Throughout the years, photographs have captured moments that have stunningly depicted various aspects of life.
From war-torn cityscapes to iconic celebrities and everything in between, these photos can be profoundly moving and thought-provoking.
All these images – small snippets of history frozen in time – offer a unique perspective on familiar stories and terrible truths.
Here are twenty-one historical photos that made the world stand still. They are iconic pictures synonymous with tragedy, hope, glory, and despair – all resonating with us today just as when they were taken.
Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of U.S. troops raising a flag on Iwo Jima during World War II is one of the war’s most well-known images. Despite earning Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize, there have been claims that he staged the patriotic scene. However, it has been reported that the flag-raising depicted in the photograph was a genuine event, though it was the second flag-raising of the day on Mount Suribachi. The first flag, raised earlier in the day, was reportedly too small to be seen from the mountain’s base.
In June 1963, Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire in protest of South Vietnam’s Diem government.
Captured in the bustling streets of New York on August 14th, 1945, “The Kiss” (also known as “V-J Day in Times Square”) is an iconic photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt. It depicts a passionate moment between a U.S. Navy sailor and a stranger as they embrace in a celebratory kiss in Times Square. The photograph, which gained widespread popularity after being published in Life magazine, showcases the powerful impact that street photography can have in capturing intimate and fleeting moments of human emotion.
As President Bush sat in a Florida classroom on the morning of September 11th, he received the shocking news of the terrorist attacks unfolding in New York and Washington, D.C.
Dorothea Lange’s photograph of the Migrant Mother and her children is a powerful and enduring image of the Great Depression. Taken in 1936, during the height of the economic downturn, the photograph captures the desperation and hardship experienced by many during this difficult time. The Migrant Mother, with her gaze turned away from the camera, is surrounded by her children, all of whom wear expressions of worry and exhaustion. This iconic photograph, which has become a famous example of documentary photography, serves as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by people during the Great Depression.
The photograph of the Afghan Girl, also known as Sharbat Gula, is a powerful image that has come to symbolize the struggles of refugee women in the Western world. Taken by National Geographic Society photographer Steve McCurry during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the photograph captures Gula’s intense gaze and bold green eyes, which are framed by her tattered, gritty appearance. Despite the challenges she has faced as a refugee, Gula’s strength and resilience are evident in the photograph, which has become an iconic representation of the struggles and triumphs of women in Afghanistan.
On September 4th, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford walked towards Little Rock Central High School as Hazel Bryan screamed behind her on the first day of racial integration.
Starving Child And Vulture is a photograph taken by Kevin Carter in 1993 in Sudan. The picture depicts a young girl, emaciated and weakened from starvation, crawling towards a feeding center as a vulture lurks behind her. The photograph, which was published in The New York Times and later won a Pulitzer Prize, brought attention to the devastating famine that was occurring in Sudan at the time.
Tank Man is an iconic photograph Jeff Widener took in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China. The picture depicts a lone man standing in front of a column of tanks, blocking their path as they move through the city.
Leap Into Freedom is a photograph taken by Peter Leibing in 1961 during the construction of the Berlin Wall in Germany. The photograph depicts a young man in a uniform leaping over barbed wire as he attempts to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin.
A photograph by Neil Leifer in 1965 during a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. The image captures the moment when Ali, the reigning champion at the time, knocked out Liston in the first round of their rematch. The picture has become one of the most iconic images in the history of boxing.
In October 2010, a South Korean man was captured on camera shedding a tear as he said goodbye to his North Korean relative. The photograph, which captures a poignant and emotional moment of separation, serves as a reminder of the ongoing division between North and South Korea.
In 1987, James Stanfield captured a photograph of a heart surgeon after a 23-hour-long heart transplant surgery. The photograph, which shows the surgeon looking exhausted but triumphant, also depicts his assistant sleeping in the corner of the room.
In 1994, a Russian soldier was photographed playing an abandoned piano in Chechnya. The photograph captures a moment of humanity and normalcy amidst the violence and destruction of war.
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon, despite attempts by race organizers to stop her from competing.
In a 1940s German prisoner of war camp, Horace Greasley confronted Heinrich Himmler. Greasley, in love with a German woman, had escaped from the camp a staggering 200 times.
In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa after spending 27 years behind bars. Upon his release, he and his wife Winnie posed for a photograph with raised clenched fists.
Sunset on Mars captured by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, 2005
“Flower Power” is a photograph by Bernie Boston in 1967 during a protest against the Vietnam War. The image depicts a young man, later identified as George Harris, holding a flower in front of a line of soldiers armed with bayonets.
In 2009, an Afghan man offered a cup of tea to a US soldier outside Kabul, Afghanistan.
John F. Kennedy Jr. at his father’s state funeral, November 1963.