Some photos are memorable. Others are downright world-changing.
So what is it that makes an image stick in the collective memory and become truly iconic?
It’s not enough to capture a moment in history. The most influential, powerful and famous photos are the ones that capture the deeper significance of that moment: the energy and emotion; the triumphs of the human spirit and the consequences of our errors; our helplessness, our glory, our power.
They make history real. They stir emotions in us that don’t diminish with passing years or repeated viewings. And they inspire us to change, so we can make more positive historical moments in the future.
It’s qualities like those that have made these 61 images some of the most famous in the world.
Take a look below at our curation and accompanying web story. Please note – some of the photos may be disturbing.
The Terror Of War, Nick Ut, 1972
The Burning Monk, Malcolm Browne, 1963
Starving Child And Vulture, Kevin Carter, 1993
Lunch Atop A Skyscraper, 1932
Tank Man, Jeff Widener, 1989
Falling Man, Richard Drew, 2001
Alan Kurdi, Nilüfer Demir, 2015
Earthrise, William Anders, NASA, 1968
Mushroom Cloud Over Nagasaki, Lieutenant Charles Levy, 1945
V-J Day In Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945
Pillars Of Creation, Nasa, 1995
Fire Escape Collapse, Stanley Forman, 1975
A Man On The Moon, Neil Armstrong, Nasa, 1969
Jewish Boy Surrenders In Warsaw, 1943
Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange, 1936
The Hindenburg Disaster, Sam Shere, 1937
Dalí Atomicus, Philippe Halsman, 1948
Leap Into Freedom, Peter Leibing, 1961
Flag Raising On Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal, 1945
Hitler At A Nazi Party Rally, Heinrich Hoffmann, 1934
Gandhi And The Spinning Wheel, Margaret Bourke-White, 1946
The Pillow Fight, Harry Benson, 1964
First Cell-Phone Picture, Philippe Kahn, 1997
Muhammad Ali Vs. Sonny Liston, Neil Leifer, 1965
Saigon Execution, Eddie Adams, 1968
Gorilla In The Congo, Brent Stirton, 2007
Michael Jordan, Co Rentmeester, 1984
A wave approaches Miyako, Japan, Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters, 2011
A couple kisses on a street after riots broke out in Vancouver, British Columbia, Rich Lam/Getty Images, 2011
United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the south tower of New York’s World Trade Center, Kelly Guenther. 2011
A view of the Costa Concordia, 2012
The space shuttle Endeavour, 2012
Palestinian camp of Yarmouk line up to receive food supplies in Damascus, Syria, 2014
G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, German Federal Government, 2018.
Heart surgeon after 23-hour-long (successful) heart transplant. His assistant is sleeping in the corner, James Stanfield, 1987
Flower power, Bernie Boston
Lennon & Yoko, Annie Leibovitz, 1980
The First Photograph Upon Discovery of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, 1911
Prince Charles & Princess Diana. Tim Graham, 1981
First Aerial Photograph, James Wallace, 1860
Footprint On The Moon, Buzz Aldrin, 1969
Sharbat Gula – Steve McCurry – 1984
Einstein’s Birthday, Arthur Sasse, 1951
Race organizers attempt to stop Kathrine Switzer from competing in the Boston Marathon. She became the first woman to finish the race, 1967
The Gadget, The First Atomic Bomb, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1945
Sunset on Mars, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, 2005
Milk Drop Coronet, Harold Edgerton, 1957
View from the Window at Le Gras (the first permanent photo ever recorded as being taken), Nicéphore Niépce, 1827
D-Day, Robert Capa, 1944
The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942
Winston Churchill, Yousuf Karsh, 1941
Guerillero Heroico, Alberto Korda, 1960
The Wright brothers’ first flight, 1903
The floating bodies in Tsunami, 2004
The Loch Ness Monster, Ian Wetherell, 1934
Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie with raised clenched fists following his release from prison in South Africa after 27 years, 1990
Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989
The last known Tasmanian Tiger (now extinct), 1933
Titanic leaves port, 1912
Ferdinand Porsche showing a model of the Volkswagen Beetle to Adolf Hitler, 1935
The crew of Apollo 1 practising their water landing, 1966
We hope you enjoyed our curation of the most famous photographs of all time.
Perhaps you remember where you were when some of these moments occurred?
Or perhaps you think we should have included another influential photo?
Whatever the case, be sure to join in the discussion in the comments below.
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