The Intriguing Stories Behind 9 Of The World’s Most Iconic Photographs
When was the last time a “candid” photograph with a pretentious quote made you stop scrolling?
With photographs plastering almost all of our social media feeds everyday, we rarely ever find ourselves giving them a second glance and or much thought.
But not the ones on these list.
For years, these enduring photos have grabbed our attention, sparked conversations that matter and made an everlasting impact on the world.
And for the curious, here are the stories behind them.
1. The Kiss, Alfred Eisenstaadt
Through his lens, the LIFE photographer forever immortalized the moment when George Mendonsa, a sailor, kissed Greta Zimmer Friedman during the V-J Day celebrations in Times Square on August 14, 1945.
Greta was a dental assistant whom he mistook for a nurse, and being grateful to nurses for their work in the war, he grabbed her in that happy moment he realized he wouldn’t have to go back to war.
2. Marilyn Monroe’s “Flying Skirt”, Sam Shaw
On September 15th, 1954, photographer Sam Shaw shot this famous image of his friend Marilyn Monroe as the breeze from the subway below lifted her skirt during the filming of the The Seven Year Itch.
Instead of rushing to cover her legs, the actress exclaimed, “Isn’t it delicious?”, leaving a crowd of lucky onlookers as entranced as we find ourselves today.
3. Portrait of Che Guevara, Alberto Korda
The Cuban photographer’s photo of Che Guevara that has been emblazoned on almost everything imaginable was taken on March 5th, 1960, at a memorial service for the victims of the La Coubre explosion.
Korda took the picture for the newspaper he was working with – Revolución- as Che approached the speakers’ platform.
As he stared over the crowd, said Korda, Guevara’s expression showed, “absolute implacability,” as well as anger and pain.
4. The Hidenburg Disaster, Sam Shere
Sam Shere’s 1937 photograph of the explosion of the Hindenburg dirigible balloon as it returned from a transatlantic crossing perfectly captured its fiery demise.
But had he not reacted as quickly as he did, his most famous work would have never have seen the light of day.
“I didn’t even have time to get it (the camera) up to my eye. I literally ‘shot’ from the hip – it was over so fast there was nothing else to do”, said Shere.
5. Starving Child and Vulture, Kevin Carter
The unforgettable photograph of a starving Sudanese girl being eyed hungrily by a vulture waiting nearby suggests only two possibilities — either the vulture feasted on the child, or it did not.
When The New York Times ran the photograph, these possibilities turned into haunting questions that readers began demanding the answers to, from Kevin Carter himself.
When Carter assured them that the child had reached the feeding centre and he drove away the creature, the questions extended to his ethics and soon turned into accusations.
Three months after he won the Pulitzer Prize for the photograph in 1994, he committed suicide.
6. Einstein’s Tongue, Arthur Sasse
As his 72nd birthday party came to a close, a tired Einstein had just gotten into his car when photographer Arthur Sasse snuck up to the open door and asked him for one last photo.
Einstein obliged by playfully sticking out his tongue, and the resulting photograph became the most iconic image of the scientist.
In fact, Einstein loved it so much he ordered multiple prints made and included them in all of his greeting cards from then on.
7. Afghan Girl, Steve McCurry
In December 1984, photographer Steve McCurry chose to focus his lens on 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun orphan in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“I knew she had an incredible look, a penetrating gaze,” he recalls.
The striking portrait, captured in a crowd of people with the dust swirling around became the National Geographic magazine’s next cover, and the most successful in its history.
8. The Burning Monk, Malcolm Browne
The shocking photograph of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation in Saigon, Vietnam, was taken on June 11th, 1963 by Photographer Malcolm Browne.
“I don’t know exactly when he died because you couldn’t tell from his features or voice or anything. He never yelled out in pain. His face seemed to remain fairly calm until it was so blackened by the flames that you couldn’t make it out anymore”, said Browne.
The gruesome scene immortalized on film was in protest against the religious persecution of Buddhists by the Catholic-favoring Ngo Dinh Diem government.
9. The Death of Alan Kurdi, Nilüfer Demir
In the the early hours of September 2nd, 2015, the three-year-old Syrian boy and his family, fleeing the war, climbed onto a small inflatable boat headed for Greece.
A few minutes later, the dinghy capsized and Alan, his older brother and his mother drowned.
When Turkish photographer Nilüfer Demir came to the beach, she spotted Alan’s lifeless body that had washed up along the shore.
Half in the sea and half on the shore; his sneakers still on his feet, Nilüfer photographed the little boy.
In death, he came to represent all the children who lost their lives trying to reach safety, making the world – the whole world – finally sit up and take notice of the gravity of the Syrian refugee crisis.
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