Photographs That Stopped Time

Published on 4 July 2024 at 23:57

It started with my publishing "Are These the 5 most Famous Photographs in History?" and soon had some other suggestions. So I thought it would be fun to see what others consider time stopping photographs. Take a look, let me know if you agree, don't agree and what others should we include. Notice: I don't claim to own any copyright to any of the images. This is my personal celebration of great photography.

Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” (1984)

By Steve McCurry - Steve McCurry, Fair use,

Steve McCurry photographed her, with a piercing, green-eyed stare, in 1984 in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He did not learn her name until 2002, when he found her in the mountains of Afghanistan and was able to verify her identity.

Photographer Steve McCurry has spent more than three decades behind the camera, capturing powerful images of human triumph and tragedy.

His most famous image, titled "The Afghan Girl," is that of Sharbat Gula, an Afghan refugee girl whose piercing green eyes stared out from a National Geographic cover in 1985.

“I knew it was a powerful portrait," he told TODAY. "But I never dreamed in a million years this would become an iconic photograph.” 

I had the opportunity to see this picture in person in Chicago and not only is it impressive in real life, the entire McCourry work is amazing.

Neil Armstrong and the flag at the moon landing (1969)

Mankind's giant leap: Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the Moon on 20 July 1969. Pic credit: NASA.

On July 20, 1969, millions of people gathered around their televisions to watch two U.S. astronauts do something no one had ever done before. Wearing bulky space suits and backpacks of oxygen to breathe, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the moon.

After the two stepped onto the lunar surface, Armstrong proclaimed these famous words: “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Alfred Eisenstaedt - VJ Day Kiss in Times Square  (1945)

Alfred Eisenstaedt - VJ Day Kiss in Times Square, 1945

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph poignantly captures V-J Day’s euphoria. A unique scene of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, symbolizing World War II’s end and the united joy of the United States and Allied nations. Eisenstaedt’s Life magazine portrayal focuses on the moment’s intimacy, underlining the emotional depth of the victory celebration.

The photograph has ignited extensive debate over their identities. George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman were identified as the subjects, supported by forensic analysis and personal testimonies.

Despite thorough investigations, the spontaneous and vibrant setting complicates absolute identification, introducing an element of mystery. Notably, on August 3, 2008, Glenn McDuffie was celebrated as the “Kissing Sailor” at a Houston Astros and New York Mets game at Minute Maid Park, marking his 81st birthday.

Rita Petry’s inconspicuous presence in Eisenstaedt’s photo, who later became Mendonsa’s wife, introduces a personal layer, enriching the photo’s historical and emotional resonance. Additionally, Kay Hughes Dorius from Utah was identified as the astonished woman in Jorgensen’s photograph, further humanizing the narrative.

In spite of all the controversy, this is one joyous image.

Farrah Fawcett – Swimsuit Poster (1976)

This was the original picture that "broke the internet". This poster sold over 12 million copies, making it one of the best selling pin ups of all times.

Photographer Bruce McBroom took this picture in Farrah Fawcett's home in Bel Air, California before her stint in Charlie's Angels.

Charlie's Angels not only gave us Ms. Fawcett, it also gave us Lucy Liu, of Kill Bill fame.

When the photo was taken Farrah Fawcett was still an unknown actress wanting to make it big. She hadn’t yet signed on for her hit show Charlie’s Angels but got some work doing commercials.

Bruce McBroom a freelance photographer had worked with Farrah before and so Pro Arts agreed to hire him for the shoot. They wanted a bikini shot of the blond beauty.

The shoot was at Farrah’s Bel Air, Calif., home of her and then-husband, actor Lee Majors. She did her own hair and they took the photos behind the home by their pool. She modelled several different swimsuits but McBroom didn’t get excited about any of the pictures he shot. When she came down in the now famous red one-piece swimsuit to cover a childhood scar on her stomach McBroom knew he had something.

For the backdrop McBroom grabbed the old Indian Blanket covering his car seat and hung it up, “I should have told people I styled this,” McBroom says, “but the truth is it came off the front seat of my ’37 Chevy.” Read more here

Winston Churchill (1941)

This is the portrait all of us wish we had taken. The Economist called it "the most reproduced portrait in history"

The story of how Yousuf Karsh created this masterpiece is well known but bears repeating.

“My portrait of Winston Churchill changed my life. I knew after I had taken it that it was an important picture, but I could hardly have dreamed that it would become one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography.

In 1941, Churchill visited first Washington and then Ottawa. The Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, invited me to be present. 

Churchill lit a fresh cigar, puffed at it with a mischievous air, and then magnanimously relented. ‘You may take one.’

Churchill’s cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically.

I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar.

I waited. Then 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 that I took the photograph.”

Read more here

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