The image of a napalm scarred little girl running from her burning village in Vietnam is one of the most well known photographs in the world.
Kim Phuc, the girl featured in the image, is now receiving free laser surgery to cover her scars, 40 years after that terrible day. However the famous photograph displays far more than a young girl’s suffering, and has since become a symbol of war and human brutality. Here are 20 of the most iconic photographs ever taken – each one a true example of the old adage, ‘a picture can speak a thousand words’.
1. Black Power Salute
Athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos created an international controversy by raising their fists in the air on the medal podium in a black power salute at the 1968 Olympics.
The image is now seen as a symbol of defiance and equality in the face of adversity.
2. Jesse Owens defies Hitler
Black USA athlete Jesse Owens was credited with ‘single-handedly crush[ing] Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy’ after winning several gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
However, despite standing higher on the podium than his friend and competitor, German Luz Long (who was giving a Nazi salute), Owens was still shunned when he returned to the segregated society of 1930s America.
3. Tank Man
As tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing to suppress protests, one man bravely stood in front of the column, stopping the entire might of the Chinese army.
Taken on June 5, 1989, the ‘tank man’ quickly became one of the most famous photos in the world.
4. Abu Ghraib torture
One of the shocking images released which showed US military torturing and abusing Iraqi prisons in Abu Ghraid prison.
Two soldiers, Specialists Charles Graner and Lynndie England, were imprisoned for their crimes against the prisoners, while many more were dishonorably discharged.
5. Cheeky Einstein
Albert Einstein – the man who developed the theory of relativity and was thought so highly of that his name became synonymous with intelligence.
In this comical image he showed that even they smartest amongst us can have a lighter side.
He signed one of the original prints of this photo for the photographer – in 2009 it was sold at auction for $74,324 (£48,500).
6. Vietnam Execution
This shocking image shows South Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Vietcong member Nguyen Van Lem in the street.
Although the photo has become synonymous with the horrors or war, the photographer, Eddie Adams, said he felt sorry for Nguyen Ngọc Loan as he felt the image ruined his life and the life of his family.
7. ‘Wait for me, Daddy’
‘Wait for Me, Daddy’, is the touching photograph of young Canadian Warren Bernard running after his father who had just signed up to the war effort during WWII.
It might look like a haunting snapshot of war’s ability to tear families apart, but at the time Claude P Dettloff’s photo was used as a propaganda tool to sell war bonds.
Speaking of propaganda…
8. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
Perhaps the most famous image in American military history – marines raising the stars and stripes above Iwo Jima after an extremely violent battle with the Japanese.
Senior commanders immediately recognised the photo’s power and went about using it to shore up support (and money) for the war effort.
Some of the men raising the flag were killed in battle shortly after the photo was taken, leading to confusion over who was actually in the image.
9. Father Luis Manuel Padilla
Father Luis Manuel Padilla holds a wounded government rifleman shot down in the streets of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, during a bloody revolt against President Betancourt in June 1962.
More than 200 were killed before rebels were beaten. This photo won the Pulitzer Prize for photographer Hector Rondon.
10. Famine in Sudan
Perhaps the most heartbreaking image ever taken, Kevin Carter’s picture of a starving girl in Sudan, taken in 1993, sparked much controversy.
Carter would commit suicide a year after taking the photo, at the age of 33.
It is unknown if the girl in the image survived.
11. Migrant mother during the Great Depression
Dorothea Lange’s photo of migrant mother Florence Owens Thompson during the Great Depression gives a perfect depiction of the desperate situation many families found themselves in at the time.
12. Standing up to Himmler
The image of a man standing up to Heinrich Himmler, one of the architects of the Holocaust, has become an iconic image of defiance against evil.
Same historians name the captured soldier as British POW Horace Greasley, whereas others claim the man is a Soviet soldier.
13. Birthday cake
Why would a police chief and protesters be sharing cake with one another?
This Brazilian general reportedly pleaded with protesters not to use violence on his birthday, so they went a bought him a cake instead, bringing him to tears.
It’s easy to see why this image has become symbolic of peace between adversaries.
14. The Falling Man
‘The falling man’ is one of the simplest and most horrifying images from 9/11.
His identity has never been confirmed.
15. Mandela walks free
Nelson Mandela walks free from prison on February 11, 1990, having spent 27 years behind bars.
Many feared his release and the end of apartheid would spark a civil war in South Africa, however Mandela became a symbol of peace of reconciliation, and is now known as the father of a modern and peaceful South Africa.
16. Neil Armstrong after first moon-walk
Neil Armstrong, pictured moments after stepping back into the lunar module on Apollo 11, having just become the first human being to walk on the moon.
His face betrays a man who doesn’t know if he wants to laugh or cry having just been at the forefront of one of humanity’s greatest achievements.
17. Major Terri Gurrola reunites with her daughter
Major Terri Gurrola breaks down upon being reunited with her daughter Gabi.
Gurrola was returning from a year-long deployment in Iraq and was scared her young daughter would forget her.
This is what a young girl who was born in a Nazi concentration camp drew when she was asked to draw ‘home’.
Both her traumatised look and her inability to understand such a basic concept make this one of the most haunting photographs ever taken.
19. Greg Cook and his dog Coco
Greg Cook embraces his dog Coco after she crawled out of the rubble of his home, which was destroyed by a tornado in northern Alabama in 2012.
20. All in one photo
Every single person, living and dead, was captured in this photograph, apart from one – Michael Collins.
Collins took this photo of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in the lunar module heading towards the moon with Earth in the background.
21. ‘Napalm girl’ – one moment later
This image was taken immediately after the famous ‘napalm girl’ photo as TV crews and South Vietnamese troops look on in horror and douse Kim Phuc in water.