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Powerful Photographs of Extraordinary Moments

This is a non conclusive list of photographs which were taken during extraordinary times. Be warned though. You might find some of the following photographs quite disturbing. First flight at Kitty Hawk

First Powered Flight at Kitty Hawk
Date: December 17th, 1903
Place: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Photographer: John T. Daniels


Loyalist soldier shot to death during the Spanish civil war

The Shooting of a Loyalist Militiaman
Spanish civil war: Federico Borrell García, was shot to death the instant this photograph was taken.

Date: September 5, 1936
Place: Cordoba Front, Spain
Photographer: Robert Capa


The Hindenburg set a blaze

Hindenburg Disaster
Date: May 6, 1937
Place: Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey
Photographer: Sam Shere


Doctored photo of the fall of Berlin

Mounting the Soviet Flag over the Reichstag
Date: May 2, 1945
Place: Berlin, Germany
Photographer: Yevgeny Khaldei


Sailor kissing a girl during a parade on Times Square

Celebrating the end of WWII: Kiss at Time Square
After you’ve had a big fight, you make up with a kiss.

Date: August 14, 1945
Place: Manhattan, New York City
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt


The dome or what is left of it after the atomic blast

Hiroshima Aftermath
Date: September 7, 1945
Place: Hiroshima, Japan
Photographer: Stanley Troutman


Evelyn Mchale after she fell to her death

The Most Beautiful Suicide
Evelyn McHale threw herself from the observation deck of the Empire State Building and died immediately upon landing on a car down below. Before she jumped, she left behind a note: ‘He is much better off without me … I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody,’

Date: May 1, 1947
Place: Manhattan, New York City
Photographer: Robert Wiles


Segregated water fountains

Segregated Water Fountains
Date: 1950
Place: North Carolina
Photographer: Elliott Erwitt


Atomic explosion captured with rapatronic cameras

Split nanosecond image of a nuclear blast

Atomic blast wave knocks down a house

Atomic Explosion Split Nanoseconds after Detonation
Nuclear test site: Because the explosions happened so fast, special ‘rapatronic’ cameras were built to capture the blast immediately after detonation. The last image is from a video to measure the damage done by a blast in an urban setting.

Date: Spring, 1956
Place: Nevada
Photographer: Harold Edgerton


Leaping over from East to West Berlin

Hans Conrad Shuman Leaping to the West
Date: August 15, 1961
Place: Berlin, Germany
Photographer: Peter Leibing


Burning monk

A monk burning after he set himself on fireMonk Sets Himself on Fire
A Buddhist monk protesting the poor reforms of the South Vietnam government of the time, poured gazoline over his body and then set himself on fire.

Date: June 10, 1963
Place: Saigon, South Vietnam
Photographer: Malcolm Browne


Police chief executes a viet cong prisoner during the Tet Offensive

Police Chief Executes a Viet Cong Captain
During the Tet Offensive, Viet Cong captain Nguyễn Văn Lém was captured after targeting the families of South Vietnam’s police officers. South Vietnam’s national police chief  Nguyen Ngoc Loan was caught on film the moment he executed Lém personally.

Date: February 1, 1968
Place: Saigon, South Vietnam
Photographer: Eddie Adams


Naked girl running away from a napalm hit village

‘Too Hot! Too Hot!’
The words Phan Thị Kim Phúc screamed as she fled a village that had just been destroyed by a napalm bomb.

Date: June 8, 1972
Place: Trang Bang, South Vietnam
Photographer: Nick Út


Evacuating the US embassy moments before Saigon fell to the Viet Cong

Fall of Saigon
Americans and Vietnam citizens who had been loyal to the US were airlifted out of Saigon as the Viet Cong approached the city. This was taken at the US embassy as people scrambled to the roof in the hopes of catching a helicopter out.

Date: April 29, 1975
Place: Saigon, South Vietnam
Photographer: Hubert van Es


The Challenger explodes just moments after lift-off

Challenger Disaster
This would be the first mission a teacher would go up into space and as such got a lot of attention at school before the Challenger was launched. It was a shock when we say it go up in flames.

Date: January 28, 1986
Place: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Photographer: Unknown


Unknown man brings a row of tanks to a stop during student uprising

Man Holds off Tanks
This is probably one of the most powerful images of a single man trying to make a difference.

Date: June 5, 1989
Place: Near Tiananmen Square in Bejing, China
Photographer: Jeff Widener

Black woman breastfeeding a white baby

United Colors of Benetton
This photo is the odd one out, it being an advertisement for Benetton, but it defied all rules at the time by carrying a political message instead of just selling clothes. This was one of the first ones in a series of advertisements that tried to break taboos.

Date: 1989
Place: Italy
Photographer: Oliviero Toscani


burnt to death iraqi soldier

Highway of Death
Iraqi soldier scorched to death when an escaping convoy was obliviated by attacking US planes. Until then, the first Gulf War had been portrayed as an almost clinical operation with precision bombings and surgical strikes. It was only in the aftermath of the war that another image started to appear.

Date: March, 1991
Place: Kuwait
Photographer: Kenneth Jarecke.


Man plunging to his death after jumping off one of the Twin Towers

Falling Man
During the 9/11 attacks, many of those on the top floors of the twin towers were trapped. Trying to escape from the heat, many of them had no choice but to jump.

Date: September 11, 2001
Place: Manhattan, New York City
Photographer: Richard Drew


A woman mourning the death of a relative after being hit by a tsunami

Mourning a relative after the Tsunami
Date: December 28, 2004
Place: Cuddalore, India
Photographer: Arko Datta


Young rich hipsters drive through Beirut surveying the damage of the bombings

After the Bombs have Fallen
One of the strangest pictures here depicting that our times have changed. We’re using to seeing the after math of war as one of suffering and pain. Not of young hipsters driving around driving around tricked out cars and taking pictures of the damage with their mobiles.

Date: August 15, 2006
Place: South Beirut, Lebanon
Photographer: Spencer Platt


A portrait of rebel leader Nkunda in North Kivu

Rebel Leader Laurent Nkunda
Date: 2007
Place: Kichanga, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photographer: Cédric Gerbehaye


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Wow, Patrik, very impressive list!

Bert Heymans  ¤ March 18, 2009 at 22:07

Thx! Even though I’m just the curator. :)
More then half of these photographs were taken before I was even born.

Patrik Fagard  ¤ April 12, 2009 at 12:00

The picture taken in Saigon in not the US Embassy. It is an apartment building were CIA employees lived.

Rob  ¤ May 15, 2009 at 09:19

Rob: You’re right. Apparantly, Hubert van Es, the photographer died today and so it’s all over the news now. But I did find this article in the New York Times from a while back explaining why this photo has always been mislabeled as being the US embassy:

Patrik Fagard  ¤ May 15, 2009 at 16:22

great stuff…. had goosebumps throughout… but wanted to make myself go through a few moments where pain is way bigger than we have ever known…. thnq for the collection!!

sukriti  ¤ August 1, 2009 at 10:43

I had not seen the photo from Lebanon before, it is fascinating. My brother has lived in Beirut for several years now and I just started reading “From Beirut to Jerusalem” a couple weeks ago. I’d love to see the city sometime.

Adam  ¤ November 17, 2009 at 02:45

this is amazing

Chris  ¤ November 25, 2009 at 22:13

The Hiroshima destruction was indeed extraordinary. Never before had such a powerful weapon been used. In an instant two thirds of the city’s structures were destroyed, leaving at least 70,000 dead and 69,000 injured. Thank you very much for the photograph. This was just a day after a B-29 Superfortress dropped the nuclear bomb.

Sam  ¤ January 15, 2010 at 20:01

maybe this image might be a good addition to ur list

mike  ¤ February 11, 2010 at 12:16

Thanks! I hadn’t seen that one before.

Patrik  ¤ February 11, 2010 at 12:53

How can people look at some of these?

Katie Schultz  ¤ September 19, 2010 at 22:07


We can look at them because the represent the unseen truths of the world

dave  ¤ October 12, 2010 at 04:33

Segregated Water Fountains. We don’t have the racial segregation of the 1950-60’s (not at that scale), but isn’t it surprising that with all the social changes we have made over the years,the world is still plagued by racism. I have never seen a perfect mix of the races! Thank you Patrik for the “painful” reminder.

Samson  ¤ November 1, 2010 at 21:05

If you google “concentration camp” you will find other powerful images, I will let you choose.

Kathleen  ¤ December 30, 2010 at 01:40

Amazing images, the one of the Iraq solider just sent shivers up my spine

Swift  ¤ February 22, 2011 at 08:53

Then I read an interview with the youngsters in that Lebanese town: they came there to see what was left of their house. They were not kind of disaster tourists

Michiel Rapati  ¤ March 2, 2012 at 08:47

nice pics, thnx for sharing

mehdi hasan  ¤ May 10, 2012 at 10:54

This is truly amazing, you must make some more!!

Maddie  ¤ August 6, 2012 at 09:54
T-shirts with the god Shiva print