This collection of 20 famous photographs was carefully chosen because of their importance in history. Each of these iconic images has helped shape our history and change the world we live in. These are some of the most powerful and influential images ever captured by some of the most famous photographers in history.

Images have a way of cutting and triggering an immediate emotional response like nothing else can. They open a window for us to see the world through the eyes of the photographer.

Photography helped strengthen the story by making it more tangible and real. It also made the camera an important tool not only to document history, but also to help change it.

Famous photo #1 Henri Cartier-Bresson - Man jumping the puddle|1930

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20

Henri Cartier-Bresson | Man jumping the puddle | 1930


In this photo, one of his most iconic photos,Henri Cartier-Bresson acaptured a scene through a fence behind Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

This image became the perfect example of what Cartier-Bresson called"The decisive moment".

“There is nothing in this world that does not have a watershed moment. "


The French photographer is often referred to as the father of modern photojournalism.

He coined the term "the decisive moment" to designate a moment when the photographer captures an ephemeral second, immortalizing it in time.

Famous photo #2 The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz | 1907

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20

The famous photo of Alfred Stieglitz The Steerage|1907


“I was spellbound for a while. I saw shapes connected to each other - an image of shapes, and underlying, a new vision that held me back.

One of the most famous photographers of the turn of the 20th century, Stieglitz fought for photography to be taken as seriously as painting as a valid art form. His pioneering work helped change the way many viewed photography. His galleries in New York featured many of the best photographers of the time.

Its iconic image "The Steerage" born abstractnot just what he calls the direct photography - offering a true vision of the world. It also gives us a more complex, multi-layered perspective that conveys abstraction through the shapes in the image and how those shapes relate to each other.

Note :Many years ago one of my instructors from my college photography program showed us The Steerage and explained how important it was, how important it was. years of myself did not understand. I admit that it took me many years to understand his genius and his message. So if you don't get it right away, you're in good company.


Famous photo #3 Stanley formanWoman Falling From Fire Escape| 1975

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 The famous photo of Stanley FormanWoman Falling From Fire Escape| 1975


Forman was a well-known photographer working for the Boston Herald when he visited the scene of a fire. What began as he was documenting the rescue of a young woman and child quickly took a turn when the fire escape collapsed.

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The pair started to fall and he continued to shoot as they fell. He captured them inswim Forman did not lower his camera and turned around until the last moment when he realized he was witnessing a woman collapsing towards the sky. dead.

This famous photograph has won Forman a Pulitzer Prize. But his interesting legacy lies in the ethical questions he raised about when a photographer should stop taking photos and whether it is appropriate to post disturbing images. It has also prompted many municipalities to enforce stricter safety codes when it comes to fire evacuation, so you decide.





Famous photo #4 Controversial photo of Kevin Carter - Starving Child and Vulture|1993

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous Photo: Top 20 - Award Winning PhotoKevin CarterPulitzerHungry child and vulture|1993


This image is another image Pulitzer Prize winner. As famous for its social impact as for the ethical questions it raises.

In 1993, the South African photojournalist Kevin cartertraveled to Sudan to photograph the famine. Her image of a collapsed child, with a vulture stalking her, not only sparked public outrage over the gruesome subject matter. aroused many criticisms directed against the photographer, for having photographed the child rather than helping him.

That day, and the assault that followed continued to haunt Carter until that he committed suicide in 1994.

For the record, the mother was apparently right next to the stage and the child was never in danger of being attacked by the bird.Note that it was also shot with a longer telephoto lens which makes a scene more compressed, making the bird appear closer to the child than reality.

If you want to know more about this and other image taken by photojournalists in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, check outThe Bang Bang ClubWatch the trailer below and you can watch the full movie on YouTube for 3.99 $. It's a great documentary, but not for the faint of heart.

Famous photo #5 Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams |Execution of Saigon|1968

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Eddie Adams was on the streets of Saigon on February 1, 1968 photographing the ravages of war.


Famous photo: the top 20

Famous Photo: Top 20 - Eddie Adams | Saigon Execution | 1968

Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world - Eddie Adams, photographer  Believing he was witnessing the routine execution of a prisoner. He looked through his camera's viewfinder, to capture the scene. But what he captured was the occasional assassination of the prisoner.

This iconic photo has become theone of the most powerful images of the Vietnam War. It helped fuel the anti-war movement and end the United States' involvement in the war, as it brought to life a gruesome visual, the scale of violence that was happening.




Famous photo #6 Emblematic portrait of Yousuf Karsh - Winston Churchill|1941

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - The iconic photo of Yousuf Karsh,Winston Churchill|1941

“By the time I returned to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. That's when I took the photo.


Following the attack on Pearl Harbor,Churchill arrives in Ottawa to thank the allies for their help.

Unaware that a photographer had been commissioned to paint his portrait, he refused to remove his cigar. Once the photographer was settled in, he walked over to Churchill, removed the cigar from his mouth and took his famous photo with a scowl.

Of the incident, Churchill told Karsh: “You can even have a roaring lion stand still to be photographed. "

This image is one of the most widely reproduced political portraits. It allowed photographers to take more honest, if not critical, portraits of political leaders.



Famous photo #7 Nick Ut |The terror of war|1972


Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Nick UtThe Terror of War|1972

“The horror of the Vietnam War I recorded did not need to be fixed. "


25 miles northwest of Saigon, war photographer Nick Ut captured theone of the most poignant images in the history of the Vietnam War. More often than not, the faces of those suffering from the collateral damage of war are not seen.

But the heartbreaking image of Phan Thi Kim Phuc,9 years old, forced the world to see. Victim of a fall of napalm by mistake, she was then helped by Ut and received treatment that saved her life.

At the time of publication in 1972, many newspapers had to relax their nudity policies. The image remains controversial to this day, recently it was briefly removed from Facebook for the same reasons.

Nick Ut has won a Pulitzer Prize for this famous image in 1973.


Famous photo #8 Margaret Bourke-White -Gandhi and the spinning wheel|1946

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Margaret Bourke-White– Gandhi and the spinning wheel|1946



In 1946,Margaret bourke-white, LIFE magazine's first female photographer, was given a rare opportunity to photograph Mahatma Gandhi. This dream opportunity quickly turned into a nightmare. She had to overcome many challenges before acceding to the ideological leader of India, including to spin the famous thread at Gandhi's house.

After two failed shots, thanks to technical difficulties, this is the third time Bourke-White has been lucky.

This iconic image of Gandhi at his spinning wheel been captured less than two years before her assassination.

Note :Bourke-White was an icon for me as a young photographer. She seemed fearless and went where even some men dared not go. His courage and courage influenced me and my work early in my career. There is a movie about her life (she is played by Farrah Fawcett)called Double Exposure. If you can get your hands on it, this is a great watch. 

Famous photo #9  Lewis Hine -Cotton Mill Girl|1908

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Lewis Hine |Cotton spinning girl|1908


Established in 1904, the National Child Labor Committee existed to fight for the rights of child laborers in the United States. They realized that the most powerful tool they had was to show the true faces of these children. They thought that see these images of child labor would awaken citizens to demand change.

When Lewis Hine, an investigative photographer, ran into Sadie Pfeifer, one of the little ones at work. Standing at just 48 inches, he knew he had a stroke that would change people's perspective.

This photograph, along with others, was a crucial part of the campaign which led to a change in the legislation. The result was a reduction of 50 % in the number of child laborers over a 10-year period.



Famous photo #dix Blind beggar by Paul Strand | 1916

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Blind beggarby Paul Strand | 1916

Paul Strand's groundbreaking image of a blind woman was a candid portrayal which deviated from the more formal posed portraits of the time.

Strand not only captured a moment in time, when a country was changing rapidly, due to a wave of immigration, but he also took the first image that ushered in a new style - photography of street.



Famous photo #11The day emblematic ofVJ in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt | 1945

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - The day emblematic ofVJ in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt | 1945

“People tell me that when I am in Heaven, they will remember this photo. "


Alfred Eisenstaedt's mission through this photograph was to “find and capture the moment of storytelling.” In this post-war photograph in Times Square, that is exactly what he did.

His famous photograph of the soldier and the dental nurse has become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, signifying the happy end of the war years.



Famous photo #12 The first photograph in history - by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce - View from the Gras window | around 1826

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20

This is the FIRST photograph ever taken, it was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce |View from the Gras windowc. 1826

It is interesting to note that the first permanent photograph ever taken was not taken by an artist, but by inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. His fascination with printing led him to install a camera obscura in his studio in France in 1826.

The window scene was cast on a tin plate and featured a rough copy of the scene outside her window. It wasan 8 hour exposure and there is only one copy, a positive image. This is why the image is somewhat confusing as the sun had moved around the courtyard during the exhibition, causing shadows to appear on both sides.

His groundbreaking work paved the way for the development of modern photography.



Famous photo #13 James Nachtwey | famine in Somalia|1992

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - James Nachtwey |famine in Somalia|1992

"Dare we say it's not worse than that?"
New York Times Magazine reader after seeing Nachtwey's image

Unable to secure a mission to document the 1992 famine in Somalia, the photojournalist James Nachtwey a decided to go it alone.

Supported in the field by the Red Cross, Nachtwey captured the horrors of famine. This, her most haunting image, captures a woman in a wheelbarrow waiting to be taken to a feeding center.

After the publication of his poignant images,the Red Cross received the biggest wave of public support since WWII and was able to save 1.5 million people.

Famous photo #14  Alberto Korda by Che Guevara,Guerillero Heroico|1960


Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Alberto Korda |Guerrilla Heroico|1960

The photograph Alberto Korda didn't realize that after taking two shots of Fidel Castro's young partner, it would become such an iconic image.

When he died, 7 years later,his portrait of Che Guevara would become the iconic image of rebellion and revolution for the peoples of the whole world. Even today it is prevalent in Cuban culture and in the world. As controversial as Che is, whether you think of him as a hero or a villain, the portrayal stands the test of time.


Famous photo #15Philippe Halsman |Dalí Atomicus|1948


Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Philippe Halsman made this famous photoDalí Atomicusin 1948


Philippe Halsman's lifelong work has was to capture the essence of those he photographed. Knowing that a standard portrait of the flamboyant Salvador Dali was not going to wash off, he set out to create something extraordinary.

Halsman even roped his wife and daughter up to help throw the cats and water into the frame. After 26 shots, they finally captured this image which echoes Dali's own works. Note: remember this was all film so had to be done in one frame, there was no Photoshop!

Halsman and Dali both had an unusual sense of style and creativity - some might even say weird. collaborated on many projects together,including Halsman recreating one of Dali's paintings of a skull using human nudes.

Halsman helped shape portrait photography modern. His images of Dali, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock broke the mold and encouraged photographers to collaborate with their subjects.

Note: thea die my photography books favorite coffee table is Halsman at Work.He not only understands superb photographs, but also the stories behind how he made them, told by his wife Yvonne who worked alongside him to take pictures of him working. 

Famous photo #16 Dorothée Lange |Migrant mother|1936


Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Dorothée Lange |Migrant mother|1936


On mission for the Resettlement Administration, Dorothea Lange a tasked with capturing the plight of those most affected by the Great Depression in 1936.

Lang closely framed Thompson, 32, and his young children, leading the viewer to the pain and exhaustion etched on his face that seems aged beyond his years.

On his return, Lange's photograph, now famous, has become the most iconic image of the 160,000 taken to document this desperate period.

The government acted on seeing the suffering and sent 20,000 pounds of food.



Famous photo #17 Eadweard Muybridge |The horse in motion|1878

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - Eadweard Muybridge |The horse in motion|1878


Go on a task to find out if a horse is taking off at a gallop. The photograph Eadweard Muybridge a been commissioned by California Governor Leland Stanford to prove his theory.

Muybridge developed a technique to capture the horse using only a split second exposure. He had lined up 12 cameras which were triggered to photograph in rapid succession by the galloping horse.

The series of images captured by Muybridge didn't just prove that a horse does indeed take flight. They also paved the way for a new way to use photography with other technologies to capture the truth.

This method paved the way for the development of animation and cinema.



Famous photo #18W. Eugene Smith |Country doctor|1948

Famous photo: the top 20

Famous photo: the top 20 - W. Eugène Smith | Country doctor|1948

"I do not seek to own my subject but rather to give myself to it",


Smith's goal was to see the world from the perspective of his subjects and for spectators watching his work to do the same. This image is taken from his photo. The "Country Doctor" trial was taken after Smith spent 23 days with the subject.

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By following the doctor and really getting to know him, Smith was able to capture the essence of his subject through a single image. This image and the accompanying essay became a model for the form that many have since emulated.

But the image was part of the great photographic essay that set a new standard for this kind of photography, photojournalism.



Famous photo #19Robert Capa |The falling soldier|1936

famous photo 15
Robert capa|The falling soldier|1936


Capa's image of a shot dead Spanish militiaman taken without him ever looking through his viewfinder.

Captured holding his camera above his head while in the trenches, this image took war photography to a different level. Soon after, journalists began to be formally integrated into army units as their importance in capturing and documenting the horrors of war was realized.


Famous photo #20 Harold Edgerton |Milk drop wreath|1957

famous photo 20
Harold edgerton|Milk drop wreath|1957


Electrical engineering professor Edgerton began a series of experiments in his lab at MIT, inventing a camera that would photograph a fleeting moment in the dark.

Combining high-tech strobe lighting and a camera shutter that would allow the photographer to capture a moment invisible to the naked eye, he set up a milk dropper next to a timer with his camera.

His stop-motion photography has succeeded infreeze the impact of a drop of milk on a table and cemented the importance of photography in the world of advancing human understanding of our physical world.

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