Most Famous Photographs

Great photographs freeze a moment in time, often telling a story where words cannot. Famous pictures such as these create images which trigger our emotions and spark our imagination. Below are some of history’s most famous photos.

Loch Ness monster Sallie Gardner at a Gallop
Eadweard Muybridge
Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University, commissioned Muybridge to shoot this series of photographs in order to determine whether or not a galloping horse ever lifts all four feet completely off the ground during the gait (something that the human eye cannot determine). Using a spinning wheel to display the photos, Muybridge created what is widely consider to be the first motion picture in history.
Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper famous photo Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper
Charles C. Ebbets
This photo was taken from the 69th floor of what is now the GE building in New York City. The photographer was not recognized as such until 2003 and therefore the credit on posters of the image is often given as “unknown”.
Loch Ness monster “The Surgeon’s Photograph”
Robert Kenneth Wilson
For years, many people believed this supposed photo of the Loch Ness monster to be legitimate. However, in 1994, it was revealed to be a hoax when one of the people involved confessed on his death bed that it was actually a piece of plastic attached to a toy submarine.
the Migrant Mother Migrant Mother
Dorothea Lange
This photo became an iconic image of the Great Depression. At the time, the 32 year-old woman was a widow with seven children. Forty years later, the woman was identified as Florence Owens Thompson.
Yala conference The Big Three at the Yalta Conference
Unknown US Army photographer
This photo shows the three leaders of the allied forces (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) together at Yalta near the end of World War II. Roosevelt died about two months after this photo was taken.
Iwo Jima Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
Joe Rosenthal
This photo was taken near the end of World War II during a battle between the Americans and Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima. Three of the six men in the photo died during the battle.
famous photo kiss in times square V-J day in Times Square
Alfred Eisenstaedt
This photo was taken in Times Square, New York on the day World War II officially ended and was later used on the cover of LIFE magazine. The identity of the sailor and nurse is actually unknown and although the photo is often said to have captured the passion of romantic love, it is likely that the two kissers were complete strangers (according to the photographer, the man was kissing everyone in sight!)
Gandhi at spinning wheel Gandhi at his spinning wheel
Margaret Bourke-White
This photo was taken just a few hours before Gandhi was assassinated. It shows Gandhi next to his spinning wheel, which he used to make hand-woven cloth.
Einstein with tongue out Einstein’s Birthday
Arthur Sasse
This photo was taken on Einstein’s 72nd birthday. The photographer was trying to make him smile but having already smiled for many photographers that day, the famous genius decided to show his lighthearted side and stuck out his tongue instead.
Che Guevara Guerrillero Heroico
Alberto Korda
This portrait of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara became a pop icon and symbol of rebellion.
monk burning on street Burning Monk
Malcolm Browne
This photo is of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in Vietnam to protest his government’s persecution of Buddhists.
famous photo shooting vietnam General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon
Eddie Adams
Taken during the Vietnam War, the man doing the shooting was the chief of police and the man being shot is thought to have killed several innocent family members of police officers that morning. It is said that the police chief killed the Viet Cong but the photographer killed the police chief (because after the photo became well-known, the police chief became hated by most people).
black power salute at olympics Black Power Salute
John Dominis
This photo was taken during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos are shown making a black power salute as a civil rights protest while receiving the gold and bronze medals in the 200m dash. The athletes were later banned from the Olympics for making the political statement.
famous photo of earth taken from the moon Earthrise
William Anders
This photo was taken during the Apollo 8 mission and was the first photo of the entire earth from space. It is said to have launched the environmental movement by making people realize how beautiful and precious our planet is.
Abbey Road album cover Kent State Massacre
John Filo
This Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was captured just minutes after Jeffrey Miller (shown dead) and three other students were killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University following several days of protesting over the American invasion of Cambodia. The girl in the photo is 14-year old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio.
Abbey Road album cover Abbey Road
Iain Macmillan
This photo was used on the cover of the last album recorded by the Beatles. Abby Road is the name of the street, the album, and the studio where the Beatles recorded much of their music. The photo has been the basis for many parodies over the years.
famous photo girl running in vietnam Trang Bang Napalm Attack
Nick Ut
This photo of nine-year-old Kim Phuc was taken during a South Vietnamese napalm attack. The girl recovered and now lives in Canada where she runs an organization that helps young war victims. She also wrote an essay called “The Long Road To Forgiveness”.
famous photo people falling Apartment Fire Fall
Stanley Forman
The mother and daughter in this photo fell five stories during a rescue attempt from an apartment fire in Boston. The girl survived but unfortunately, the mother did not.
Afghan girl National Geographic Afghan girl
Steve McCurry
This photo was used on a famous cover of National Geographic Magazine. The identity of the girl was unknown until 2002. Her name is Sharbat Gula and she was 13 years old at the time. Her parents had died in the Soviet bombing of Afghanistan and she was living in a refugee camp in Pakistan.
Omayra Sanchez famous photo Omayra Sanchez
Frank Fournier
This photo is of Omayra Sanchez, a 13-year-old girl who died as a result of the Armero volcano disaster in Colombia after being trapped in the debris for three days. The photo led to heavy criticism of the Colombian government for not acting based on warning signs before the eruption.
space shuttle challenger explosion Challenger Explosion
Unknown NASA photographer
This photo was taken as the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed about a minute after lift-off. All seven crew members were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first teacher in space. One of the fastest-spreading news stories ever, it is estimated that 85% of Americans had heard about the accident within one hour.
famous photo man in front of tank The Unknown Rebel in Tiananmen Square
Jeff Widener
In 1989, thousands of students and intellectuals in Beijing, China peacefully protested in Tiananmen Square for economic change and democratic reform. After many weeks the Chinese military cleared the area by force, resulting in the deaths of over 2,000 people (Red Cross estimate). In this photo, an unknown man stands in front of a line of tanks in order to prevent them from moving any further. No one knows whether or not the man is still alive.
famous photo girl and vulture Girl and vulture during Sudan Famine
Kevin Carter
This photo was taken during the famine in Sudan. According to one account, the girl’s parents were getting food from a UN plane when the photographer (who was a passenger on the plane) took the photo. After several shots, the vulture supposedly flew away. The photographer committed suicide the next year, several months after this photo won the Pulitzer Prize.
famous photo fireman and baby Fireman and baby after Oklahoma city bombing
Charles Porter
This photo of fireman Chris Fields and one-year-old Baylee Almon (who later died in hospital) became a symbol of the most deadly pre-9/11 terrorist attack on US soil.
famous photo baby passed throuh fence Refugees from Kosovo
Carol Guzy
In this photo, two-year-old Agim Shala is being passed through a barbed wire fence.
famous photo 911 falling man world trade center The Falling Man
Richard Drew
This photo shows one of the 200+ people who fell to their deaths during the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. The individual has been unofficially identified as 43-year-old Jonathan Briley, an employee of the Windows on the World restaurant.

Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs (National Geographic Collectors Series)

3 responses to “Most Famous Photographs”

  1. bhupendra Solanki says:

    like it. good collection.

  2. Toni says:

    Gut wrenching memories from my younger years. A lot of them are part of me because of their impact on my younger self. We always had the big magazines like LIFE, LOOK, NATIONAL GEO. in our house.

  3. Salina Bujosa says:

    Very powerful and moving pictures.