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20 Influential and Famous Photographs


John Filo's iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling
over the body of Jeffrey Miller after he was shot dead by the Ohio National Guard
the campus of Kent State University.

The first permanent photograph was produced in 1825 by the French inventor Joseph
Nicéphore Niépce.  Since 1825, thousands of influential moments in history have been
documented through photography, including images of world war, horrible accident,
famous locations, or historical icons.  Here is a list of some of the most famous world

20. Houdini and Lincoln


Harry Houdini was a Hungarian magician, escapologist, and stunt performer that was
extremely successful in the beginning of the 20th century.  Towards the end of
Houdini’s life he turned his energy towards debunking self-proclaimed psychics and
mediums.  His training in magic allowed him to expose frauds that had successfully
fooled many scientists and academics.  In this famous picture Houdini demonstrates
how a photographer could produce a fraudulent "spirit photograph" that documents the
apparition and social interaction of deceased individuals.  He had himself photographed
with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.    

19. Three Mile Island Accident


Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located on Three
Mile Island, which is south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The plant is best known for
having been the site of the worst civilian nuclear accident in United States history on
March 29, 1979, which included a partial core meltdown in the generator TMI-2.  It
resulted in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases,
including 740 GBq of the particularly dangerous iodine-131
.  The accident began at
4:00 A.M. on Thursday, March 29, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary
system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary
system, which allowed large amounts of reactor coolant to escape.  The reactor was
brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until
much later.  This famous photograph was taken in the days following the nuclear
accident.  I have also included an aerial photo of the island. 


18. Migrant Mother


Migrant Mother is the name given to Dorothea Lange's 1936 photograph of Florence
Owens Thompson and her children.  The photo became the most famous image of the
Great Depression in the United States.  It is a classic photograph and has become an
iconic image of resilience in the face of adversity.

17. Babe Ruth Gets Knocked Out


On July 5, 1924, the Washington Senators first baseman Joe Judge hit a fly ball to right
field.  Babe Ruth was tracking the ball that was slicing foul when he ran into the
concrete wall.  The Great Bambino was knocked out cold for five minutes.  The next
day in the top of 8th inning Ruth got his revenge when he hit his 22nd home run of the
season off of Senators' pitcher Joe Martina.

16. Frédéric Chopin’s Only Photograph


Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist.  He is one of the great
masters of Romantic music.  Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the
Duchy of Warsaw in 1810.  He was regarded as a child-prodigy and would become one
of the greatest composers ever to live.  Chopin's compositions were written primarily for
the piano as a solo instrument.  He invented musical forms such as the instrumental
ballade and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz,
nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude.  I have included the only known
photograph of Frédéric Chopin.  It was taken by Louis-Auguste Bisson in 1849, which
was the last year of Chopin’s life.  

Since the publication of this list another Frédéric Chopin photograph has
been released.  It was Chopin’s first photo and was taken two years prior to
his death.


15. Vietcong Execution


The Tet Offensive was a military campaign during the Vietnam War that began on
January 31, 1968.  Forces of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam, or Viet
Cong, and the People's Army of Vietnam, or North Vietnamese army, fought against the
forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the United States, and their allies.
The purpose of the offensive was to strike military and civilian command and control
centers throughout South Vietnam.  With the Tet Offensive beginning, Nguyen Ngoc
Loan, South Vietnam’s national police chief, was doing all he could to keep Viet Cong
guerrillas from Saigon.  In this famous photo,
Loan pulls out his pistol and executes a
Vietcong captain with a single shot to the head. 
AP photographer Eddie Adams
documented the event.

14. Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg Address


The Gettysburg Address is a famous speech that was given by Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln
delivered the speech at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863.  It was during the
American Civil War and four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of
the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.  In 1952, Josephine Cobb
discovered a plate of negatives showing the historic event.  Lincoln was initially thought
to be unseen in any of the photos, but upon further investigation it was discovered that
he can be seen among the crowd in one picture.  He is seated next to his
Ward Hill Lamon, and to the far right of Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania.
It has been approximated that the photograph was taken about noontime, just after
Lincoln arrived at the site and some three hours before he gave his now famous address.

Zoomed in on Lincoln

13. Elian Gonzalez is Deported


Elian Gonzalex is a boy that was at the center of a heated controversy involving the
governments of Cuba and the United States in 2000.  The custody and immigration
status of the 7-year-old Elian González came into question.  The story became an
international news spectacle.  The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Elian
would be sent back to Cuba.  The U.S. border patrol found it necessary to seize Elian at
gun point.  The image taken documenting the event was published all over the world.  

12. The Great Famine


The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland
between 1845 and 1852.  During the famine Ireland's population dropped by 20–25
percent, one million people died, and a million more emigrated from the island.  The
proximate cause of the famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight.
The blight was so devastating because one third of the Irish population was entirely
dependent on the potato for food.  The famine was a watershed in the history of
Ireland.  Its effects permanently changed the island's demographic, political and cultural
landscape.  Very few available pictures of The Great Famine exist.  I have included two
photographs.  The first shows a collection of children during the famine and the second
shows a family being evicted by police during the era.  Thousands of families were
evicted from their land during The Great Famine.   


11. The Dust Bowl


The Dust Bowl or the Dirty Thirties was a period of severe dust storms which caused
major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from
1930 to 1936.  The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of
extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops, and other techniques
to prevent erosion.  With no natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to
dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds.  These immense dust
storms, which were given names such as "Black Blizzards" and "Black Rollers" often
times reduced visibility to a few feet and plagued farmers.  This photograph largely
represents the dust bowl and shows a “black blizzard” on the horizon.   

10. The Final Salute


The state funeral of John F. Kennedy took place three days following his assassination
on Friday, November 22, 1963.  In this famous image John F. Kennedy, Jr. salutes his
father's casket while standing next to Jacqueline Kennedy, who is holding Caroline
Kennedy's hand; Senator Ted Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy are seen
behind them.

9. Hitler and the Third Reich


By mid-1941, Germany had gained control of all of Poland.  Hitler formed many Jewish
ghettos in the area, forcing the eviction of hundreds of thousands of people.  The people
were then crowded into a space that could not reasonably accommodate them.  In terms
of living conditions, these ghettos bore a haunting similarity to the concentration camps
that the Germans had been organizing since 1933. The Polish Armed Resistance reported
that 500,000 Jews were crowded into the Warsaw Ghetto: 600 people per acre.
Unspeakably poor hygienic and sanitary conditions resulted in the spreading of
tuberculosis and other contagious diseases.  Many infamous images of Adolf Hitler
exist.  I have chosen one that documents Hitler in 1941 during the war on Poland.  His
arrogance is on display, although in a few years time the Allies would wipe this smug
grin off his face.  

8. From Little Round Top to Devil's Den


The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) was a battle during the American Civil War
that was fought in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It was a decisive
Union victory and is often described as the war's turning point.  On the second day of the
battle, both armies had completely assembled.  The Union line was laid out in a
defensive formation resembling a fishhook.  Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union
left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top and Devil's Den.  Little Round
Top was an extremely important hill at the extreme left of the Union line.  Union
General K. Warren realized the importance of the hill and dispatched Vincent's brigade,
an artillery battery, and the 140th New York to occupy and defend Little Round Top.
The defense of Little Round Top with a bayonet charge by the 20th Maine was one of
the most fabled episodes in the Civil War.  This photograph shows an image from Little
Round Top to Devil’s Den.  The picture documents the most deadly battlefield in
American history.         

7. The Yalta Conference


The Yalta Conference was the wartime meeting from February 4, 1945 to February 11,
among the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the
Soviet Union, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston
Churchill, and Josef Stalin.  The meeting was intended to discuss the re-establishment of
the nations of war-torn Europe.  The leaders were trying to establish an agenda for
governing post-war Germany.  The conference convened in the Livadia Palace near
Yalta, the Crimea.  It was the second of three wartime conferences among the Big
Three.  This iconic photograph shows Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt at the Yalta
Also present in the image are Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew
Cunningham and Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Portal (both standing behind
Churchill); and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (standing behind Roosevelt).

6. Images of Racial Segregation


Racial segregation is the separation of different racial groups in daily life activities, such
as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a washroom, attending
school, going to the movies, or purchasing a home.  The United States was highly
segregated until a series of Supreme Court decisions changed national regulations,
beginning with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.  I have included two images
documenting racial segregation in America.  The first picture shows a man drinking
from a segregated water fountain.  The photo was taken in 1950 by Elliot Erwitt.  The
second photograph shows an African American individual entering a movie house
through a segregated entrance.  It was taken in 1939 in Belzoni, Mississippi. 


5. Tiananmen Square Standoff


The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were a series of demonstrations in and near
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.  Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the
protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments
around the world.  The demonstrations were sparked by the death of a pro-democracy
and anti-corruption official Hu Yaobang.  By the eve of Hu's funeral, 1,000,000 people
had gathered at Tiananmen Square.  The resulting military response to the protesters by
the PRC government left many civilians dead or severely injured.  The number of deaths
is not known and many different estimates exist, ranging from 10,000 to 250.  During
the events the Chinese government banned the foreign press from the country.  They
strictly controlled coverage of the events in the PRC press.  This f
amous photo was
taken on June 5, 1989, by photographer Jeff Widener.  It shows the PLA's (
Liberation Army) advancing t
anks being halted by an unknown man near Tiananmen

4. Martin Luther King Jr. Final Photo


Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the
African American civil rights movement.  On April 4, 1968, King was staying at the
Lorraine Motel in Memphis, while standing on the motel’s second floor balcony he was
shot once through his right cheek.  Martin Luther King Jr. was pronounced dead at St.
Joseph's Hospital an hour later.  His assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in
more than 100 cities.  This iconic image was taken moments after King was shot.  You
have to look close, but you can see him lying at the feet of the men on the balcony.  In
the photo it is as if the men are looking directly at the assassin, as all three of them are
pointing at the roof on the opposite side of the motel.

James Earl Ray is the confessed murderer of Martin Luther King Jr.  He was not
captured on the day the crime, but was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport two
months later.  Ray confessed to the crime on March 10, 1969, although three days later
he recanted his confession.  James Earl Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison.  He
spent the remainder of his life attempting to withdraw his guilty plea and secure a new
trial.  Many conspiracy theorists claim that James Earl Ray did not assassinate MLK.      


3. The Battle of Iwo Jima


The Battle of Iwo Jima was a battle in which the United States fought for and captured
Iwo Jima from Japan.  The battle produced some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific
Campaign of World War II
.  The Japanese positions on the island were heavily fortified,
with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 kilometres (11 mi) of underground tunnels.
The battle was the first American attack on the Japanese Home Islands
.  It was
immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the
166 meter (546 ft) Mount Suribachi by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman.  I have
also included a photo of the Iwo Jima shoreline in the aftermath of the battle.


2. Bill Biggart’s Final Photographs


Bill Biggart was a photo journalist working in New York City on the morning of
September 11, 2001.  He was killed when the second World Trade Center collapsed.
Biggart’s was using three separate cameras that day and his bag was discovered with the
remains of his equipment.  One of the cameras he used was a Canon D30 digital
camera.  Upon investigation it was discovered that the flash card in the digital camera
was in working condition.  The card contained the last images that Bill Biggart took
before the tower collapsed.  Over 150 photographs were recovered.  Bill was gradually
moving closer to the destruction with every image.  In most of his photo’s he captures
people’s reactions to the situation, although he also photographs the towers.  I have
included his final two photographs.       



1. Guerrillero Heroico


Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist and major figure in the Cuban Revolution.
Guerrillero Heroico is the name given to Alberto Korda's celebrated photo of Che
Guevara.   It was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for
victims of the La Coubre explosion.  By the end of the 1960's the photo turned the
charismatic and controversial leader into a cultural icon.  Many feel it is the most
famous photograph ever taken.  Korda has stated that at the moment he shot the picture,
he was drawn to Guevara's facial expression, which showed "absolute implacability” as
well as anger and pain.  Guevara was 31 at the time the photo was taken.  Guerrillero
Heroico has been reproduced more than any other image in the history of photography.

Jonathan Green, director of the UCR/California Museum of Photography, has speculated
that "Korda's image has worked its way into languages around the world.  It has become
an alpha-numeric symbol, a hieroglyph, an instant symbol.  It mysteriously reappears
whenever there's a conflict.”

Honorable Mentions

A Snowy Evening


This photograph was taken in March of 1940 in the center of Woodstock, Vermont.
Woodstock is a town in Windsor County, Vermont, that has a population was 3,232
people.  It includes the villages of Woodstock, South Woodstock, and Taftsville.  The
area is a popular tourist attraction and is noted for its scenic beauty and pristine historic
architecture.  This picture titled “snowy night” is the least famous image on this list, but
one of my favorites.  It radiates with a sense of calm and peacefulness.  You can just
imagine what it would have been like to walk on the cold and silent streets of
Woodstock in the 1940’s.  It is a great Christmas time photo. 

James Dean Crash Scene


Look at this picture closely.  Is that James Dean head directly to the left of the man
in the black shirts left knee.  You can see the medical stretcher covered with a
white sheet.  It has been reported that the man in the picture is James Dean's
mechanic.  Picture #2 in the set is more clear.  The man appears to be injured, but not fatally.

James Dean was an American actor that gained success during the 1940’s and 50’s.  On
September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wütherich set off from Competition
Motors, where they had prepared his Porsche 550 Spyder for a sports car race at Salinas,
California.  Dean was driving west on U.S. Route 466 (later State Route 46) near
Cholame, California when a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven
from the opposite direction by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed,
attempted to take the fork onto State Route 41 and crossed into Dean's lane without
seeing him.  The two cars hit almost head on.  Dean was taken to Paso Robles War
Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 5:59 p.m.  His last
known words, uttered right before impact, were said to have been "That guy's gotta
stop... He'll see us."  Here is the famous photo of the crash scene. 

Picture #2 of James Dean Crash

Follow The List Blog - Top 10 on Twitter

Shell - November 9, 2009
Stumbled this list and was impressed. Good luck on your blog.  I know from experience
how tough it is to get and maintain readers.

Sean Berry - November 10, 2009
Very cool list. I didn't even know we had these kind of photos from the civil war.

Former Marine - November 10, 2009
#3 is the SECOND flag. The first one was too small to be seen by off-shore battle
commanders so a squad was sent up to raise a LARGER flag....AFTER the battle for
Mt. Suribachi was over.

Sheri Fresonke Harper - November 14, 2009 
Awesome presentation, first I've seen of Biggart's.

des higgins - November 18, 2009
I think the iconic photograph of Bishop Daly escorting the dead  body of 1 of 14
protesters shot dead by the British Army through the lines of British paratroopers
on Bloody Sunday 30th January 1972 in Derry N.Ireland.


John Bierman captured one of the most iconic images of Bloody Sunday.  The image
portrays a fatally wounded Jackie Duddy being carried away from danger, led by the then
Father (Bishop) Daly waving a white handkerchief.

Jeff - December 1, 2009
No burning monk?


Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to
death at a busy Saigon road intersection on June 11, 1963. 
Journalist Malcolm
Browne's photographed Thích Quảng Đức during his self-immolation.

Brandon - December 1, 2009
Stumbled on to this list and it's fantastic. Imo, I think the
Tiananmen Square Standoff
should be #1. But really, any of these photos could be #1. All amazing shots and tell
even more amazing stories.

MasacruAlex - December 11, 2009

Anonymous - December 30, 2009
Nice Collection. some suggestions:
Phan Thi Kim Phuc, Afghan girl with green eyes, Lynndie England, Sudan famine:
(vulture and child), Marlyn Manroe's white dress blowing up.

Axe - December 30, 2009
I stumbled upon this but I think you left out 2 of the most seen photos' and should
have been in the Top 10 for sure...JFK Assassination and Man on the


J.C. - December 31, 2009
#18 Migrant Mother Florence Thompson: A letter Thompson wrote was published
in The Modesto Bee and the Associated Press sent a story around entitled
"Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo." Florence was quoted as
saying "I wish she [Lange] hadn't taken my picture. I can't get a penny out of it.
She didn't ask my name. She said she wouldn't sell the pictures. She said she'd
send me a copy. She never did.

Lange was funded by the federal government when she took the picture, so the
image was in the public domain and Lange never directly received any royalties.
However, the picture and the attention it received gave a big boost to her career.

Dev Jana - January 3, 2010
What about Ali standing over Sonny Liston? Certainly one of the most popular and
reproduced photographs of all time and worthy of an honorable mention.


Lourie - January 14, 2010
So where's Nelson Mandela walking out of prison? Gandhi doing his thing?


Kydlatmijares - January 13, 2010
Nice list.  Bill Biggart's photos are amazing.

Michael Houghton - January 25, 2010
Thanks for compiling this list.  It seems it could go on and on.  Great to revisit
several of these moments as I do recall many of them.  I was born in 1950 and
remember the Kennedy asassination and subsequent funeral.  I was 14, getting my
first pair of glasses.  This came up on a TV in the doctors office in B&W.  And
more.  Thanks for posting!

Mad Michael John - February 6, 2010
In #15 the man being killed was brought directly fron the generals home where he and a
squad had just killed the wife and family of the man shooting him.  It was personal, not

Shaun - February 11, 2010
It is worth noting that #15 was a lucky picture. The executor pulled his gun and
shot the man just as the photographer was taking a picture of the executed.  Also,
in regards to the Tienamen Square standoff, as soon as the outside photographers
were sent away from the area at nightfall, the tanks simply rolled over the man.
The PLA knew that it would look bad to crush him, so they waited until no one
was around to do so.  I also agree with many of the previous comments saying that
the burning monk, Ghandi, etc. were far more influential. For example, Che
HIMSELF was influential, his image is simply worn by kids who don't know what
he stood for. Some of these images, while powerful, are not as influential as others
which didn't make the cut.

Trish Scott - February 11, 2010
Where is the shot of the screaming running child covered with napalm?


Matt - February 14, 2010
Very good list, but I think you might be missing one.


Kris - February 27, 2010
In the James Dean photo - the person you say is James Dean lying on the ground is
actually his mechanic who survived (based on what I've researched).  There is a
2nd photo with this and the man's head is turned so he is in face someone who is
alive and moving.  Here is another version of that photo with the person's head

Framton Goodman - March 25, 2010
Well done! Of course, there will always be photographs that, perhaps, may have
been included, but you can't put everything in!

Blake - April 14, 2010
We all know there will always be photos that didn't make it, this in mind good job.

Scott - April 21, 2010
What about the picture of The Beatles crossing Abbey Road.


Bryan - April 30, 2010

Good Call, It is a great picture of The Beatles.  I also like the white Beatle Bug car
in the background.  The bizarre conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was killed
in 1966 and replaced with the modern day Paul claims this picture is unusual.

“The belief that the Abbey Road album cover symbolizes a funeral procession
(Lennon is shown dressed all in white, supposedly like a clergyman; Ringo Starr in
a black suit, like an undertaker; George Harrison in blue jeans, supposedly
symbolizing a gravedigger; and McCartney is dressed in a blue suit without shoes,
and is walking out of step with the other Beatles as, supposedly, a corpse would.”

Justin - May 2, 2010
Three Mile Island?  Really?  Why would you consider those photos influential?
I'm not saying that the incident didn't have a significant impact, but the photos
were not only taken days after the incident, they don't show anything happening!
They could have been taken at any time.  Personally I would look at what others
on here are suggesting, such as the photos of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on
the moon, Ali standing over a defeated Liston, or Lee Harvey Oswald being shot.
You have a lot of good choices to replace that Three Mile Island crap.

Bryan - May 7, 2010
Before the 1979 accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island, few had heard of the
nuclear power plant on the Susquehanna River. But the crisis that began 20 years
ago quickly turned the plant and its giant cooling towers into icons in the long
national argument over the safety of nuclear energy.  A team of photo journalists
from the Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the nuclear

Chris - June 1, 2010

Amazing, these are really humbling photos.

Steve - July 8, 2010
Thanks for the lousy, pixilated copies of some famous photos.  Way to disrespect the art.

Manda - July 12, 2010
I really enjoyed the list.  However I thought the picture known as "the soiling of old
glory" would have been there.  But as I type this I realize there are billions upon
billions of picture this composer of this list chose from.  A few of these brought
tears to my eyes.


Michael – December 2, 2010

Nice Blog with good information THX!

TSGF – December 5, 2010

I stumbled across this, excellent work!

Anonymous - January 21, 2011

Great web site!  I am really happy stumbling upon it!

Julie - July 13, 2010

What about the picture of Britney Spears' shaved head?  Just kidding; great list.  I
really appreciated it.

Mike - July 14, 2010

Or the picture of Britney’s shaved something else, ha ha.

Adrian - September 8, 2010

Amazing pictures, I really enjoyed them. Thanks.

Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted November 6, 2009