Top 10 Iconic Photographs That Marked Our Modern History

Sharbat Gul, Top 10 Iconic Historical Photographs


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Of all the photographs of historical moments taken around the world, there are some that will forever remain etched in our memories. This is the case of these 13 photographs taken between the late 20th and early 21th century that have left a lasting impression on the history of the contemporary era.

1. Portrait of Che Guevara at the funeral of the victims of the La Coubre explosion

Portrait of Che Guevara at the funeral of the victims of the La Coubre explosion

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The Che, as he was nicknamed, was a marxist revolutionary.  This portrait of his was taken at the funeral of the victims of the  La coubre explosion, on March 5, 1960. He was only 31 years old at that time but had already become a symbol of rebellion and represented the hopes of many people. This photograph, taken by Alterto Korda, is one of the best known of the modern era. The Maryland Institute Of Art has been dubbed it as the most famous iconic photograph of the twentieth century. It is also considered as a symbol of rebellion and as one of the most famous portraits of all time.

2. The terrible agony of Omayra

The terrible agony of Omayra

When the Colombian volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupted in 1985, the city of Armero was completely destroyed.  Omayra Sánchez was stuck for three days in the rubble of her own house. Rescuers were unable to save her because due to the lack of relief equipment, the mud around her could not be pumped out. This photograph published several months after the death of the girl was taken by Frank Fournier and led to numerous complaints about the indifferent behavior of the Colombian government with respect to this disaster. According to the testimonies of the people around her,  Omayra remained dignified and strong until her last moments.

3. Kim, the Vietnamese girl fleeing the US military Napalm bombing

Kim, the Vietnamese girl fleeing the US military Napalm bombing

One of the world’d most famous war photographs. Kim Phuc, a Vietnamese girl is fleeing the scene of a napalm bombing by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. This photograph was taken by Nick on 8 June 1972 and shows the pain and distress of the inhabitants of a village, who are fleeing the burning village. The photograph was taken when the clothes  Kim Phuc  were consumed by the fire of napalm bomb. The girl was hospitalized for 14 months with severe burns and had to undergo a total of 17 skin grafts. Today,  Pham Thi Kim Phuc is married and has two children. She chairs the  Kim Phuc Foundation and is ambassador to UNESCO.

4. The execution of a Vietcong rebel in Saigon

4. The execution of a Vietcong rebel in Saigon

Saigon is the former name of the Vietnamese city  Ho Chi Minh City. This Pulitzer Prize winning photograph was taken by Eddie Adams on 1st February, 1968. It shows the killing of a Vietcong rebel by the police chief of the city. The prisoner’s hands are tied as “Colonel” is about to pull the trigger. Eddy Adams then say: “The colonel killed the prisoner, I killed Colonel with my camera. “

5. The green-eyed Afghan

The green-eyed Afghan

This photograph is signed Steve McCurry and dated June 1984. Sharbat Gula was then 12 years old and stationed in a Afghan refugees camp in Pakistan during the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Union. The image was used as a cover for the National Geographic magazine and quickly became one of its most iconic covers. The name of the girl remained unknown for a long time, until after 17 years of research Steve McCurry tracked her down. She had returned to Afghanistan in 1992 and did not know that she had become such an icon. Her identity was 99.9% confirmed at  by FBI experts.

6. The unknown rebel in Tiananmen square

The unknown rebel in Tiananmen square

This is the nickname given to the man who is standing against a line of Chinese tanks during the Tiananmen uprising in 1989. Taken by Jeff Widener, this picture was later used by the Chinese government to symbolize the soldiers’ compassion to their people during the mission. In fact, despite the orders to advance, the driver of the first tank refused to obey.

7. Dare

Dare, september 11, a man jumps to death from twin towers

“Dare” is a photograph taken during the attacks of September 11, 2001. Signed Richard Drew, it shows a man jumping from the top of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center . This man has certainly made ​​this choice to avoid suffocation by toxic fumes because there may have been no other possible outcomes.

8. The priest Luis Maria Padilla helping a wounded soldier in Venezuela

The priest Luis Maria Padilla helping a wounded soldier in Venezuela

Priest Luis Maria Padilla is holding a wounded soldier in his arms during an uprising in  Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, in 1962. The rebellion was violently suppressed by the government. In the arms of the priest, the soldier could barely utter the words “Help me, my father” and was eventually hit by a second bullet in the arms of Luis Maria Padilla .

9. The self-immolation of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc

 The self-immolation of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc

Famous photograph, taken by Malcolm Browne , shows a Vietnamese monk setting himself on fire in the streets of  Saigon, on 11th June 1963. He was protesting against the anti-Buddhist repression perpetrated by the army on the order of the christian President. According to the testimony of those present at the scene, Thich Quang Duc remained motionless, without shouting or uttering a single word while he was burning completely to death. Cremated, only his heart would have remained intact and that earned him the status of a saint and his heart regarded as a sacred relic.

10. A vulture waiting the death of a Sudanese girl by hunger

 A vulture waiting the death of a Sudanese girl by hunger

This photograph of a Sudanese girl about to die because of exhaustion and hunger. She sits on the ground while a vulture waits patiently for her death to feed himself.  Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Prize winner photographer who took this photograph committed suicide four months later, plagued by guilt. Miraculously, the poor girl in this photograph  finally survived!

 These pictures are really striking. We are speechless to see these photographs that illustrate some  key moments in our history. Which one of these historical photograph made the biggest impression on you?

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