Thursday, May 2, 2013

Impactful Photographs and Their Stories

As a profession based around the objective reporting of society on a day to day basis, it is easy to see just how photography manages to enhance it quite so much. Listed below is a collection of the most impactful photographs ever captured with journalistic motive. Whether done so intentionally by a reporter covering a certain event in time or in more of a gonzo sense by those partaking in said event itself, they’re all rather remarkable.

10. Vietnamese Police Chief

The Vietnam conflict of the 1960’s and 70’s was in many ways the first ever war to be covered by the popular media. Beneficial in the sense that it allowed for the first time, public insight into the nature of modern warfare, this aspect cemented the conflicts undying place within contemporary history. Alongside the revolutionary air which was slowly reaching apex in the US during the war, there are a whole range of astonishing photographs that help bring this prominent era to life half a century later. This powerful image depicts a Saigon Police Chief about to kill a Vietcong prisoner at point blank range in the streets of the Vietnamese Capital. The prisoner is captain of a ‘revenge squad’, who earlier on this day in 1968 led a mission to execute a number of innocent citizens, whilst the executor is the, now notorious, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan. Photographer Eddie Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize as a result of his capturing of this symbolic image.

9. Skyscraper Lunch

The origins of many of the world’s most impressive skylines and others urban environments are all too commonly overlooked. Whilst construction of skyscraper buildings may have slowed down somewhat in the past 50 years, or at least slowed to the point of becoming less notable thanks to their sheer popularity in the 20th century, much evidence of our towns and cities earlier days remains intact. This photograph is arguably one of the more notable amongst a whole host of collections documenting the extraordinary work that has gone into constructing the world around us. Taken on September 29th, 1932- it shows 11 workmen taking their lunch hour atop a constructional girder as their feet dangle above the streets below.

8. Afghan Girl

Afghanistan is a nation which has been ravaged with warfare for a large proportion of its very existence. Though the host of many an ancient battle, the Asian country has been famous amongst recent generations as the located of two large scale international invasions, not to mention two lengthy and untidy occupations. Namely the Soviet invasion of the 1980’s, and the US led UN invasion of the early 2000’s, it is hardly surprising that a fair few journalists have managed to become acquainted with the nations during this time. This iconic photograph was taken by Steve McCurry at a camp full of Afghan refugees just across the Pakistani border. Seizing the rare opportunity to fully photograph an Afghan female, the vivid image was featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985, a year after it was taken.

7. The Burning Monk

An image which became known to me through its appropriation as the cover artwork for Rage Against the
Machines self-titled debut album, this photograph is famous amongst so many more people than fans of political rap metal bands, I’m sure. Taken on June 11th, 1963- the image depicts a Vietnamese Buddhist monk by the name of Thich Quang Duc self-immolating at a ‘busy intersection’ in downtown Saigon. His reason for carrying out such an act was in protest to Catholic repression upon Buddhist ideals amongst citizens of the troubled nation.

6. Water Fountain Segregation

Previous to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and 1950’s the United States of America, along with much of the rest of the western world, was built upon a series of fundamentally and inherently racist and unequal societies. Whilst nowadays things are a lot more balanced, we can all too often forget the degree of prejudice fully active just 40 or 50 years ago. This photograph was taken in North Carolina in 1950, and shows a ‘coloured’ gentleman taking a drink from a segregated public water fountain. It was captured by photographer Elliot Erwitt and remains amongst some of the most famous images from this era, simple yet tastefully shot, and of course- completely effective in outlining the barbarity and backwardness of racial segregation.

5. A Fire in Boston

Tragedy is in many ways the most questioned topic when covered by the journalistic profession; however it is undoubtedly within the rights of a news media entrusted with the bringing of compelling stories to an ‘interested’ public to cover such cases regularly. Human interest stories lie at the very heart of the fourth estate as a whole, and without them it is doubtful that journalism would have been able to flourish and integrate to the degree that it has. The above picture encapsulates a story, which though is undoubtedly news worthy and within the realms of public interest, received widespread criticism upon its publishing in the Boston Herald in July 1975. Following a call to a fire on the cities Marlborough Street, fire-fighter Bob O’Neil found himself on the roof of the apartment building attempting to assist two females who were stranded on a fire escape. Unfortunately, the escape gave way and the two fell to the ground. Whilst the lady, Diana Bryant died, her god-daughter, Tiara Jones survived the fall.

4. Face of the Great Depression

The great depression of the early 20th century was in many ways an era far more disrupted and tarnished with turmoil than our current worldwide economic recession. These were the days before much of what now constitutes a modern welfare system was yet to be introduced, and those hit hard by the downturn were hit really, really hard. This photograph was taken at a Californian pea-pickers camp in the February of 1936 by photojournalist Dorothea Lange. The woman shown in the image is Florence Owens Thompson, a 32-year-old mother of seven whose husband had recently passed as a result of tuberculosis.

3. Kosovar Refugee Child

The war which unfolded in Eastern Europe in the 1990’s and continued into the early 2000’s is one that is often overlooked. Though this could be attributed to the Middle Eastern conflict which has held much of our western attention for over a decade now, there is nonetheless a whole wealth of content still available on the conflict. This image is surely one of the most iconic of the time, taken as the situation was beginning to relax in 2000; it depicts a 2-year-old Kosovar refugee, detained with his parents in an Albanian refugee camp, being delivered through a vicious looking barbed wire fence and into the hands of his grandparents on the outside. I’m sure all will be glad to know that the family was reunited shortly after the photograph was taken.

2. The Vulture and the Infant

This Pulitzer Prize winning snap was taken during the Sudanese famine of the early 1990’s. An extremely powerful and tragic image, it quite clearly shows a stricken infant jostling for life whilst a death-sensing vulture looks over it, waiting for the inevitable. Shocking the entire world upon its publication, no-one knows what became of the child; not even the man responsible for the image in the first place-Kevin Carter. In fact, shortly after the image stalked the cover page of just about every major publication in the entire world, Carter committed suicide as a result of a depression to which the situation surrounding this photograph presumably contributed greatly.

1. Omaha Beach, June 6th 1994

The D-Day landings of June 1994 were undoubtedly one of the most influential occurrences to take place in recent centuries. The invasion of mainland Europe from an Allied force with the sole intention of bringing Nazi Germany’s war machine to a swift halt was a task unfathomably huge. Achieving surrender within a year, the invasion which began with moments such as the one captured above, changed what seemed like an inevitable dark direction for planet Earth. This image is one of many captured on the morning of June 6th, 1944 by gonzo photojournalist Robert Capa, who landed as part of the first wave of US infantry. Despite capturing hundreds of what may only be imagined as unbelievable images on the day, only a few were developed successful as a result of a rush to have them ready for publication. The blurry effect, though accidental, is rather dramatic, as I’m sure you’ll agree- and the images (all of which can be found with a Google search) are said to have largely influenced Director Steven Spielberg during the making of his pivotal 1999 war epic ‘Saving Private Ryan’.


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