Photographs That Changed the World

Sometimes an image is all it takes to be thrown into a flashback, whether you have experienced it personally or the history of it has lived on from generation to generation.

Why is it that we take pictures? Do we want to show off what we have, or use them to sell and advertise products to people? Both are probable, but the sole reason as to why we take pictures is to remember. We want everyone to remember. So, here are a few photographs that carry a weighted history. We can recognize them within an instant because the events they capture have truly changed the world.

Flight 1903

Two brothers from Ohio had a wild dream. A dream to fly. Sane human beings knew that it was impossible for people to take flight. Or was it? On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright managed to stay in the air for fifty-nine seconds in their wood-wire-and-cloth Flyer. Without being there, or seeing this photo, no one would have believed the Wright brothers’ story. Within fifteen years of this moment, the elements of the modern airplane had been imagined.

Anne Frank

Taken by an unknown photographer in 1941. Anne Frank became the face of the Holocaust. Six million Jews died in this horrific event and, for many around the world, this teenage girl gave them a story. According to Anne’s diary, she made sure to preserve her hope and humanity while hiding with her family in an Amsterdam attic. After being arrested in 1944 by the Nazis, Anne and her sister died, only a month before the Bergen-Belsen camp was liberated. We came to know her through this ordinary portrait and her written words.


Iwo Jima 1945

In the midst of the battle at Iwo Jima, five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman climbed Mt. Suribachi to raise the flag of the Unites States. Being an advantage point for the Japanese, it was monumental that the U.S. troops were able to seize the top of the mountain. Joe Rosenthal’s instinct to swing around and photograph the scene resulted in one of the most significant war images ever taken.


Hiroshima/Nagasaki 1945

The general public had never seen anything like this before. On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb reigned on Hiroshima killing an estimated 80,000 people. Three days later, a second bomb exploded over Nagasaki. The wind, the heat, and the radiation was a lethal combination that ravaged anything and everything nearby, killing or injuring about 150,000 people at the time. As much pain that this image rekindles about the war, the most shocking images came from Japan, showing the devastation that occurred.


Elizabeth Eckford 1957

Elizabeth Eckford strides through a gathering of white students, including Hazel Bryant, on her way to Little Rock’s Central High. Racial segregation had been outlawed by the Supreme Court and this image shows the start of the fourth school-year since the outlaw. Some southerners accused the national press of distorting matters, but this picture, however, gave undeniable proof that integration was not accepted.


Birmingham 1963

While receiving the title of “the South’s toughest city,” Birmingham, Alabama was home to frequent and open hostility between the large black population and dominant white class. This became a focal point in the Civil Rights Movement for Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led nonviolent demonstrations in 1963. In their tireless quest to overcome segregation, this picture depicts the liquid pummeling of those who rallied support for the blacks.


Johnson Sworn In 1963

On November 22, 1963, Air Force One carried Lyndon Baines Johnson as he took the presidential oath of office while Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird, and several other White House aides stood by on their way back to Washington. This occurred right after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The speed of this ceremony—and the release of this photo—was purposeful. This image had to reassure the shocked nation that the government was stable and the situation was under control.


Thich Quang Duc 1963

Sitting at the busy Saigon road intersection, Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, went up in flames in response to the persecution of Buddhists by Ngo Dinh Diem and South Vietnam’s Roman Catholic government. This photo, taken by Malcolm Browne, of Quang Duc's self-immolation was circulated world-wide and brought attention to Diem’s regime and the cruel policies they created.


Apollo 11

Astronaut Edwin F. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. faces the camera as he walks on the moon after landing the Apollo 11. As Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the earth’s moon, readies to take the picture, the shield of Aldrin’s helmet reflects back the scene in front of him, showing the incredible mission they accomplished.


Kent State 1970

Protests erupted all over the nation’s colleges after President Richard Nixon announced he was sending troops to Cambodia. The Ohio National Guard, after being called-in to handle all of the turmoil occurring, quickly turned and unleashed fire, killing four kids, two of whom, were just walking to class. Student photographer John Filo captured this pivotal moment where American soldiers had just killed American kids.



Spencer Platt snapped a picture of the sudden impact of two airliners, that were hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists, into the Twin Towers in New York City.  They immediately went into smoke and flames. 2,800 people were killed and even more were injured. New York was disheveled and in chaos, especially since the World Trade Center’s south tower was hit by the United Airlines Flight 175 as well.


VIA| National Geographic

VIA| Digital Journalist


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