October 11, 2011
Starving Child and Vulture, Kevin Carter, 1993
The most haunting image on the list, Kevin Carter captured the devastating famine in Sudan with a photograph of a toddler crawling to a UN feeding center while a vulture stalks her as prey. Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for his work but received harsh criticism for both the photograph and for not helping the child. A year later, gripped by the devastation and depression he had seen, Carter committed suicide.
Murder of Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief, Eddie Adams, 1968
This powerful photograph shows General Nguyen Ngoc Loan of the South Vietnamese Army about to kill the captain of a Vietcong squad at point-blank range. The photograph came to symbolize the brutality and harsh reality of the Vietnam War that was often shielded from Americans in the media and galvanized a worldwide anti-war movement.
Cottingley Fairies, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, 1917
The Cottingley Fairies was an elaborate hoax concocted by two British girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, that involved a series of five photographs showing the girls next to supposed ‘fairies’ . When the photographs were first developed, many were convinced that these photographs were proof of fairies. It wasn’t until 1983 that the girls admitted that the photos were fakes and the fairies were created using cardboards. While these images of fairies may seem like a trivial inclusion, the iconic photos confounded people for decades, raising significant debate and outlining the significance and potential hazards of the ability to manipulate images.
D-Day Invasion, Omaha Beach, Robert Capa, 1944
War photographer Robert Capa prided himself on getting in the thick of the action to capture the most stirring images. His blurry image of the horrific June 6, 1944 D-Day battle – where the Allies invaded the German-occupied French coast – is a testament to his skill. Bombarded by fighting from all sides, Capa survived the fighting with this image, which perfectly captured the chaos and frenzy of the battle.
The Terror of War (Napalm Girl) - Huyn Cong Ut, 1973
The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph captures the devastation caused by American napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. The focal point of the image is Phan Thj Kim Phuc, the naked girl who ripped her clothes off after being severely burned on her back. Though controversial at the time because of its depiction of full-frontal nudity, the image brought the horror of the Vietnam War and its many innocent victims to the forefront of the world’s conscious.
This is the first of a two part series; see the second part here: Five More Of History’s Most Iconic Photographs.