In a digitalised world, we are used to seeing things in real-time, through social media, streaming services and online, and there is very little that goes on today without the use of a smartphone. Be it a success or failure, a trial or travesty, an achievement that changes mankind or an atrocity that perpetrates the same, a “picture is worth a thousand words”.
In the time before smartphones – and arguably even today – a photograph was one of the most powerful tools. From the landing on the Moon in 1969, the explosion of the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima in 1945, through to Ali vs Liston II in 1989, photos have literally changed the world – and here is a collection of them, that have done that and much, much more.
Although sadly many of them are associated with war, they remind many of us of the devastation and carnage left behind, and how the world should embrace change and live in harmony.
The Iconic V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt | 1945
One of the most recognisable photos of World War II is not about the carnage itself, but about the end of it in 1945. It depicts a soldier and nurse embrace and kiss in the middle of New York, in celebration of the announcement of the end of World War II.
In what epitomises the relief and elation that was felt by everyone there, and in many other countries around the world at the completion of one of the most devastating conflicts the world had ever seen, it is a symbol of love, hope and new beginnings despite the atrocities that were occurring for many years before.
The Moon Landing – 1969
Despite what any ‘conspiracy theorists’ may or may not believe, in 1969 sending men to the moon is one of the most inspirational human achievements – certainly to that date – that was ever achieved. It showed that through human ingenuity, hard work and perseverance, we could even put people on the moon!
The vast baron moon, as well as the reflection in the astronaut’s helmet of the moon landing shuttle, then the endless abyss of spaces leads one to ask, what and where to next? A photo of true human achievement.
Tank Man – Tiananmen Square – 1989
With the ratcheting up of pro-democracy demonstrations in China in 1989, the government called in troops to restore as they saw it, order. Jeff Widener from Associated Press just happened to be on a hotel room balcony after narrowly making it inside, when he captured one of the most famous photos that most certainly changed the world.
A single man, standing in front of four (4) fully armed tanks, in what would be his last act of defiance, the protestor would lose his life, but not without the picture being place on the front page of newspapers around the world the very next day.
Much can be said about this photo, but it changed the hearts and minds of many.
Ali vs. Liston II – 1965
A photo that epitomises sporting dominance and prowess, American photographer Neil Leifer was ringside covering the Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston II fight, when Ali sent Liston to the Canvas.
Despite the controversy that surrounds the outcome of the two fights of Ali vs Liston II in 1965, the photo portrays the indisputable sporting prowess, power and dominance of Ali, one of the greatest sports people in recorded human history.
Explosion of the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima in 1945
The date was August 6th, 1945, a time in which a US B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Leaving an estimated 80,000 people to instantly perish and tens of thousands to die with remnant effects even decades later from radiation poisoning, the photo of exposure is the ultimate example of shock and awe.
In what would ultimately extract the Japanese surrender, the nuclear arms race that would follow created the Cold War and lead to countless state actors to letting counties starve in a race to develop atomic bombs. This photo acts as the ultimate deterrent to nuclear war, of war itself and the stark devastation on several generations such destructive weapons can hold.
Photographs are a powerful reminder of days gone by, a snapshot in time that we can embrace or learn from.
Photography is indeed a form of art, as the viewer has their own, subjective thoughts and feelings around what is caught in frame, just as they do with a great work of art. Images provide insights into days gone by, and should always be protected for generations to understand where we came from and where – more intelligently – we can go from here.