History is an account of change, it’s the moments that the world shifted on its axis and life was transformed -without change, there is no history. If nothing ever changes then there’s nothing to remember. One of the greatest contributors to our modern understanding of history is the photograph, lucky or intrepid photographers use their tool of choice to record major moments of change for the future. These are some of the most powerful images of the past that show us how the world moved.
The First Camera Phone Photograph Ever Taken, Featuring The Photographer’s Newborn Son, 1997
The cellphone camera has come to be as ubiquitous as wearing shoes, something that is so commonplace that we simply take it for granted. From the first moments of its implementation, the technology has captured some of the greatest moments in a person’s life.
Two Berliner Lovers Are Reunited At The Brandenburg Gate In Berlin On December 21, 1989, After The Fall Of The Berlin Wall
On November 09, Gunter Schabowski, the East Berlin Communist party boss, declared that starting from midnight, East Germans would be free to leave the country, without permission. The Berlin wall was both a physical barrier as well as a societal one, preventing the Berliners from being with their family, friends, and lovers. The wall literally and figuratively separated the people of the city from one another. For many Berliners this was the moment when they would finally be able to see their loved ones, at last, a moment captured for the future in this photograph.
The Shah Of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Before The Islamic Revolution
Iran is a country known now for its strict religious rule and its oppressive theocratic regime. But this wasn’t always the case, this image captures a glimpse into the not-so-distant past when the Shah of Iran, effectively the king of the country, was on holiday in Capri, living what many would consider a Westernized life. Later the Islamic revolution would come and completely upend that life and bring with it what many would consider an oppressive force into the lives of all Iranians, both commoner and royal.
Soviet Customers Wait In Line For The First McDonald’s Opened In The Soviet Union On January 31, 1990, At Moscow’s Pushkin Square
The cold war was a dark time in human history, but no population quite felt the darkness of the era like the Russian people behind the Iron Curtain of communism. For those who lived behind the Iron Curtain, it was a life not only bereft of the everyday comforts that we enjoy in the West, but also the rare treats that we can afford within our Western society. This captured moment was the first time most Russian citizens had ever had access to fast food and American culture, a defining moment in history.
Senior Soloist Of The Joburg Ballet, Kitty Phetla, Performs For The Children Of A South African Primary School
South Africa is still one of the youngest democracies in the world, only knowing true freedom for the last 28 years. While the oppressive regime of Apartheid has been removed there are still many who suffer the consequences of the cruel history. Kitty Phetla demonstrates her incredible skills to the youth of the country to bring awareness to available arts programs as well as to offer hope to those disadvantaged.
North Korean And South Korean Family Members Touch Each Other For The First Time In 50 Years
North Koreans on a bus hold the hands of their South Korean relatives and bid farewell after the separated family reunion meeting in 2018 in Mount Kumgang, North Korea. The event was the first time in over 50 years that many were able to finally see their family members that they had been separated from.
WW II Veteran Fred Holborn Looks On At The Thank You Messages Left By The French Locals On The 70th Anniversary Of The D-Day Landings
World War II veteran Fred Holborn is photographed looking at the British Legion Union flags carrying thank you messages planted in the sand on Gold beach in France. Over 20,000 paper flags were placed by the locals, showing gratitude to all the British soldiers who died defending the continent and their freedom.
Residents Of The Yarmouk Refugee Camp In Syria Wait For Their Food Rations On January 14, 2014
Residents of a refugee camp in Yarmouk wait in line to receive food and aid distributed in Damascus, Syria. The photograph shows the incredible amount of real human suffering created by war and shows the true volume of those who suffer are more than just those who die or are injured directly.
The Crowd In New York City After The Announcement Of Japan’s Surrender And The End Of World War II On August 14, 1945
War is hell, there’s no doubt it, and that’s all the more true for a World War. The Second World War tore the world apart, even for those countries that weren’t directly invaded, the U.S.A being no exception to this. It’s no wonder then that the ending of the war was a moment of jubilation and celebration, one that was captured for the ages in this powerful picture of the moment Japan’s surrender and the end of the war were announced.
The American Battleship ‘Arizona’ Sinking After The Japanese Attack On Pearl Harbor, Starting American Intervention In WWII On December 7, 1941
The entrance of America into the Second World War was the last thing that the citizens and leaders of the country wanted but was forced onto them after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. This photograph captures the moment history was changed and America was pushed to war.
Kathrine Switzer, The First Woman To Run The Boston Marathon, Being Defended By Her Friends As Event Organizers Try To Forcibly Stop Her From Running, 1967
Katherine Switzer was spotted early in the race by Jock Semple, one of the organizers, who then tried to rip the number off her shirt and remove her from the race. Switzer’s boyfriend thankfully intervened, allowing her to make her getaway to become the first woman to “officially” run the Boston Marathon in 1967.
100,000 Protestors Assemble Outside Of The Kremlin To Call For The Resignation Of The President Of The USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, 1991
After the crackdown conducted by the Soviet Army in Lithuania in an attempt to stop the independence of the country over 100,000 protestors marched on the Kremlin to seek the resignation of the then president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. The march proved the resolve of the Soviet public in abolishing the old rule of the USSR.
Young Baseball Players Bow Their Heads In Memory Of Babe Ruth When They Learned Of His Passing, 1948
Babe Ruth was once one of the faces of American baseball and is still remembered as one of its greatest heroes. Ruth played for a staggering 22 seasons, becoming one of America’s most celebrated athletes. Here young ballplayers bow their heads in honor of his memory after learning of his passing.
Pope Francis Prays At The Western Wall In Jerusalem, 2014
Pope Francis visits the holy site of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest of all Jewish sites which also borders the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in all of Islam. The moment is one of fragility and intersection where the Pope is forced to walk a political tightrope.
Muhammad Ali Stands Over Sonny Liston After Knocking Him Out In The First Round, 1965
Muhammad Ali, then the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, stands over the unconscious body of contender Sonny Liston. The moment would go on to contribute to the legacy of Muhammad Ali and would be one of the many reasons Ali would become the world’s most famous athlete, even to this day.
The First Picture Of Earth Taken From The Surface Of The Moon, ‘Earthrise’, 1968
‘Earthrise’ is one of the most impactful and important photographs ever taken. The photo of Earth and some of the Moon’s surface was taken from lunar orbit by the astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell would go on to describe it as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken”.
The Pin-Up Picture In Every Soldiers’ Locker During World War II, Betty Grable, 1943
The American actress Betty Grable is perhaps now better known for her pin-up pictures than she is for her acting career, and for good reason. The actress’s photograph became a staple of the locker rooms of the American soldiers in World War II, defining beauty standards for many years to come.
The Soviet Union’s Red Flag Is Raised Over The German Reichstag, Signifying The End Of The Battle For Berlin And The Second World War, 1945
The Second World War was one of the most brutal periods in all of human history, seeing devastation both militarily and politically on a scale that is hard to comprehend. The battle to end the war was categorically hard-fought, every inch taken in blood. This photograph captured the moment the Third Reich’s regime fell and the triumphant arrival of the end of the war.
A Tsunami Hits The Shores Of Miyako In Japan, The Picture Taken Moments Before The Water Brought Devastation To The City, 2011
This photograph captures the scale of the waves of the tsunami that burst onto the Japanese city of Miyako after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the region. The tsunami would bring with it untold billions of dollars of damage and would go on to claim 16,000 local lives.
The American Olympic Sprinters Tommie Smith And John Carlos Raise Their Fist In Protest To Racial Discrimination, 1968
America’s athletic elite have long-held influential power to protest or celebrate the things they love or deplore about their home country. Here Smith and Carlos used their Olympic podiums to send a message from the Mexico Olympics to their countrymen, decrying the racial injustices they witness at home.
Parks’ American Gothic Photograph Captured The Indignity That African Americans Faced Daily, Even In Washington, 1942
Gordon Parks began his professional career at the Farm Security Administration in Washington before going on to become the first African-American photographer at LIFE magazine. During his time in Washington, he captured this image of Ella Watson which came to define the indignities of African Americans, even within the North of the U.S.A.
The Rubble And Cross Within The Notre Dame Cathedral After A Blaze Destroyed The French Landmark, 2019
This photograph taken from the Notre Dame cathedral following its destruction in a blaze captures the destruction and resurrection of the globally famous French landmark. The cross and altar stand untouched amidst the rubble, proof of faith’s ability to withstand even physical destruction.
A Rare Photograph Of Exhausted Foreign Ministers In The Backroom Of The Hague Discussing German Reparations After World War I, 1930
The backroom politics of the highest offices in the world are hardly ever seen. In this rare glimpse behind the curtain at the Hague, photographer Elrich Saloman captured the exasperation and exhaustion of these powerful men as they decided the future of Europe.
Bandit’s Roost On Mulberry Street In New York City Showing The Living Conditions Of The Time, 1888
New York City is now in many ways synonymous with glamour and prestige but was not always so. In the late 19th century, the city was filled with refugees, hoodlums, and poverty. This image captures the ever-present looming violence of the city and the shadow of danger that could be found around every corner.
A Syrian Plays Pokemon Go In What Is Left Of His Home, 2016
While war destroys homes and lives, the will to go on outlasts even the most severe of blasts. Here a Syrian Pokemon fan and gamer enjoy the Pokemon Go game in the rubble of what was once his living room, finding at least some joy in the wartorn time and place he has been forced to endure.
A Man Tries To Sell His Car After Losing Everything On The Day The Stock Market Crashed And The Great Depression Begun, 1929
In 1929 the New York stock market crashed and with it came crashing down the prosperity of an entire nation. This image of a man attempting to sell his car to cover his losses is symbolic of the economic devastation that shortly came to the greater American public during the Great Depression.
The Legion Theatre In Kentucky Destroyed By A Tornado, Creating A Window To The Devastation, 2021
The Legion Theatre of Mayfield, Kentucky, sits in ruins six days after a series of vicious tornadoes hit the area. The framing of the devastation perfectly aligns with where the theatre’s screen once was in a poetic accident that also serves as a symbol of crumbling American infrastructure.
Bishop Of Tucson Gerald Kicanas Hands Out Communion Wafers Through The Bars Of The U.S.-Mexico Border Fence, 2014
The bishop of Tucson Gerald Kicanas stands at the border between the U.S.A and Mexico, handing out communion wafers to those who had assembled to hear the mass presented by the Archbishop of Boston. The Archbishop held the mass to pray for immigration reform and to commemorate those who had died seeking a better life in America.
The Removal Of Robert E Lee’s Statue In Richmond, Virginia, Following The BLM Protests, 2021
Workers in Richmond, Virginia, remove the monument to Confederate leader Rober E. Lee from its pedestal in the middle of Marcus-David Peters’ circle. The removal was a major milestone in the BLM movement and was seen as indicative of seachange in American public opinion on race relations.
The First x-Ray Ever Taken, Featuring The Inventor’s Wife’s Hand Anna Rontgen, 1895
The first Noble Prize won for Physics went to Wilhelm Rontgen thanks to his discovery of the x-ray in 1895. Wilhelm discovered that using a cathode tube and electromagnetic energy he could capture what was going on beneath the skin without surgery, saving countless lives in the years to come.
The Awesome Eruption Of The Calbuco Volcano Dwarfs The City Of Puerto Montt In Chile, 2015
A view from Puerto Varas in southern Chile shows a huge column of ash, fire, and lightning erupting from the Calbuco volcano. The volcano eruption spewed a huge tower of ash into the night sky near the southern port city of Puerto Montt. The eruption was so severe it resulted in a red alert, forcing an evacuation of the 6 miles surrounding the mount
The Steerage, Taken By Alfred Stieglitz In 1907, Is A Starlingly Real Representation Of The Immigrants Journey To America In The Early 20th-Century
Stieglitz’s famous portrait of the European immigrants’ journey to America in the early 20th-century gives us a real glimpse into the experience of what it was like to be on board those vessels. Outside of just being an important part of the historical record, it’s also a beautiful and affecting piece of photographic art at the dawn of the medium.
A Man Is Seen Riding His Bike Over The Ruins Of A Road In Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria, 2017
A man in a blue shirt at the center of the photograph can be seen driving over what was once a busy road in Toa Alta, just west of San Juan in Puerto Rico. Just as the man seems tiny when compared to the scale of the road, so is this road tiny when compared to the incredible power of the hurricane that devastated it.
A Young Boy Witnesses The First African American President’s Speech In Person, 2016
Destn Montague is captured listening to the president’s address at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, DC. The moment is proof of the importance of representation, showing the boy that anything is possible.
A Crowd Of Thousands Gather In A Counter-Protest To Far-Right Marchers’ Rally, Charlottesville, 2017
The Unite the Right rally that occurred on the 11 of August 2017 in Charlottesville went down in infamy as evidence of the resurgence of far-right beliefs within the United States. This photograph of the counter-protest that followed showed a determination on the part of ordinary Americans and Charlottesville residents to stand against the views of the supremacist groups.
Engineering Artist Mike Humphrey Reviews A Recently Constructed Mesmor Robot, 2018
Engineering artist and prosthetic expert Mike Humphrey is seen here checking ‘Fred’, a recently completed Mesmor robot. The robots are intended to be used as realistic humanoid machines that work as robotic actors, delivering information or entertainment. The photograph almost seems to be a glimpse into the future where robotic workers will become far more commonplace.
Endangered Mountain Gorillas Being Carried Out By Rangers After Being Killed In The Crossfire Between The Government And The Illegal Charcoal Industry, Rwanda, 2007
Rwanda’s Virunga National Park is one of the few places in the world where silverback gorillas can still be found, and even then their numbers are dwindling and rare. Here the bodies of four of the noble animals have to be removed after being killed in the crossfire between the government and the illegal charcoal industry, showing that human affairs don’t only affect human beings.
Lava Burns Through Farm And Forest After The Kileau Volcano’s Eruption In Hawaii, 2018
Smoke rises from what was once farmland and lush green forests following the eruption of teh Kilauea volcano. The lava that spewed from the volcano reached an astonishing height of 200 feet before spreading outwards from the peak, eventually covering a distance of 22 square miles.
The First Permanent Image Ever Recorded, 1826
While there may have been earlier prototypes of photography that have never reached the public, Joseph Niepce’s photograph of the “View From The Window At Le Gras” is the oldest recorded photograph in existence. The piece was created using the early photography technique called heliography, a process that Niepce invented.
Veiled Iraqi Woman Show The V For Victory Sign After Successfully Voting In Iraq’s First Parliamentary Election After The U.S. Withdrawal, 2014
While stereotypes persist about the Middle East and the women who live there, there are signs that things are not as bad as they might seem for the women who call the region home and are getting better. A case in point is Iraq, where in 2014 the country held its first parliamentary election since the U.S. troops withdrew and women were seen flocking to the voting booths.
A Super Bloom Of Poppies Cover The Californian Hillsides Of Walker Canyon, 2019
Nature is both resilient and fragile simultaneously, its balance easily upset through pollution and human intervention but also easily restored thanks to the strength of mother nature. These hills in California and the ‘super bloom’ that carpets them are proof of exactly. The flowers bloomed in force after a heavy winter rain following many dry months.
The Space Shuttle, Discovery, Is Taken For A Final Flight Before Being Retired, 2012
The space shuttle Discovery has seen more action than almost any other piece of NASA equipment. The shuttle was the third space shuttle to ever join the U.S.’s space-faring fleet and has successfully completed 39 missions. To celebrate its legacy, the shuttle was flown from the Kennedy Space Center to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum where it now resides.
An Iceberg Approaches The Town Of Ilulissat In Greenland, A Sign Of The Changing Climate
An iceberg that once was part of a larger glacier floats towards the town of Ilulissat in Greenland. The town sits closely atop the Arctic sea and is one of the first witnesses in the world to the changing climate, seeing the rise in sea level and the destruction of the glaciers on their doorstep.
The Confederate Flag Is Removed From The South Carolina State House Following Months Of Protest, 2015
One of the most controversial pieces of American south memorabilia is the confederate flag. The flag was the battle flag of the secessionist Southern States in the American Civil War and has deep ties to both historical slaveries in the region and the families that call it home. The flag was removed after months of protest, critics calling the flag proof of the white supremacy of American politics.
The Tesla Roadster Launched By SpaceX To Demonstrate The Space Faring Capabilities Of The Private Company, 2018
In 2018, in order to demonstrate the company’s ability to begin rocket-powered space flights, SpaceX shot a Tesla roadster with a mannequin driver, nicknamed Starman, atop a Falcon Heavy Rocket. The stunt was the brainchild of Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, and was what many deemed to be the opening chapter of private companies’ foray into space travel.
Marian Anderson Sings To An Audience Of 75,000 At The Lincoln Memorial After Being Barred From Performing At Constitution Hall Due To The Color Of Her Skin, 1939
Marian Anderson was one of the most renowned singers of her time, capable of singing opera, gospel, and everything in between. Despite her immense talent, she was prevented from performing at Constitution Hall as she was an African American. In protest, she moved her concert to the Lincoln Memorial, where 75,000 attendees came to witness her skills.
The Russian Soyuz MS-15 Is Launched With An International Crew In Show Of Global Co-Operation, 2019
The International Space Station is seen as one of the best examples of global cooperation between world powers and nowhere was that cooperation more evident than in the crew onboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. The craft carried astronauts from across the globe, including teh UAE, USA, and Russia, and was launched from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
A Palestinian Teenager Practises Parkour In The Gaza Strip, 2021
Life within the Gaza Strip is no laughing matter, frequent wars have left the region in ruins with very little in the way of infrastructure and almost no availability of basic necessities. Despite these difficulties, the residents of the Strip still find ways to express their artistic freedom, this image of a young man’s parkour practice is evidence of the resilient human spirit.
Nothing Remains Of A Once Verdant Forest In Australia After Bushfires Lay Waste To The Melbourne Countryside, 2009
Australia has for most of modern history borne the brunt of global warming, being the place in the world with one of the thinnest distributions of ozone layer protecting it. That combined with its already incredibly dry climate leads to immense bushfires that can wreak havoc on its environment and inhabitants.
Locals Cycle Through The Streets Of Milan Due To The Oil Crisis, 1973
The 1973 oil crisis began when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries places an oil embargo on those countries that had supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The resulting shortage of oil led essentially shutting down the motorways of most of Western Europe and the United States.
The Iconic Guerrillero Heroico, The Photograph That Made Che Guevara A Revolutionary Symbol The World Over, 1960
In 1960, Alberto Korda attended a memorial service for the victims of the LA Coubre explosion. Also in attendance was a young revolutionary named Che Guevara. Korda snapped a picture of the freedom fighter that soon became synonymous with counter-culture, anti-imperialism, and revolutionary action.
The First Color Image Ever Seen Of The Planet Mars, 1976
While space flight is something that doesn’t often come up in public consciousness anymore, it still has the ability to excite and titillate. This first-ever image from the red planet’s surface is proof of exactly that. The image can’t fail to capture our imagination knowing that we’re looking at another planet.
The Empire State Building Illuminated In Response To The Destruction Of The World Trade Center The Week Prior, 2001
In 2001 the world was rocked and the trajectory of the 21st century changed forever when the World Trade Center was destroyed in a heinous act of terrorism. Though the attack was brutal, the American public came together in a collective refusal to allow their spirits to be swayed.
Helen Keller Sits With Her Aid Polly Thompson As She Listens To The NBC Symphony Through A Special Listening Board, 1938
There are few activists that succeeded in becoming synonymous with their causes as Helen Keller. Keller was blind and deaf but overcame her disabilities to become a major educator within the disabled community and succeed in living a long and happy life, passing on at the age of 87.
1.3 Million People Arrive At The Holy Qabba For Hajj In Saudia Arabia, February 2001
Prior to the September of 2001, the world was a very different place. Here 1.3 Islamic million people have collected, mostly foreigners, at the holy Qabba for the Hajj pilgrimage, one of the most important rites of passage in Islam. The pilgrimage is so important that it is said every Muslim must complete it at least once in their lifetime.
Marina Owner Mitzi Richards Carries Her Granddaughter Down What Was Once A Boat Dock On Huntington Lake Before Drought Ravaged The Region
The owner of a boat dock on Huntington lake is photographed taking a walk on their dock after the lake dried up. The Lake which was at only 30 percent capacity after a severe drought continued to devastate California. The image gives us a view of the very real consequences of climate change and drought.
Mickey Mouse During The Grand Opening Of Walt Disney World On 13 October, 1971
Disney is an American and a cultural juggernaut like few others, especially now that the influential company now owns almost every major pop culture icon you can think of from superheroes to Star Wars. But even this juggernaut started from somewhere, this photograph capturing the opening day of what would become the world’s most famous theme park.
After 27 Years In Prison, South African Icon Nelson Mandela Walks Free With His Wife As Both Raise Their Fists In Victory
This picture taken in 1990 shows Nelson Mandela, the soon-to-be South African president and longtime anti-apartheid activist, and his wife Winnie raising their fists and saluting the cheering crowds after Mandela’s release from prison. The anti-apartheid icon spent 27 years in jail before his release.
The Pillars Of Creation, Captured By The Hubble Space Telescope In 2013
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most impressive pieces of technology mankind has ever developed, capable of photographing parts of the galaxy humanity will likely never visit due to the massive distances involved. The image, called the Pillars Of Creation, is evidence of the immense leap forward of humanity that occured between the images taken by the first camera and those that were taken less than 200 years later by the HST.
The Masai Warriors Cricket Team Practices In Full Regalia, 2012
The players within the Maasai Warriors cricket team are seen here practicing for an upcoming match on a beach in Mombasa. The Kenyan team plays in their traditional warrior uniforms to spread awareness and campaign against unjust practices within Africa and the wider world.