61 Famous Photos That Changed The World

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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. 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, 1991

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.

Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer who also loves to take pictures on her banged-up (yet surprisingly resilient) Canon 5D Mark III. She currently lives in Portugal.

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