Full of wisdom, happiness, sorrow and with an unforeseeable future, the world we live in makes for a terrifying place. And what better way to narrate a story than through a picture? With the help of a little exposure and the perfect timing, a picture can recreate a story. Having said that, a picture might not reveal the entire story.
So, here is a compilation of some of the most powerful images and what went on behind the scenes, in no particular order.
1. While the sailor was kissing the nurse who was a stranger, his future wife was standing a few steps away from him.
The sailor, George Mendonsa was watching a movie with the ‘most beautiful girl he had ever seen’ Rita Petry, when the movie was stopped. Japan had surrendered and the war was over. As they ran out of the theatre, George saw the first nurse, grabbed her, dipped her and gave her a kiss. The nurse was Greta Zimmer. Rita was standing there a few steps behind him. Rita and George would be married for more than 60 years after this.
2. The people in the picture had no idea that they were being rescued by American soldiers.
Right after Roosevelt had died, a group of American soldiers in Germany who were originally operating two tanks had forayed beyond their route and came across a small train station. There were people lying about who hadn’t noticed their arrival. There was no one guarding them. One of the majors from this group took this photograph as people gradually started realising that they were being rescued. You can still see a few people lying there who had no idea that they were being rescued. Their expressions of happiness and relief say it all.
3. The photographer annoyed Winston Churchill by taking away his cigar.
This photograph of a scowling Winston Churchill was taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada. Karsh had annoyed Churchill by taking his cigar away and composed what has been regarded as one of the most iconic portraits of all time.
4. Three cameras were used to capture Che in a room where the blinds were drawn.
René Burri and his mentor Henri Cartier-Bresson were in Cuba for an assignment for Life magazine. They were denied close access to Che. So, Burri went with three cameras. Even the blinds of the room where this photograph was taken were drawn because Che was the second-most important man in Cuba.
5. Margaret Bourke-White had to learn how to use the spinning wheel before clicking this iconic photo.
This photograph would become one of the greatest photos and the most defining one of the 20th century. Life magazine’s first female photographer Margaret Bourke-White had come to India before the impending independence. Gandhi’s secretaries informed White that she would be allowed to take a photograph only if she learned to use the spinning wheel. She did. They also told her that she would not be able to talk to him as it was his day of silence. And she was not allowed to use bright lights as Gandhi didn’t like it.
6. Even though he did not perform the ‘black power’ salute, Norman was blacklisted from future Olympics appearances because he supported black rights.
This iconic photograph is from the 1968 Olympics. What Tommie Smith and John Carlos did was a ‘black power’ salute on the podium. The idea of this salute was Peter Norman’s who did not perform the salute himself. Norman, an Australian, was later blacklisted from appearing at any future Olympics because he supported black rights. He was ostracized and went into severe depression and took to substance abuse.
7. Henri Cartier-Bresson was documenting the newly independent India when he captured this light moment between Pandit Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.
Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was in India to document the newly-independent nation. This picture of Nehru with the Mountbattens was his most famous picture of that assignment. Edwina and Nehru share a joke, while Louis looks away. This image took a different turn when it was revealed that Nehru was having an affair with Edwina Mountbatten.
8. Moments after this was taken, Omayra Sanchez died, which created quite a controversy regarding the photographer’s inaction.
This is the last taken photograph of Omayra Sánchez. She died shortly after the photograph was taken. It was 1985 and the Nevado del Ruiz volcano had erupted. She was trapped in water and concrete for 3 days. This iconic photo created quite a stir due to the photographer’s inaction towards saving her. She was 13 years old.
9. The Afghan Girl was a student at an informal school within a refugee camp.
The Afghan Girl is one of the most popular and recreated images in the world, shot by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. The Afghan Girl is Sharbat Gula, a student at an informal school within a refugee camp. It was the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. She has also been often referred to as the Afghan Mona Lisa.
10. Tired of smiling, Albert Einstein stuck out his tongue for his birthday photograph.
Photographer Arthur Sasse tried to make Albert Einstein smile for a photograph on this 72nd birthday. Tired of smiling for pictures, he stuck out his tongue. This has become one of the most iconic pictures of Einstein ever.
11. Out of the six men raising the flag in Iwo Jima, three died soon after, two were rescued and the sixth man was extracted from the battlefield.
This Pulitzer-winning photo by Joe Rosenthal captures six men raising the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War 2. The American government used this image to inspire the entire nation. The war was far from being over and three of these six men had lost their lives. Now, if they all die in the war, the inspiring message that the government was trying to send across would not remain inspiring anymore. So, they tried to rescue the remaining three. Two agreed to leave the war. The sixth man, Ira Hayes refused to get rescued. But he was removed from combat. When he realised that his friends had died in the war, he spent the rest of his life in unrelenting remorse. Meanwhile, Rosenthal would be accused of staging the scene for his picture and he would be defending it as serendipity. It was in fact, a great call by Rosenthal and indeed, serendipity.
12. Two photographers clicked this picture. One was ruined over the photo. One won a Pulitzer for his.
This is the photograph of a fireman holding a bleeding baby at the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995, which claimed 168 lives. It was clicked by two people at the exact same moment. One of the photographers was Lester LaRue who was embroiled in a saga of copyright wars with the mother of the infant who thought that the death of her child was made into a spectacle and the company LaRue worked for – Newsweek. He lost the case and won an exorbitant legal bill. The second photographer was Charles Porter, who won a Pulitzer for the image.
13. The patient outlived the doctor.
This much-circulated photograph shows an extremely tired doctor after a 23-hour-long heart transplant. His assistant can been seen sleeping at the corner of the room. The patient not only survived the operation, he outlived the doctor too.
14. Haunted by what he had seen in Sudan and severely criticised for not helping the little girl, photographer Kevin Carter committed suicide a few months after this photo was taken.
Photographer Kevin Carter took the photograph of this little girl in southern Sudan, devastated by famine. You can see a vulture waiting to feed on the girl. Carter took the photograph and chased the vulture away. The girl had made it to safety. Carter won a Pulitzer for this photograph. But he was criticized for not helping the girl. Haunted by everything he had seen in Sudan, Carter committed suicide three months later.
15. After this photo was published, the American government sent food and drinks to the camp.
Photographer Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother is a haunting image of the havoc that the Great Depression had unleashed. Lange was driving back home when she saw the sign for a camp, where she saw this mother of seven in the brink of starvation. Lange reached home and got the photo published. The government rushed a shipment of 20,000 lbs of food and drinks to the camp.
16. The World Trade Center attacks claimed nearly 3,000 people. This photograph captured the moment the second plane hit the tower.
September 11, 2001. Two airplanes – American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 – were hijacked by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists. The planes crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. These crashes were part of four coordinated suicide attacks. Nearly 3,000 people died. This photograph was taken at the moment the second plane hit the North Tower.
17. This iconic photo went unnoticed but gained popularity after Princess Diana’s death.
The much-loved Princess Diana died in the year 1997. This photograph was clicked by photographer Patrick Dermarchelier, who was her friend. It went unnoticed but slowly gained popularity after her death. Even today, it remains one of the most iconic photos of Princess Diana.
18. The burning girl was rescued by the photographer and currently lives in Ontario.
According to a lot of people, this photograph hastened the end of the Vietnam War. The photographer Nick Ut, claims he saw a naked little girl running. Their village had been bombed with napalm, an inflammable liquid that sticks to skin and delivers deadly burns when ignited. Ut rescued the burnt girl and poured water on her. She now lives in Ontario.
19. NASA had prior knowledge that the space shuttle might not make it to Earth.
The debris of Columbia that disintegrated over Texas.
The first picture is of the doomed crew of the Columbia Space Shuttle that exploded over Texas. NASA had prior knowledge that the space shuttle was damaged and might not survive while entering Earth. They decided to not let them know as they realised that the damage could not be repaired. Those on the ground decided that it would be better if they didn’t know about it.
20. Pope Francis blesses a man suffering from a genetic disorder.
In the end of a general audience, photographers took pictures of Pope Francis blessing a man suffering from a rare genetic disorder that involves distinct facial tumors. This popular photo drew comparison of the Pope to St Francis of Assisi who once kissed a leper. The Pope comforted the agonising ‘Elephant Man’ who was otherwise shunned by people.
21. This Pulitzer-winner captured the power of one.
The citation for this Pulitzer winner read “Awarded to Oded Balilty of The Associated Press for his powerful photograph of a lone Jewish woman defying Israeli security forces as they remove illegal settlers in the West Bank.” Power of one.
22. The photographer was ashamed to click this picture taken in Uganda, where 21% of the population was lost to famine.
Mike Wells, the photographer of this picture admitted that he was ashamed to take this photo. The photograph, taken in Karamoja, Uganda shows the hand of a starving boy in the hand of a missionary. The deadly famine wiped out 21 % of the population. Wells would later receive the World Press Photo Award for this.
23. Perhaps John F. Kennedy’s last known photograph.
This photograph was clicked moments before John F. Kennedy and Governor John Connally were shot in Dallas, 1963. Jacqueline crawled out of the vehicle after her husband was shot.
24. America gets its first African-American president.
Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States of America in 2008. The 44th President was also the first African-American to be elected. He was re-elected for a second term in 2012.
25. A general shooting a Viet Cong suspect won the photographer a Pulitzer.
This Pulitzer winner by Eddie Adams captures General Nguyen Ngoc Loan killing Viet Cong suspect Nguyen during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The photograph unsurprisingly had a detrimental effect on the General’s family and reputation. Adams later apologised to the General.
26. The joy of receiving his first pair of shoes.
This photo was published in Life magazine in 1946. Werfel, a six-year-old orphan had received his first pair of shoes as part of Red Cross’ post-war relief effort.
27. Major Terri Gurrola reunited with her daughter after a year.
This image shows Major Terri Gurrola, reunited with her daughter after a year-long deployment in Iraq. Gurrola confessed that she thought her daughter would not remember her. But she did. As this scene took place, everyone standing near them started weeping too.
28. Martin Luther King delivers his ‘I have a dream’ speech.
A defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King delivers his ‘I have a dream’ speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
29. A photo of Buzz Aldrin on the moon with the reflection of Neil Armstrong on his visor.
There are almost no good photos of Neil Armstrong on the moon. This photo is of Buzz Aldrin. You can see the reflections of Neil Armstrong and the lunar module on his visor.
30. The President and the national security team watch the on-going operation set to capture Osama bin Laden.
The White House photographer Pete Souza captures the tension-filled duration of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. You can see President Obama and the members of the national security team.
31. The Tank Man was captured by at least five different photographers as the tanks were proceeding to Tiananmen Square.
This photograph was taken by at least five photographers. Charlie Cole won a World Press Photo Award for his. It captures a man standing in front of a column of tanks in an attempt to stop them. As the tank maneuvered its way, the man moved to block it again. The tanks were on their way to suppress the protests at Tiananmen Square. The man, henceforth came to be known as the Tank Man.
32. After 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was finally set free in 1990.
Nelson Mandela, released after 27 years or imprisonment on February 11, 1990. Mandela along with wife Winnie five the clenched fist salute.
33. The Hindenburg crash that put an end to the golden era of zeppelins.
In all fairness, the Hindenburg crash was not the most disastrous accident. It was not even the worst zeppelin accident. But what this crash did was put an end to the golden age of this airship. The parent company of the Hindenburg has gathered quite a lot of photographers and press people as a massive PR campaign. They all witnessed the zeppelin going down and made sure the world witnessed it too.
34. The Dali Atomicus was the result of six hours, 28 jumps, a roomful of assistants throwing unhappy cats and buckets of water into the air.
The Dali Atomicus, as this photograph is called, was captured by Philippe Halsman. Halsman made a career out of capturing people jumping. Dali Atomicus was the result of six hours of persistent efforts, 28 jumps, roomful of assistants throwing buckets of water and unhappy cats into the air to get the perfect picture.
35. Raghu Rai’s haunting picture of a man burying his little child who was lost to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy, one of world’s worst disasters took place in 1984, claiming around 15,000 lives and injuring around 5,58,125 people. Acclaimed photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew and renowned photographer Raghu Rai went there to document the catastrophe. They came across a man who was burying his child. Bartholomew took a coloured version of this photograph. This was Raghu Rai’s.
36. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bomb blasts that changed the world forever.
The photos below are of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the atom bombs leveled everything to the ground. The picture on the left is of Hiroshima, bombed on 6th August 1945. The picture on the right is of Nagasaki bombing on 9th August 1945. The bombs killed nearly 1,60,000 people in Hiroshima and another 75,000 in Nagasaki.
37. Pandit Nehru declares the birth of a new nation.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru declaring that India would henceforth be an independent nation. He had a restriction of finishing the speech before the clock struck 12 so that the birth of the new nation could happen at the stroke of midnight.
38. Marc Riboud’s iconic photo captures the power of love in the face of violence.
This iconic photograph by Marc Riboud captures a young woman offering a flower to the guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War. It shows the power of love in the face of violence. The photo, La Jeune Fille a la Fleur, would go on to become the symbol for the Flower Power movement.
39. Officers pay their last respects to Zanjeer, the brave Labrador.
Zanjeer, the Labrador, saved innumerable lives in the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993, when he sniffed out the scooter bomb. By the time of his death he had detected more that 3,329 kgs of explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6406 rounds of live ammunition. He developed bone cancer and passed away in 2000. He was buried with full state honours.
40. Anne Frank, a few months after the Frank family went into hiding.
This photograph of Anne Frank is definitely the most well-known and circulated. The portrait was clicked a few months after Anne and family went into hiding in October 1942.
41. The first wave of the 2004 tsunami that claimed 2,00,000 lives hits the shore of Thailand.
The first wave of the deadly tsunami that occurred in 2004 hits the shore in Thailand as people scramble about to reach a safe place. The Indian Ocean tsunami killed about 2,00,000 people. The worst-hit countries were Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Thailand.
42. The last photograph of Rajiv Gandhi moments before his assassination. The assassin can be seen in the photo.
Perhaps the last photo of Rajiv Gandhi moments before he was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu in 1991. He was campaigning for the elections, when supporters came and offered garlands. The assassin, Dhanu, got near him, bent down to touch his feet and detonated the bomb she was wearing. It killed her, Gandhi and 14 more people. Her head can be seen partially in this photo.
43. This is what the police found of Princess Diana’s car after they arrived on the scene.
This is what was left of Princess Diana’s car after the crash. The car crashed into a pillar in an underpass as Diana’s chauffeur was trying to overtake pursuing paparazzi.
44. This was the scene at the Taj Mahal Hotel during the Mumbai attacks that lasted for four days.
Flames gush out from the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai as militant gunmen attack the city. This series of twelve shooting and bombing attacks carried out in 2008 lasted for four days. The only attacker captured alive was Ajmal Kasab. He was hanged on 21 November 2012.
45. The devastating earthquake in Japan that led to level 7 meltdowns at three reactors.
An earthquake of 9.0 Richter Scale hit eastern Japan killing over 15,000 and leaving another 9,000 missing. It was the fifth most devastating earthquake in the world. The earthquake also caused nuclear accidents, primarily level 7 meltdowns at three reactors.
46. Kapil Dev accepts the Cricket World Cup trophy in 1983.
Kapil Dev, the captain of the 1983 Indian cricket team receives the World Cup from Lord Carr of Hadley. Eight countries had participated in the tournament. The final match was between India and West Indies, which India won by 43 runs.
47. A malnourished mother and child in Niger.
A malnourished mother and child at a feeding centre in Tahoua, Niger. The fingers of one-year-old Alassa Galisou are pressed against his mother’s lips.
48. Siegel, 76, and Kopelov, 84, rejoice as they are granted the right to marry.
Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, rejoice as they are finally granted the right to marry. Same-sex marriage was made legal throughout the entire United States of America in June 2015.
49. The fall of the Berlin Wall that reunited Berlin.
The Berlin Wall that separated West Berlin from East Berlin. The demolition of the wall officially began in 1990 and was over in 1992. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved way for the reunification of Berlin.
50. The haunting photograph of Aylan Kurdi that has become the face of the Syrian refugee crisis.
This is the haunting photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi that has become the face of the Syrian refugee crisis and has compelled the entire world to take note. The photograph was clicked by photojournalist Nilufer Demir, who admitted to being petrified when she saw the tiny lifeless body. There were other bodies of migrants washed ashore, along with Aylan’s five-year-old brother Galip. The migrants died when the boat they were in capsized on its way to the Greek island of Kos.