20 Of The Most Powerful and Iconic Moments In History Captured On Camera

By far one of the biggest mediums of capturing moments in history is photography. Photojournalists down the ages have given us some fantastic incidents etched on celluloid immortalized by a single time frame in history. Such moments captured through the lens of a photographer will never be forgotten due to their fame derived from being passed down by generations of print media; let’s take a look at ten iconic moments in history captured on celluloid.


1US Paratroopers briefing in WWII

This is a shot of US paratroopers of the 17th airborne division all with Mohawk hairstyles being briefed just before operation Varsity in March 1945. It was platoon leader Lt Tyrrell Devolin who thought it a great idea for the division to sport the Mohawk but when it was noticed by Lt Col Barnett, the entire platoon were made to shave their heads entirely.


Operation Varsity on 24th March 1945 was history’s largest and most successful airborne operations involving 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft all part of operation plunder that would become part of the assault into northern Germany. The 17th Airborne was in charge of capturing the village of Diesrfordt and clear the area of German forces.

US Paratroopers briefing in WWII

Image Source: www.imgur.com


2 Wounded Civil rights leader James Meredith

This iconic photo by Jack Thornell won the Pulitzer Prize on June 6th, 1966. It showed Civil rights activist James Meredith in pain as he struggles to get off the road of Highway 51 after being shot in Hernando Mississippi on June 6th, 1966. Meredith was the first American African to attend Mississipi University.

Wounded Civil rights leader James Meredith

Image Source: www.inland360.com


3Young Barack Obama with his Mother

This is one of the rare photographs of Barack Obama as a young boy with his mother Ann Dunham. Barack Obama was born in Honolulu Hawaii on August 4th 1961. His Mother Ann Dunham was from Wichita, Kansas and was of English descent while his father Barack Obama Sr was from Nyangoma Kogelo, Kenya. After a divorce, his father returned to Kenya and remarried while Obama continued living with his mother.

Young Barack Obama with his Mother

Image Source: www.imgur.com


4Hiroshima bombing survivor winning Boston Marathon in 1951

This is 19 years old Shigeki Tanaka a schoolboy who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945.In 1951; he entered the Boston Marathon and won the event. When he crossed the finished line, there was total silence. Tanaka who broke the tape at 2:27:45, described the bombing as a great white light.

Hiroshima bombing survivor winning Boston Marathon in 1951

Image Source: www.historyphoto66.com


5Japanese soldier about to decapitate a Chinese

The Japanese during the World war era weren’t exactly innocent either. This photo taken during the Nanking massacre in 1938 is shocking no doubt. But even more shocking is the cold-bloodedness involved. It was captured the moment a Japanese soldier was explaining to the Chinese prisoner how to hold his head for a quick decapitation.

Japanese soldier about to decapitate a Chinese

Image Source: www.imgur.com


6Bobby Orr scoring the winning goal in Stanley Cup 1970

An iconic photo no less as even sports history is after all history too. This is a shot of Bobby Orr Sailing through the air after he tripped but still managed to score the winning goal for the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup of 1970.

Bobby Orr scoring the winning goal in Stanley Cup 1970

Image Source: www.twimg.com


7Hitler banned this photo in 1930

This is a photograph of Adolph Hitler wearing Lederhosen which was leather shorts and H shaped braces. It was taken by his own photographer Henrich Hoffman but when Hitler saw the photograph he banned its publication because he considered it below his dignity and of course it also showed his wobbly knees.

Hitler banned this photo in 1930

Image Source: www.twimg.com

8The fall of the Berlin wall even as East German guards spray water cannons

This was one of the most iconic photographs taken by photojournalist Alexandra Avakian who witnessed one of the most profound events in history, the breaking of the Berlin wall on November 7th, 1989. Alexandra waited from November 5th for the event to happen when this was the first group of men she captured on film hammering the wall with hammers, even as East German guards tried spraying them with water cannons through the cracks.

The fall of the Berlin wall

Image Source: www.thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com


9Pulitzer prize photograph of the most infamous scene ever taken in history

One of the most infamous and iconic photographs ever shot in the history of photography, Photographer Eddie Adams captured the scene just as Major General Nguyen Ngoc Loan of the South Vietnamese army shot Nguyen Van Lem a Viet cong officer who operated a murderous gang of criminals accused of continued killings of police officers in Saigon. He was also well known for his hit and run tactics murdering not just Police officers but their families too.
This is also a prime example of negative reporting because what people don’t see is the reason why this man is being executed. Adams revealed he had no idea what he was shooting and it also destroyed all American pro-war sentiment. It also destroyed the life of the officer Major General Loan. But it benefited Adams who won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo.

Pulitzer prize photograph

Image Source: www.atlasgallery.com


10Dazed Syrian Boy after being pulled out of rubble from a bombing raid

This may not be very old history but it will be history nevertheless. As one of the most tragic examples of the war in Syria, this is a photo of a little boy Omran Daqneesh sitting dazed and unresponsive in the back of an ambulance van in Aleppo. The boy was rescued from rubble caused by an airstrike either by the Syrian government or Russian forces. The bomb was dropped on his home and what moved the entire world was seeing the little fellow in total shock. He did not move till the video showed him lifting his hand to brush away the blood from his head. So much for humanity.

Dazed Syrian Boy after being pulled out of rubble

Image Source: www.cnn.com

11 Testing the bulletproof vest 1923

This uncanny photo has been shot at the precise moment showing W.H. Murphy taking 2 bullets to his chest wearing his bulletproof vest that he invented for the police department. The lightweight vest was manufactured by the protective garment corporation of New York and the demonstration was conducted in Washington DC. Murphy took two bullets from a .38 caliber revolver. The bullets only pierced the vest and left Murphy unharmed.

Testing the bullet proof vest 1923

Image Source: www.gagdaily.com

12 Emotional moment at Ground Zero

Take in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade center at Ground Zero, this photo captured firemen George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein hoisting the American flag and raising the spirit of America. Despite the carnage where 3000 innocent people died, the act sent out a message that America will always stand strong.

Emotional moment at Ground Zero

Image Source: www.buzzfeed.com


13 No place like home

Tracy Caldwell Dyson was inspired to become an astronaut after the tragic disaster of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 that killed all 7 crew members. Dyson fulfilled her dream in 1998 and spent 200 days in space. This photo captures her looking out of the windows in the International Space Station peering at the curvature of the earth as seen 217 miles up in space.

No place like home

Image Source: www.isslive.com

14 Man refusing to do the Nazi salute

Shipyard worker August Landmesser from Hamburg Germany became famous when he was captured in this photograph refusing to do the Nazi salute among hundreds of people around him giving the notorious Nazi salute. Taken in 1926 at the height of Hitler’s popularity, you can see Landmesser stand defiant with arms crosses. Unfortunately, Landmessner whose wife was Jewish was arrested for dishonoring his own race and jailed. His wife was sent to a concentration camp and children to an orphanage. Even after his release five years later, there is no further news of Landmesser who was presumed dead.

Man refusing to do the Nazi salute

Image Source: www.fontanka.ru

15 Ali’s iconic moment in boxing history

It was an awesome moment for the world’s most famous boxer Muhammad Ali when he defeated Sonny Liston in the first round on May 25th 1965. Ali threw his famous phantom punch knocking Liston out cold. The fantastic moment was captured by photographer John Rooney showing Ali screaming at Liston to get up even as the opponent lay flat out on the mat.

Ali’s iconic moment in boxing history

Image Source: www.theatlantic.com


16 First man to jump from stratosphere

Australian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the sound barrier without any automotive power on 14th October 2012. Felix jumped from a hot air balloon that took him high up into the stratosphere where he jumped at a speed of 1,357.64 km/h. Although Felix’s record was broken by Alan Eustace two years later, his moment in time was captured on photograph and will never be forgotten.

First man to jump from stratosphere

Image Source: www.lolwot.com


17 Flag rising at Iwo Jima

Among iconic moments in history, this could well be America’s most favorite and famous moment. War Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured this iconic moment of marines hoisting the stars and stripes at Iwo Jimo after the island was recaptured from Japanese forces on Feb 23rd 1945. The photograph won Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize for photography.

Flag rising at Iwo Jima

Image Source: www.townnews.com

18 Martin Luther’s famous speech

American history will remember this man for his most famous speech epitomized by the lines ‘I have a dream”. Martin Luther the human rights activist delivered this famous and inspirational speech from the steps of the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC to a crowd 250,000 strong. It was said that the speech united the country which meant the end of segregation.

Martin Luther’s famous speech

Image Source: www.seacoastonline.com

19 Defiance in the presence of Himmler

This could well be one of the best photographs of the war. During Himmler’s inspection of prisoners of war sometime in 1941, this soviet soldier stands erect and stares Himmler in the eye with the barbed wire fence the only barrier separating the two.

Defiance in the presence of Himmler

Image Source: www.buzzfeed.com

20 Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge

Perhaps among the best iconic moments in history is this photograph of painters posing on the Brooklyn Bridge which is considered the 8th wonder of the world. This photo taken on October 7, 1914 shows painters taking a break while painting Americas famous landmark.

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge

Image Source: www.phorum.gr


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