Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

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with 33 comments

I have been planning to write this for weeks. Ever since I came back from my Christmas holiday, I had been in some jam of one sort or another. Firstly, I had been superbusy, juggling work and my ever-deteriorating relationship. Moreover, as I noted before, there is iconicity shortage in air–the very notions of decisive moment or iconic image are challenged by the plethora of photos and videos we see each day online, while I feel increasingly unsure what to post after some 600 of them. Another development is that I had been contacted by some heirs of some photographers to take down some posts.

The primary purpose of this post is to ask you to name photos that you deem iconic (provided that the photo has not been covered by this blog). I know I haven’t covered some really famous photos–Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima one, because so much had already been written about it, and some more (Batterments’s Grief, Leibowitz’s Lennon) because they had always been on my back-burner. Currently, I would like to hear the audience’s import. For those who lived through a pre-internet age, the images can be more poignant and memorable, and I would like to hear what their ‘iconic’ memories are.

A. S. H.

Calais. February 21st 2010.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

33 Responses

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  1. In my job as a high school history teacher, I use lots of photos and other images. Going by my students’ reaction, I would say this one is the most powerful:


    February 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  2. Unfortunately, most of my life has been lived in the internet age…that’s one of the reasons why I have found your blog so interesting. Many of the photos were previously unknown to me, so I’m afraid I can’t offer any suggestions.


    February 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

  3. challenger explosion
    theisman’s leg

    That Guy

    February 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

  4. I’m in a similar situation to “mary” above. I find this site so refreshing because it covers so many things that I wasn’t aware of.

    Sorry I can’t contribute any ideas.


    February 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm

  5. I don’t know of any specific photos but how about something on these topics:
    Nelson Mandela giving the cup to François Pienaar in the 1995 Rugby World Cup


    February 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

  6. The internet is irrelevant, a notable and interesting image will always be valuable.

    You should continue to decide what is ‘iconic’. Your judgement is good. Be confident.

    Doogie Longdorf

    February 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm

  7. like what doogie longdorf said, i like your judgement. that’s why i read this blog!


    February 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm

  8. I had never seen that “Soiling Old Glory” photo before, even though I walk down the brick walkway where that photo was taken several times a week. Boston has some unpleasant recent racial history.

    I have no great suggestions, but I do love this blog.

    Phil O.

    February 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

  9. Altamont.
    Human Be-In.
    FSM Sit In.
    Janis Joplin.
    Jimi Hendrix.
    Johnson Scar Photo.
    Flower in Gun Barrel.
    Kent State.
    Patty Hearst.
    Mallory and Irvine.
    Roe v. Wade
    Bikini Atoll
    Duck and Cover
    Howdy Doody
    Che Dead
    Falkland Islands War
    Beach Boys
    Gulf War I; Road of Death leading out of Kuwait.
    Obama smoking in college.
    Frozen mammoth
    DNA Crick


    February 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm

  10. the child being stalked by a vulture
    Viet war: mai lei and napalm images
    afghan girl
    mass jewish graves wwII
    the killing fields

    i think you’re doing an amazing job anyway – love the ones out of left field (eg mj with the first bushes, or was it carters? was awesome, anyway).

    I tend to find the most striking photos – the ones tha stay with me – are ones that depict death: an image can convey the enormity of the situation in a way that words cannot.


    February 22, 2010 at 12:12 am

  11. Robert Capa’s “American soldier killed by German snipers Leipzig Germany April 18 1945”

    ROBERT CAPA American soldier killed by German snipers Leipzig Germany April 18 1945

    Anthony Starks

    February 22, 2010 at 12:13 am

  12. maxell “blown away” ad


    February 22, 2010 at 1:47 am

    • and love your site…congrats


      February 22, 2010 at 1:54 am

  13. Spanish civil war
    – Guernica bombing : http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H25224,_Guernica,_Ruinen.jpg
    – “Execution” of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Communist militiamen : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/57/SpanishLeftistsShootStatueOfChrist.jpg


    February 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

  14. I agree with the others above me here, your choice in photos, and especially the way you describe them (more like the whole picture behind it) is always brilliant, and I for one appreciate it. Thanks!🙂

    I have a couple good suggestions…I have a couple notes on them written down somewhere, I have to dig up the actual photos I’m talking about.

    Keep it up!

    Rob Rascally

    February 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm

  15. I love coming to this site and seeing what you’ve posted. I’ve learned many interesting things that I would have never learned anywhere else. I like the randomness and spontaneity of the posts that cover so many different topics. I also like it when you are able to dig up an interesting and relevant photo when someone is in the news (i.e. Alexander Haig, Dick Francis). Please keep up the good work.


    February 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm

  16. I don’t know if I can recall every photo you’ve done, so I might be suggesting repeats. Nonetheless, some come to mind:

    – Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run
    – Diego Maradona and the “Hand of God”
    – Matthew Brady’s photo of Abe Lincoln

    Frankly a lot of sports ones come to mind. Do you prefer famous photos to photos of famous moments?


    February 23, 2010 at 5:23 am

  17. I’m from Germany and my English is very bad but I try to express me in a clear and straight style. I’m a great admirerer of your business in the iconic photo collection. I’m astonished about the pictures and their history behind them. Now I want to complete your archive by naming some pictures, they’re in my iconic archive. Many pictures are from german history. I would greet it,
    if you incorporate some pics out of my list. Here is it:

    2006 – Headbutt Zidane and Materazzi
    2006 – Joseph Ackermann gives Victory sign
    2005 – Bush makes a grimasse at the door in Beijng
    2005 – Dog Poop Girl in the Tokio Subway
    2004 – Corpse of Theo van Gogh
    2002 – The Kapuzenman in Abu Ghraib
    2001 – David Beckham’s Goal against Greece
    1999 – Lady Di’s last photograph
    1997 – The Ear-Mouse
    1997 – Holyfield’s ear
    1995 – Rene Higueta’s scorpion kick against England
    1992 – The Pisser (Neonazi), Rostock Lichtenhagen Riot
    1990 – Terry Butcher trenched in Blood
    1990 – Angela Merkel in Lobbe, Ruegen
    1985 – swearing-in of Joschka Fischer (in sneakers)
    1983 – The Rumsfeld-Saddam Handshake
    1969 – Jean-Pierre Bonnotte: Charles de Gaulle
    1968 – Klarsfeld cuffs Kiesinger
    1968 – Gilles Caron: Cohn-Bendit in Paris
    1967 – Juergen Henschel: Death of Benno Ohnesorg
    1967 – Thomas Hesterberg: Kommune 1
    1962 – Lu Houmin: Mao plays Ping Pong
    1958 – Rolf Unterberg: Adenauer plays Boccia
    1952 – Peter Mueller knocks referee k.o.
    1951 – The Rosenberg Kiss
    1946 – The Grotewohl-Pieck Handshake
    1945 – last known photo of Hitler
    1939 – Erwin Blumfeld: Lis Fonssagrives at Eiffel Tower
    1938 – March in of German troops in Eger
    1936 – Stalin and Gelya Markizova


    February 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  18. Big fan of the site

    How about that shot inside the US military transport plane showing the flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq?

    60 MPa

    February 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  19. How about a shot of people grinding their dull old axes?


    February 24, 2010 at 6:44 pm

  20. Thanks for putting my suggestion in your gallery. Every da I look for news here and read your comments to the pics with great attention. A Question: How do you think what a pic makes it iconic?
    Here I try to write another list. These pics are iconic for me too:

    1856 – Duchenne de Boulogne: Contractions musculaires 1 + 2
    1867 – Francois Aubert: Maximilian’s shirt
    1870 – First combat photo: Fighting at La Moncelle during Battle of Sedan
    1871 – Adolphe Eugene Disderi: Dead Communards
    1898 – Maurice Joyant: Untitled (Toulouse-Lautrec defecating on the Beach at La Crotoy)

    and some Pics from 20th – 21th century:

    1941 – Barbara Morgan: Marta Graham
    1966 – Sonja Romanoff with a Paparazzo
    1973 – Ron Galela – Marlon Brando
    1977 – David Hume Kennerly: Betty Ford on Cabinet Room table
    1977 – Terry O’Neill: Faye Dunaway at Beverly Hills
    1996 – Mafia Boss Alfredo Yabran on the beach
    1998 – Bill Gates in Bruxelles with whipped cream pie
    2006 – Britney showing her cunt


    February 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

  21. Brilliant stuff really!!

    Hope you can post some photos from the Asian scene… since most of the photos so far have been American


    February 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

  22. I see Leibowitz recommended Mandela with Francois Pienaar. The other iconic Mandela photo (I’m South African so I’m a bit biased) is his release from Victor Verster prison (http://www.abinesh.com/delirium/posts/pictures-that-changed-the-world/)


    February 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  23. Paul Henderson’s goal against the Soviets in the Canada-Russia Summit Series in 1972. Every Canadian alive that day can tell you where they were when it happened.


    March 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

  24. there must be plenty of iconic photo’s from the world of rock n roll

    one i could think of is the photo of the million dollar quartet


    March 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

  25. I love this site.Have spent hours on it since finding it 3 days ago!
    To be honest, I’m learning so much more by reading about the history behind the images. I regret not learning more about history and war etc at school – so I’m loving some of these photos ( I particularly enjoy the war stories and images ) and reading about what went on at the time.
    You’re actually teaching some people which is in itself a great thing!
    Don’t give it up. Keep posting.
    I am sure there are many images that you’ve left out as you say, as they are so well known BUT not everyone knows about what was going on at that time. Some people looking at your site wont be old enough to have lived through those years or may have left school and not paid much attention to lessons etc.
    I love what you’re doing. Keep it going if you can.

    p lawson

    April 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

  26. hi,
    first off, love the site, it’s among my most frequent reads list.
    suggestion: 27th June is the anniversary of the cutting of the iron curtain in 1989. this was the actual start of the “revolution” in Eastern Europe, and I was a kid understanding nothing of it other than there is something big happening in my country🙂

    more info, use at will:


    April 9, 2010 at 8:24 am

  27. There would be many photos here that have been seen by just a few readers and a long time ago, in which case even in Google they would be hard to find.

    You can see which photos these are by looking up the WordPress top post list for “all time” where they would be listed at the bottom. So they should be republished.


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