7 Iconic Photojournalist Images that Changed the World

With the number of photos being taken these days, it’s hard to believe that the first photograph was taken less than 200 years ago.

Times sure have changed. And photographers have been there to chronicle the very essence of these changes – the elation and sorrow, beauty and intrigue, glory and frailty – that have left their mark on history.

By reporting comprehensively on serious issues, photojournalists are often the ones who manage to capture the human condition so well. Here, we celebrate 7 iconic images taken by photojournalists in the last 50 years.

WARNING: Some people may find the following images distressing…

1967: Flower Child by Marc Riboud

hippy-anti-vietnam-war-protester-shows-flower-to-national-guardsmen Picture: CBS News

French photographer Marc Riboud, who died aged 93 in 2016, took many iconic images but Flower Child (or la Fille à la fleur) just might be his most famous photo. Like Nick Ut’s napalm photo (see below), Riboud used his camera for protest and change and this image perfectly captures the poignant juxtaposition between the hippies and the National Guardsmen.

1972: Kim Phuc Napalm Attack by Nick Ut

crying-girl-runs-away-from-imperialist-american-napalm-attack Picture: AP Press

This photograph of Kim Phuc and four other children running away from a napalm bombing in South Vietnam received wide circulation and provided further proof of the grim injustices of the war. The image had a huge impact, fueling more protest and contributing to the end of the war.

1989: Tiananmen Square protest by Jeff Widener

man-stands-in-front-of-line-of-tanks Picture: Time Magazine 

The government had sent in tanks to kill hundreds of protesters in Tiananmen Square when a lone man stepped out in front of them, in an act of ultimate courage and defiance.

The man, who had been shopping, was eventually pulled away by several others on bicycles and has never been identified. The image has since been called one of the greatest and famous photos in history.

1993: Starving Child and Vulture by Kevin Parker


Picture: Time Magazine

This harrowing photograph of a skeletal child huddled on the ground near a watchful vulture was taken in 1993 by Kevin Carter in famine-stricken Sudan. It reminded us of our humanity and prompted the ‘Live Aid’ movement.

When the New York Times ran the photo, it raised much debate over when a photographer should intervene (research indicates that the child survived but died 14 years later). The image won the Pulitzer that year. Tragically, Kevin Carter took his life a few months later.

2001: Raising the Flag at Ground Zero by Thomas E. Franklin

 3-firemen-raise-flag-after-911 Picture: CNN 

Thomas E. Franklin used a telephoto lens to take this photograph of three firemen at Ground Zero on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001. The image was used on the cover of numerous newspapers, and has been commended for instilling a feeling of hope.

It is often compared with Joe Rosenthal’s seminal photograph, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima, which shows five US Marines and a Navy sailor raising an American flag over the war-torn Japanese island in 1945.

2004: Hooded Man by Sergeant Ivan Frederick



Unlike the other images in this list, these photos were not taken by photojournalists but, in fact, by the perpetrators of the inhumane acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison. The graphic images, which were primarily leaked in 2004, caused outrage and sparked an international scandal over the treatment of prisoners by allied forces in Iraq.

2011: Vancouver Couple Kissing by Richard Lam

 couple-kiss-on-ground-amidst-riot-police Picture: The Guardian

The most recent photo in this list was snapped during Vancouver’s hockey riots of 2011. It shows a young couple lying on the road, oblivious to the chaos around them.

The couple had been knocked to the ground by riot police and had taken a second to embrace before getting up.

These confronting and famous images hold a significant place in history and illustrate the importance of photojournalism, and of photography in general. We need them to keep guiding our world’s values and acting as a yardstick through which our actions are measured.

If you enjoyed this, keep reading other photography articles on our blog or check out this month’s catalogue for all the latest cameras.

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