner therefore becomes a royal highness and thus realizes the princess dream of all little girls. The photo above, taken by the paparazzi, shows the newly married couple as well as several senior royals.
Kate and William have since had 3 children : George, Charlotte and Louis. We wish them all the happiness in the world!