The story of a few photos that changed the world
As they say, one picture is worth more than a thousand words, and a photo is the best way to convey certain stories. And indeed, some photographs have changed the world in their own way – reversing the course of events and having a phenomenal impact on public opinion. There are many such photographs. Here are some of them.
“Dali Atomicus” – Philippe Halsman, 1948
When Philippe Halsman made a portrait, he wanted to “capture the essence” of the person he was photographing. So when it came to creating a portrait of his friend, Surrealist master Salvador Dali, he knew he was in for a real challenge. Drawing inspiration from Dali’s own work, he created an unlikely composition, mixing optical illusion, objects suspended on transparent threads, and real movement frozen in mid-air.
Halsman needed 28 shots to create the desired composition. His work revolutionized the way that photographers took portraits. Halsman contrasted traditional portraits in which the model is clearly still and detached from the photographer with movement, emotion, and closeness between the photomodel and the photographer. His work has inspired generations of photographers.
“The Terror of War” – Nick Ut, 1972
The true face of war – that which shows horror, anguish and death – is mostly hidden from the public. The above photo, however, does not spare us the painful details of the fratricidal Vietnam War. It shows a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, running away from a napalm bomb. After taking the photo, photographer Nick Ut rushed to the aid of the Vietnamese child, saving her life.
Nick Ut’s photograph shocked the public and is still one of the most famous photographs today. It showed the world the cruelty of the Vietnam War and mobilized the American public to protest for peace and an end to the war. U.S. President Richard Nixon himself asked if the photo was not a set-up, to which photographer Nick Ut replied: “The horror of the Vietnam War needs no retouching, believe me.” A year later, in 1973, the photographer won the Pultizer Award, and the Vietnam War came to an end.
“Pillars of Creation” – NASA, 1995
In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope finally delivered its first image. It was worth the wait: the camera captured such a bright and beautiful image of the Universe that it was given the name “Pillars of Creation.” What we see in the photo are giant columns of dust and interstellar gas in the Eagle Nebula, 7,000 light years away from our planet. After the publication of this photo, humanity realized for the first time how small and insignificant Earth is in the face of the majesty of the Universe. “Pillars of Creation” moved the public in a way that no scientific discourse or show could ever do.
“Falling Man” – Richard Drew, 2001
on September 11, 2001, the world freezes in horror following the attacks on the Word Trade Center in the United States. While most of the photographs circulating the world show collapsing buildings and exploding planes, Richard Drew’s photograph is one of the few to depict a human being – a dying man. The photo showing a man in the middle of a suicide jump has become iconic.
Photo by Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash