Ten Powerful Images That Shook The World

by : Mark Foster on : 04 Sep 2015 14:00

The recent agonising images of Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach has shifted the eyes of the world towards Europe. It has also shifted many people’s opinions on one of the most controversial topics of our time – asylum seekers. 

The pictures below helped shape the world we live in, by changing the world at the time. As a fair warning, people may find some of the images below distressing.


“The Falling Man” – 2001

Richard Drew

11 September, 2001 is a date than needs no description. After being caught by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, “The Falling Man” has become one of the most iconic, and heartbreaking, images of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. It’s thought the image is of Jonathan Briley, who worked on the 106th floor of the North World Trade Tower.

“How Life Begins” – 1965

Lennart Nilsson

The first picture ever to be taken with an endoscope, “How Life Begins” was the first glimpse many people had ever had of a baby in the womb. The image took the 30 April, 1965 cover of Life magazine which sold 8 million copies in just four days.

“The Terror Of War” – 1973

Nick Ut

Sometimes referred to as “Napalm Girl”, the image depicts Vietnamese civilians fleeing their village following a napalm strike by South Vietnamese forces. The village was thought to be occupied by North Vietnamese forces at the time. The girl, nine-year-old Kim Phúc, has had her clothes burned off in the strike.

Black Power Salute – 1968


African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. The image has gone down in history as the most overtly political picture ever taken in the history of the games. Smith states in his autobiography that it is not a black power salute, rather a human rights salute.


Thich Quang Duc – 1963

Malcolm Browne

A Vietnamese born Buddhist Monk, Thich Quang Duc rocked the world when he self-immolated at a busy Saigon road intersection in protest of Buddhist persecution by the South Vietnamese government. John F. Kennedy said of the image, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”

“Earthrise” – 1968

William Anders/ NASA

Taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders from lunar orbit, “Earthrise” has been described as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

The Vulture And The Little Girl – 1993

Kevin Carter

The picture that made the world sit up and notice the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is as grim as it is sad. The vulture waits patiently for the malnourished little girl to die so it can eat her. The image was so distressing for photographer Kevin Carter, he took his own life soon after it was taken. Published in The New York Times in March 1993, the picture caused an outpouring of aid for the Sudanese people. Due to public concern, The Times stated that the little girl was able to reach a food centre, but beyond that it is not known what happened to her.

Fat Man Nuclear Bomb drops on Nagasaki – 1945


When America dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945, it brought six years of world conflict to a halt almost in an instant. The cataclysmic destruction was captured by crewmen of the aeroplane that dropped the bomb, and it’s estimated that between 129,000 and 249,000 people have perished as a result of the attack.

“Tank Man” – 1989

Jeff Widener

An unknown man blocks the path of 5 Chinese tanks following the suppression of the Tiananmen Square riots in Beijing the previous night. It’s not known what happened to the man, but eyewitnesses report seeing him being dragged into the crowd by two men dressed in blue, after a climbing atop the lead tank and conversing with the commander. The image has become world renowned as a showing of quiet defiance in the face of overwhelming force.

Saigon Execution – 1968

Eddie Adams

Taken from a short video clip by American photojournalist Eddie Adams, the image of National Liberation Front member Nguyễn Văn Lém moments before his execution by a South Vietnamese General resonated across the world at the time, bringing home the brutality of war. Taken during the Tet Offensive, it was claimed that Nguyễn Văn Lém led a death squad and was a perpetrator of war crimes, though his involvement is still disputed. The image helped galvanise the anti-war movement of the time.

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Mark Foster

Mark is the Gaming Editor for UNILAD. Having grown up a gaming addict, he's been deeply entrenched in culture and spends time away from work playing as much as possible. Mark studied music at University and found a love for journalism through going to local gigs and writing about them for local and national publications.

Topics: News