The beautiful thing about photography is that it can not only perfectly capture the sentiment of a moment, but the setting and time in which it was captured. Like a time capsule that can transport the viewer instantly back in time to get a glimpse of what once was. A peek into the past.
Since the invention of the camera, we’ve been privileged to document some of the most notable moments in history – staged and candid. They filled our text books growing up and the small space in the back of our memory that gives us all the feels and nostalgia when we see them from time to time.
Which makes one think – what are some of the most iconic photos in history and the story behind them?
The V-J Day in Times Square
The infamous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo is quite simply the perfect post-WWII photograph as it shows a soldier and his love (a nurse) sharing a smooch. It symbolically signals the end of the war and a coming home to loved ones.
View from the Window
This blurry photograph is just as famous for the same reason it’s so terribly shot – it’s the first permanent photograph taken in history. It was shot by Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826 using his invention the camera obscura. The craziest thing about this photo is that the crudeness of it still took an 8-hour long exposure. It’s why you can see the odd shadows cast on both sides of the photo because the sun had moved across the courtyard during the lengthy exposure.
Lunch Atop a Skyscraper
Not many photos encapsulate perilous playfulness as well as this acrophobia photo does. This 1932 photo of 11 men casually eating their lunch atop a towering skyscraper just perfectly sums up the rise of the heart and soul of America’s most famous city – New York City. It is one of the most reproduced images of all time as it symbolizes the American spirit of resilience and ambition.
Man on the Moon
In 1969, the unfathomable happened. America put a man on the moon. During the heat of the space race, America and Russia were going head to head for technological and astronomical glory. Russia may have been the first country to put a man in space but America was the first to put a man on the moon. That man (men, actually) were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. There’s something so eerily beautiful and obviously monumental about the simplicity of this photo that will forever immortalize it.
Ali vs. Liston
Sports have given us so many memorable moments. It’s the perfect blend of capturing the right moment at the right time. And on May 25, 1965, photographer Neil Leifer snapped the 23-year-old heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali’s knockout of Sonny Liston in just 1:44 into the first round. His tenacity, charm and talent are perfectly captured in this photo as he became one of the nation’s biggest athletes and political proponents.
Pillars of Creation
The Hubble Space Telescope was carried aloft the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. However, due to some malfunctioning, it wouldn’t be until a repair mission in 1993 that it would be back online and operational. And finally, on April 1, 1995, the telescope delivered one of the most spectacular images of the universe ever captured. The Pillars of Creation is the photo of the Eagle Nebula, a star-forming patch of space 6,500 light-years from Earth. The pillars themselves are said to be 5 light-years long. Simply astonishing.
With nearly two centuries of iconic photos to sort through, it’s nearly impossible to make a list of the most famous among the bunch. There’s so much history, passion, sadness, joy and every other emotion perfectly captured throughout the rise of photography and the evolution of the camera. This list is just a tiny sample of some of the most unforgettable.