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What do you think are the most important photographs of all time?

Jowita ZiobroJowita Ziobro, Web Designer at Delighten
293 upvotes by Oliver Emberton, Rohini Atresh, Eric Nelson, (more)

"Saigon Execution" (1968)

This photo was taken by Eddie Adams in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Out of context, the picture represents the victim's misery, fear, hopelessness and, from the oppressor's side, brutality. When I saw it for the first time I was devastated. I couldn't understand why the person is gunning down an innocent civilian. I was wrong.

The picture represents Major General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, on the left and Nguyen Van Lem on the right. Lem was an assassin and the leader of a Viet Cong death squad who had been targeting and killing South Vietnamese National Police officers and their families. Lem also assassinated Loan's senior officer's whole family.

The photo was one of the many that made a huge influence on American public and was adopted by anti-war protesters as an indictment against the Vietnam War. Adams later admitted it didn't tell the whole story and he wished he hadn’t taken this picture at all.

In 1969 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and a World Press Photo award for capturing this shot.


- Nguyen Van Lem
- Saigon Execution by Eddie Adam’s
- Eddie Adams (photographer)
From The Telegraph :

1. 1826 View from the Window at Le Gras by Joseph Niépce
It may not be the most striking subject: a wall, a rooftop and a chimney but the motivation behind it was inspired. It marks the first time man had ever written with sunlight. The technique, named heliography, used a photo-sensitive plate a sheet of pewter coated in a mixture of bitumen, dissolved in lavender oil. Using this process, Louis Daguerre worked on his invention, the daguerreotype, which was effectively the first camera. Without the impact of this picture, none of the following would exist.

2. 1855 Valley of the Shadow of Death by Roger Fenton

Fenton is widely regarded as the first war photographer. Unable to take pictures of battle, due to the necessary exposure time needed to create a photograph in the 1850s, Fenton arranged cannon balls across a barren landscape. This metaphorical and eerily empty image demonstrated that the photograph could be as thoughtful and affecting as a poem, even on the battlefield.

3. 1936 Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death by Robert Capa

This picture caused a stir when it was published in French magazine Vu, and, it has been argued, even helped strengthen the Republican cause. Some regarded it as a symbol of anti-Fascism, others as a more universal anti-war statement. Either way, the political implications of photography were fast being realised.

4. 1945 Nagasaki, taken by the U.S. Air Force
Proof of man's ability to wreak destruction on a vast scale; the image of the mushroom cloud, captured here as 80,000 people were killed in one blow, is imprinted on the collective imagination.

5. 1950 Segregated Water Fountains in North Carolina by Elliott Erwitt

This picture, which points out the injustice of social segregation, became a well-recognised symbol for the need for change. Looking at it now speaks volumes about how much has changed since then.

6. 1961 Hans Conrad Schumann jumping into West Berlin by Peter Leibing
Capturing the moment of a soldier risking his life to escape from the communist Eastern Block by leaping over the barbed wire, this picture summed up the desperation of the Cold War.

7. 1972 Kim Phuc in a napalm attack in South Vietnam by Nick Ut
Nick Ut's photograph of five children running in terror from an accidental napalm attack was widely published around the world, and crystallised in people's mind's the grim injustices of the Vietnam war. The war was heavily reported on and historians believe that images, particularly this one, had a huge impact at home, resulting in violent anti-war protests, a world-wide campaign for peace, and even contributing to the end of the war.

8. 1989 Tiananmen Square protest by Jeff Widener
The government sent tanks to brutally kill hundreds of workers, students and children in a crackdown on the protest at Tiananmen Square. A small, unknown, unexceptional figure stood bravely in protest in front of the tanks. As TIME magazine reported it, he "revived the world's image of courage". It is when history disguises itself as allegory that the camera writes it best.

9. 1994 Sudanese child with a vulture by Kevin Carter
This Pulitzer Prize-winning picture of a vulture waiting to feed on a dying toddler in Sudan summed up the cruelty of the famine in Sudan. It also, famously, highlighted the plight of the photographer; within three months of gaining recognition for this photograph, Kevin Carter committed suicide.

10. Pictures of torture at Abu Ghraib prison
A series of "trophy" images famously revealed by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command in 2004, exposed abuse and humiliation of Iraqi inmates by a group of US soldiers.

Source : Ten photographs that changed the world - Telegraph
Sam MathewSam Mathew
433 upvotes by Jowita Ziobro, Surendra Sharma, Quora User, (more)

John Lennon giving the autograph, with his future killer Mark Chapman, few hours before death.

Destroying the Berlin Wall

Osama bin Laden with his family visiting Falun in Sweden in 70′.

The Beatles at the beginning of their career.

Elvis Presley in the army.

Meeting of Pope Pius XI with Adolf Hitler.

The new capital of Brasil – Brasilia is being built.

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

One of the first McDonald’s restaurant.

Titanic, 1912.

First Google Team, 1999.

An example of racial segregation.

Evolution of the Coca-Cola bottles. Years: 1899, 1900, 1915, 1916, 1957, 1986.

The Beatles, 1957. John Lennon – 16 years old, George Harrison and Paul McCartney – 15.

ENIAC – computer constructed in years 1943-45 in USA.

Charlie Chaplin and Mahatma Gandhi.

Albert Einstein among other scientists.

Jesus Christ from Rio Being built.

George W. Bush being told about 9/11.

Ku Klux Klan member being operated in one of the hospitals in Alabama.
Simon BrownSimon Brown, Dog Worshipper
176 upvotes by Tom Stevenson, Quora User, Timothy Thian, (more)
Sean WatsonSean Watson, (><) Living the Dream
I will just add one to the great ones already posted.

Pale Blue Dot

Patrick CrossetPatrick Crosset, french born in Africa living i... (more)
15 upvotes by Christopher Raynor, Bhaskar Rappan, Quora User, (more)
It is not the most important photograph of all time but it is the most expensive photograph of all time : in 2011, a print of “Rhein II” (photographer : Andreas Gursky) was auctioned for $4.3 million. The image itself measures 73 by 143 inches (190 cm × 360 cm), while the frame measures 81 by 151 inches (210 cm × 380 cm).

It is not the most important photograph of all time but it is the most viewed photograph of all time : Bliss, thedefault computer wallpaper of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Former National Geographic photographer Charles O'Rear, a resident of the nearby Napa Valley, took the photo on film with a medium-format camera while on his way to visit his girlfriend in 1996.

It is not the most important photograph of all time but it is the most picture displayed on the walls of rooms : Guerrillero Heroico (English: "Heroic Guerrilla Fighter") is an iconic photograph of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara taken by Alberto Korda. It was captured on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba.

In my humble opinion, there are two photographs that are the most important of all time. Both in black and white :

"Lunch atop a Skyscraper" (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam) is afamous black-and-white photograph taken on September 20, 1932 on the 69th floor of the RCA Building (renamed the GE Building in 1988) at Rockefeller Center in New York City, United States.

- “Le Baiser de l'hôtel de ville” (Kiss by the Town Hall) is a photograph of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris in 1950, by Robert Doisneau. The identity of the couple remained a mystery until 1992.

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