Winston Churchill by Yousef Karsh


It was one of the most famous portraits ever made. Some say it is the most reproduced image in history. It was on the cover of LIFE magazine when WWII ended. The photo was taken by one of the most famous portrait photographers, Yousef Karsh–known as Karsh of Ottawa–on 30 December, 1941, after Churchill gave a speech to Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. [On the 60th anniversary of that famous speech, Canada honored Karsh and Churchill with a commemorative stamp featuring above photo.]

Karsh was hired by the Canadian government to do this portrait and knew he would have very little time to make the picture. He began by researching Churchill, taking notes on all of the prime minister’s habits, quirks, attitudes and tendencies. When he finally got Churchill seated in the chair, with lights blazing, Churchill snapped “You have two minutes. And that’s it, two minutes.” The truth was that Churchill was angry that he had not been told he was to be photographed; he lit a fresh cigar and puffed mischievously.

Karsh asked Churchill to remove the cigar in his mouth, but Churchill refused. Karsh walked up to Churchill supposedly to get a light level and casually pulled the signature cigar from the lips of Churchill and walked back toward his camera. As he walked he clicked his camera remote, capturing the ‘determined’ look on Churchill’s face, which was in fact a reflection of his indignantcy. Karsh recounted: “I stepped toward him and without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, ‘Forgive me, Sir’ and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant I took the photograph. The silence was deafening. Then Mr Churchill, smiling benignly, said, ‘You may take another one.’ He walked toward me, shook my hand and said, ‘You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.'”

The next photo Karsh took, where Churchill was smiling, was less memorable:


See Karsh’s famous portrait photos here. Also, follow me and Iconic Photos on Twitter here.

9/11 by James Nachtwey


One of the most influential living photographers today is American James Nachtwey, who had captured tumultuous events in South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. He shot pictures of war, conflict and famine, and images of socio-political issues (pollution, crime and punishment). He won coveted Robert Capa Gold Medal an unprecedented 5 times.

Nachtwey was one of the first photographers to respond to the events of 9/11 because he lives just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site. His above photo captures the moment when the South Tower collapsed; even in that early moments of War on Terror, Nachtwey saw the comforting presence of a religious icon and also the conflict between the Judeo-Christian West and the Islamic Middle East. The photo was the centrepiece of his photoessay, Shattered.

See his TED talk here.

Patty Hearst Kidnapping


A photograph released by the FBI shows Patty Hearst in front of a symbol of the Symbionese Liberation Army. It was a S.L.A. publicity photo.

Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was herself the central character of one of the biggest news stories of 1970s. At 9 p.m. on Feb. 4, 1974,  the 19-year-old heiress was kidnapped by a ratty band of Bay Area anarchistic urban revolutionaries, the Symbionese National Liberation Army, from her Berkeley apartment. Her 26 year old fiancé Steven Weed was badly beaten by the group.

Patty was to spend most of the next 56 days in a closet while being both physically and sexually abused. The S.L.A. demanded as ransom that her father feed all the hungry in California. Although $6 million worth of food was distributed–resulting in near riots in some locations–Patty was not released, the group citing poor quality of the food. The S.L.A also hoped to “exchange prisoners” as two of their own were being held for the assassination of Marcus Foster.

Later, audio tapes from the group featuring a militant-sounding Patty Hearst began appearing; she soon informed the world that she was joining the group and had taken on the name ‘Tania.’ Criminal psychologists who studied the Stockholm bank robbery a year earlier knew what had happened to her. Public opinion towards Ms. Hearst turned when she was seen participating in the Hibernia Bank robbery on April 15, 1974. She was photographed wielding an M1 Carbine while robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco. A warrant was issued and on 18th September 1975, she was arrested in a San Francisco apartment with other SLA members. While being booked into prison, she listed her occupation as “Urban Guerilla.”

In her trial, which commenced on January 15, 1976, her attorney F. Lee Bailey claimed that Hearst had been brainwashed, and coerced into taking part in the bank robbery. However, her refusal to give evidence against the other captured SLA members. weakened her case, and she was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. Her prison term was also eventually commuted by President Jimmy Carter after 22 months, and was granted a full pardon by Bill Clinton on his last day in office on January 20, 2001. Nowadays, Hearst is a socialite, not a guerrilla, though she appears in a number of director John Waters’ subversive, sly and crude comedies.


Patty Hearst caught on a CCTV camera during the robbery. See the reel here.


The Death of Che Guevara


Che Guevara disappeared from the political scene in April 1965 and his whereabouts have been much debated since. His death has been reported several times during the past two-and-a-half years, in the Congo and in the Dominican Republic, but has never been proven. After leading communist insurrections in Guatemala, Cuba and Congo, Che Guevara’s next stop was Bolivia, where he was less than successful. On October 7 1967, his campsite was attacked, and Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner. He shouted “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.” However, he refused to be interrogated and the Bolivian government decided to execute him, carefully orchestrating the execution to make sure that the bullet wounds appear consistent with the official story which stated that Che had been killed in action.

The day after his execution on October 10, 1967, Guevara’s body was then lashed to the landing skids of a helicopter and flown to nearby Vallegrande where photographs were taken, showing a figure described by some as “Christ-like” lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta hospital. The above iconic shot was taken by Freddy Alberto. After the photos, his hands were cut off, so that they could be taken to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. He was buried in an unmarked mass grave.

libera_pozytywy_06A parodic reenactment

0.71704100 1191848539 AFP File Photo

Patterson Bigfoot


It was not only the most famous recording of an alleged Bigfoot, but also one of the last major ‘sitings’ of the creature. On October 20th 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured a purported Sasquatch with 16mm camera at Bluff Creek, California. Patterson and Gimlin were an expedition to find the elusive creature in the Bluff Creek area of the Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California after large footprints had been found in this region in previous years.

The famed Patterson-Gimlin film shows a large, manlike creature striding through a clearing. Unlike many alleged Bigfoot photographs, the subject in the film cannot be a misidentification. Either the film is a hoax or it is an unknown, hairy giant. The film is presented as the best evidence of Bigfoot by many advocates, and discounted by many scientists as a hoax. Many years later, Bob Heironimus, an acquaintance of Patterson’s, claimed that he had worn an ape costume for the making of the film. Both men have always dismissed allegations that they had hoaxed the footage by filming a man wearing an ape suit.

Lennon-Ono Bed-in


Every generation has its couples who mesmerize the public: General and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Kahlo and Rivera, Jack and Jackie Kennedy, Brangelina, etc. In the late 60s, it was Yoko Ono and John Lennon. They married on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar. Knowing that their wedding would cause a huge stir in the press, John Lennon and Yoko Ono decided to use their honeymoon to help champion world peace. On March 25, the duo climbed into their honeymoon bed of room 902 at the Amsterdam Hilton and called the media.

Because of their well known proclivity for appearing in the nude, the press assumed that Ono and Lennon would have sex in front of the cameras. Instead, the two appeared in pyjamas and talked about world peace. The press was invited into their rooms from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for seven days, but many journalists didn’t take the bed-in seriously, saying they were merely publicity stunts. However, there were many prominent photographers present during the week long bed-in, including Roy Kerwood, Elmar Welge, Nico Koster, Cor Jaring, Gerry Deiter, Ivor Sharp and Bob Gruen.

After the Amsterdam stunt, Ono and Lennon held their “Bagism” press conference in Vienna Austria. In their view, by living in a bag, a person could not be judged on the basis of appearance. They went on to stage a second event in Montreal, where they stayed in rooms 1738-40-02 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. On June 1, 1969, they recorded the song “Give Peace A Chance” there, accompanied by a roomful of people that included Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, and members of the Canadian Radha Krishna Temple. The song became popular, reaching no. 14 on the Billboard chart.


The Twickenham Streaker


It was LIFE magazine’s “Picture of the Year”, it won a World Press Photo Award. However, a more fitting moniker comes from People Magazine, which named it, “Picture of The Decade”. Indeed this Ian Bradshaw photo of streaker Michael O’Brien–arms outstretched as if he were Jesus–captured the peak of the social unrest and the changing values that defined the 70s–hippie culture, raising political awareness, increasing political and economic liberties, political advocacy for world peace and against nuclear weapons, and the battle against authority of government and big business

The photo was taken an England-France rugby match at Twickenham in February 1974. During the half-time break, O’Brien, an Australian accountant, dashed naked before a crowd of 53,000, including Princess Alexandra. Constable Bruce Perry took off his helmet to cover O’Brien’s private parts. “I feared he would be mobbed, or that other people would follow suit.  I felt embarrassed so I covered him up as best I could,” he added, “It was a cold day – he had nothing to be proud of.” O’Brien claimed that he did this for a bet. The next day he was fined the exact sum (£10) he had won in the bet, and he subsequently lost his job with a London stockbroking firm

He was Twickenham’s first streaker – and the first at a major sporting event, too. Yet, O’Brien opened the way–or at least showed it–for many other streakers: the next year, Michael Angelow, a navy cook at the Ashes; in 1982, ‘Busty’ Erica Roe on the same hallowed grounds of Twickenham; Melissa Johnson in front of the Duke of Kent at Wimbledon in 1996, Geordie Brynn Reed in front of the Queen’s Rolls Royce on her Jubilee visit to Newcastle in 2002 and most notoriously, Mark Roberts–the ‘serial streaker’–who had exposed himself for over 150 times.

The Ian Bradshaw photo on the other hand became a famous icon. In 1974, the word ‘streaking’ first entered the English language. The Rugby Club in London erected a statue by Walter Keethner, based on the shot.  It appeared on greeting cards and billboards in Britain, and in Australia Holeproof used it as part of an advertisement in 1991, much to O’Brien’s disgust.  “[It] implies I am in some way endorsing Holeproof products, which isn’t the case,” he said.  The ad had him asking the bobby for directions to a “20 per cent off Holeproof underwear sale.”  In 1995, a British telecommunications company used to photo to advertise that phone numbers were having a digit added.


Executions at Nuremberg


Above clockwise: Streicher, Jodl, Sauckel, Frick, Ribbentrop; below, clockwise from topright, Keitel, Rosenberg, Seyss-Inquart, Frank, Kaltenbrunner, Goering.

Nazi_death2Although the Nuremberg Trials had been a media circus, only a selected group of reporters were allowed into the execution chambers of the Nazi war criminals. The authorities feared that the Nazi leaders would get sympathy or they would become martyrs if the executions turned into a media spectacle. Eight journalists from Big Four countries were selected by lottery, but only one photographer (and he was from U.S. Army) was allowed behind the close doors to report the last moments inside the prison.

The French judges suggested the use of a firing squad for the military condemned, but the other judges deemed undignified execution by hanging more appropriate. The hangings were carried out on 16 October 1946 by the executioner John C. Woods. Of the 12 defendants sentenced to death by hanging, two were not hanged: Hermann Göring committed suicide the night before the execution and Martin Bormann was not present when convicted. The remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged. The bodies were brought to Dachau and burned (the final use of the crematories there) with the ashes then scattered into a river.

The pictures of the executed corpses made by Edward F. McLaughlin (the U.S army photographer) were released in November (to dispel the rumors that the hangings which were conducted secretly, were bungled or never carried out), and were received by much disapproval. Many feared the criminals becoming the martyrs through these pictures. The British government voted against releasing the pictures on moral grounds, and no British publications reproduced them, honoring their government’s desires. The pictures were forbidden in the German press. LIFE magazine, above, however , reproduced them.





Now that you are here: I am doing something crassly commercial here. I just signed up for Patreon. Patreon is a fundraising platform. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.” As you may notice in last few years, I have been posting very infrequently. But I want IP to go on for a long time and be sustainable. Linking a monetary value to a new post (not a ‘monthly salary’ — which is another way of doing Patreon) should give me a marginal incentive to write more. As far as the blog is concerned, nothing will change. No paywalls. Patreon is more useful for YouTubers and podcasters, but let’s see how it goes for me: 

Dali, Cage and Rhinos


In 1956, Salvador Dalí created a sculpture entitled Rinoceronte vestido con puntillas (Rhinoceros dressed in lace). He was inspired by a woodcut created by Albrecht Dürer in 1515, popularly known as Dürer’s Rhinoceros. Starting in the 50s, Dali painted several of his subjects as composed of rhinoceros horns. According to Dalí, the rhinoceros horn signifies divine geometry because it grows in a logarithmic spiral. He also linked the rhinoceros to themes of chastity and to the Virgin Mary: “The rhino horn is indeed the legendary unicorn horn, symbol of chastity. The young lady may choose to lie on it or to morally play with it; as it was usual in courtesan love epochs”.

As an homage to Vermeer, he painted a study of The Lacemaker composed entirely of exploding rhinoceros horns. This piece, Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer’s Lacemaker was painted at the Paris Zoo. In 1958, his tribute to the 300th anniversary of the death of Velasquez, the Infanta Margarita, also included rhinoceros horns, which converge to define the head of the Infanta. In the above 1952 photo, Dali–equipped with his only horn–pays a homage of a rhinoceros.

The photo was taken by Phillippe Halsman, who met Dalí in 1941 and started collaborating with him in the late 1940s. Their 1948 work Dali Atomicus explores the idea of suspension. Halsman and Dali eventually released a compendium of their collaborations in the 1954 book Dali’s Mustache, which features 36 different views of the artist’s distinctive mustache. The photo was homaged by Annie Leibovitz in 1996 photoshoot with Nicolas Cage.


H-Bomb vaporizes Elugelab


“Ivy’s explosion broke the stillness of a mid-Pacific morning on Nov. 1, 1952; at 7:15 a.m., observers on ships and planes 50 miles away watched an enormous deep-orange fireball blaze up in the distance. Then it rose to the stratosphere, trailed by a churning grey-brown pillar of water and the pulverized remains of the little sandspit of Elugelab. As the cloud cooled, it began to billow outward. Its colors lost their infernal intensity, paled to harmless-looking but deadly pastels. Then, slowly the 100-mile-wide cauliflower drifted away and disappeared.” — TIME, April 26th 1954.

About the test–and the subsequent one 15 days later–the public only heard rumors for more than a year. Only in the early 1954 that the government decided to release the full story. In March 1954, the press published some statistics about the blast, along with black and white photographs. Some still-cuts from color motion pictures followed. In the April 26th issue of the TIME magazine, it published the first color pictures of the test, which was taken with a still camera of the explosion at Elugelab. Above was one of those pictures.

Elugelab, part of the Enewetak Atoll, was completely vaporized by the weapon.

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Monica and Bill


Dirck Halstead–who started his photo career  covering the 1954 Guatemalan coup at the age of 17–was already a veteran Time magazine photographer in 1998. When Mr. Halstead first saw news photos of Ms. Lewinsky, as the, he said to himself: “I’ve seen that face. I’ve photographed that face.” So he asked researchers to begin inspecting his photo archives, stored at the University of Texas.

It yielded nothing. So, he hired a researcher to look through 18 boxes, each with 1,000 transparencies, stacked in a Time magazine room. After five days, and roughly 5,000 images, one frame was found. It was taken in the last days of the campaign at an Oct. 23, 1996 fund-raiser at the Washington Sheraton for the Saxophone Club which were young democrats. Time magazine decided to sit on the image for eight months, until Ms. Lewinsky agreed to testify before the grand jury in August 1998. (The photo won the Elsie Award for cover photography).

Within six hours of Time magazine putting out that picture, ABC was able to go into their files and find the video. Once they had the date and event, they had a place to look. The reporters raced to the White House archives to discover what Clinton said on that day; he said these dubious words, “I was tired when I walked in, but I’m not tired any more. You’ve given me a lot of energy.”

Dirck Halstead had this to say about why he remembered Lewinsky’s face and other photographers present at that fund raiser did not: “This goes to the whole point of how we can lose our visual legacy: On that stand with me that night were photographers from AFP, AP and Reuters, and they were all shooting the same thing. The difference is, they were shooting digital.”


Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare


He was arguably the last century’s greatest photographer, and the photograph above was to Time magazine, “The Photo of the Century”. While honored and remembered as the premier photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson also gave the world the jewels of the street photography, most famous among which was this 1932 picture, Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare.

By then, photographs of puddle jumpers were clichés, but as New York Times remembered, “Cartier-Bresson brings to his image layer on layer of fresh and uncanny detail: the figure of a leaping dancer on a pair of posters on a wall behind the man mirrors him and his reflection in the water; the rippling circles made by the ladder echo circular bands of discarded metal debris; another poster, advertising a performer named Railowsky, puns with the railway station and the ladder, which, flat, resembles a railroad track.”

However, the picture that defined Cartier-Bresson’s career was ironically one of only two pictures he cropped. He detested the darkroom techniques and to prevent his editors from cropping, he sent his pictures with a black border — the frame he himself imposed at the instant he snapped the picture. However, behind the train station, he couldn’t managed to do this:

“There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped. The space between the planks was not entirely wide enough for my lens, which is the reason why the picture is cut off on the left,” he explained in his usual laconic manner.

Read H.C.-B.’s obituary by James Nachtwey here.