The world is a crazy place. Millions of images are taken every single day and posted to social media. You’ll take them, post them, and probably forget them soon after. But what about the ones you can’t forget? That is why we have picked our five top most famous photographs of all time!
The Terror of War by Nick Ut in 1972
So, let’s see if you recognise any of these famous photographs.
Collateral damage and even friendly fire are not scenes that are usually seen in this day and age. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case with Phan Thi Kim Phuc. In 1972, Nick Ut was outside the area known as Trang Bang and this is around 25 miles north-west of the city Saigon. South Vietnamese accidentally dumped some napalm on the village and the photographer decided to take some photos. He saw some naked children running towards him. The photographer wondered what was going on, and he saw she did not have any clothes on. She had been hit by the napalm blast and he immediately started to pour water on the young girl.
She started screaming that it was too hot, and when the photographer took her to the hospital, he soon found that she had over 30% of her body covered in burns. The man who took this photo ultimately ended up saving her life, and it certainly showed that horrific things like this do not put an end to problems. They actually end up causing them and it is usually the innocent who suffer from this.
The Burning Monk by Malcom Browne in 1963
Definitely one of the most famous photographs of all tiem. Americans couldn’t actually find Vietnam on a map in 1963 but there really was no forgetting the war that happened. This photographer captured this image of a monk who immolated himself on a street in Saigon. He knew that a protest was going to happen and that is why he was able to be there at this precise moment. He watched and stood there as two monks doused an elderly man in gasoline and he took as many photos as he could to try and capture this horrific moment. Kennedy went on to comment on the photo, stating that no picture in US history has generated so much emotion in the past. He went on to say that his photo caused people to question America’s own association with the government in Diem.
The Starving Child/Vulture by Kevin Carter in 1993
Not necessarily one of the most famous photographs ever, but definitely one of the most harrowing. He was a part of a quartet of professional photographers who went across southern Africa to document famine and the AIDS epidemic. Before he left, he believed that he has seen more than his fair share of heartache and in this village, he couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen. He went out into the bush and he saw a toddler sat there on the floor. The child collapsed on his way to the feeding station. As he sat there for a few seconds, a vulture then perched near to the child.
The photographer had been told time and time again not to touch the kids as they could have a disease, so instead of helping, he waited for the vulture to open his wings. The vulture did nothing. He tried to scare the bird away and he succeeded. The child got up, carried on walking and left the photographer to his own devices. The photographer then sat and cried, but unfortunately, the darkness from that day never left him. He took his own life in 1994 and he stated at that moment that he is full of vivid memories of corpses, killing, pain and anger. And that’s how powerful an image can be.
Lunch on top of a Skyscraper by Anonymous– 1932
Would you eat your lunch sitting above certain death?
This is quite possibly the most perilous lunch break that has ever been caught on camera. 11 men are sitting casually and they have nothing keeping them up. The comfort here is very real and the men who are with the construction workers helped to build the Rockefeller Centre as well. The picture is taken on the 69th floor and the identities of those remains a mystery to this day. It is not even known who took it and there isn’t a single working iron man in the city who doesn’t use this picture as a way to symbolise everything that they have worked for. These men really did face danger first-hand and they worked to make sure that when America was in need, they were there to serve.
Tank Man taken by Jeff Widener in 1989
On June 5th 1989, Jeff Widener found himself on the balcony in the Beijing hotel. This was the day after the Tiananmen massacre. Chinese troops chose to attack the demonstrators as they camped on the plaza. They sent this photographer to try and document what was about to happen. As he saw the tanks approaching, he chose to widen his lens as a man stepped out in front of one of the vehicles. The man refused to move. Widener really was certain that he was about to die.
The man was taken away and it really did go to show how one act of resistance really can go a long way. Of course, other people did manage to capture this moment. But this is one of the first images to go round. This man, known to the world as the Tank Man became a hero across the globe but he is still yet to be identified. Even to this day. The anonymity alone makes this photo so special and it really has gone down in history.
Of course, there are famous photographs that aren’t necessarily as horrific or horrible as these. The image of Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon might spring to mind, or the portrait photo of Abraham Lincoln. But if you’re looking for the most well known, these five are right up there!