Since the invention of photography it has played a hugely important role in our societies, not only recording some of the greatest achievements in human history but also the most tragic and sadly memorable moments that we have shared.
Photography has been our collective record, telling a whole story in one image, and it is because of its ability to speak across cultural boundaries and to people of all languages that it has been such a powerful part of our collective psyche.
When we see photographs from our history we are brought back to the moment, we feel the emotions and can relive that instant through the incredible medium of photography. It’s always interesting to see how our ancestors lived and it’s fun to imagine how we would have acted and felt were we to be there at that instant; and even though history has flowed away it leaves a mark on all of us today, and appreciating this brings us knowledge, perspective and inspiration for the future.
The World’s First EVER Photograph.
It all began here! This is the first photograph that was ever taken. The photograph was taken by the French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce and captures the view from his window across a courtyard using a technique called Heliography. The courtyard is fairly obscured because the photograph had over 8 hours of exposure, meaning that the sun moved across the image.
It’s incredible to think that it all began with this image and even more remarkable to think how far photography has come since the 19th century. It’s unlikely that even the inventor himself could have foreseen the enormous impact that his invention would have on the future of the entire planet!
Neil Armstrong Walks on the Moon.
This is one of the most symbolic images ever taken; the moment when humankind first became a truly space faring civilization. Millions of people were sitting around their Television Sets transfixed by the video images that were being beamed back to our Blue Planet of astronauts walking on the moon! For those old enough to remember the moment it is permanently seared into their minds and not only the image, but the very concept itself, has been an inspiration for people all over the world to be their best selves and achieve things that would have previously seemed impossible.
The words that Neil Armstrong spoke, over a scratchy telecommunications system back to his home planet, ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’ have resonated through the decades, and even though it was he that made that giant step, he was aware, and so were all of those on Earth watching, that this was a collective step of progress that we had all shared in.
Wojtek the Soldier Bear.
The amazing picture shows Wojtek, a brown bear who became a Corporal in the Polish military in an artillery unit during World War II. Wojtek was found as a cub by Polish soldiers one evening in Iran while they were out looking for food and other supplies. The tiny bear cub was with several children, who had found the orphaned bear after his mother was shot by hunters.
The soldiers bought the tiny bear cub from the children and took him back to their camp to join their unit! The hungry Wojtek grew fast, on one occasion eating 300 apples, and was soon helping to carry supplies for the soldiers, and later in the war, when they were shipped to Italy, Wojtek was officially made a Corporal in the Polish Army so he could fight with his unit. Incredibly, Wojtek fought in the battle of Monte Cassino, one of the bloodiest battles of the war, carrying huge cases of shells up to the mortar lines for his unit!
Wojtek survived the war and retired in the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, where he was a well loved local celebrity! For the rest of his life his old soldier pals would regularly visit him in the zoo, jumping over the safety barriers to wrestle with him and share bottles of beer to the surprise of the other visitors to the zoo! This fantastic photo shows the strong bonds that were made during the war years, not only between the humans but also with the animals who served with them too!
Burning Monk Protesting the Vietnam War in Saigon.
This iconic image of protest against the cruel and blood rinsed war in the jungles of Vietnam is not only a testament to the world wide strength of feeling against the conflict but also to the bravery and selflessness of the Buddhist community. This monk, Thich Quang Duc, sat outside on the streets of Saigon on 11th June 1963, and deliberately self immolated in order to bring attention to the unjust nature of the war. By this time feeling in America had also largely turned against the war, helped by great figures such as Martin Luther King Jr and so the photograph quickly went ‘viral’ appearing in newspapers around the world.
The distant faces of the people who witnessed the scene, captured in the photograph, reflects our own shock when we see the image. The photograph is an incredible mirror that we can hold up to ourselves to try to understand the loving compassion of this selfless monk. To this day this image still impacts us all deeply and has been used in popular culture, making an appearance on a Rage Against the Machine album, hundreds of articles and as a print on the walls of activists all over the world.
The act of this monk has inspired many to give of themselves in the cause of others and can be seen with both sadness, at the situation, but also respect and awe.
Workmen having lunch on a high up girder.
This incredible image is famous for good reasons. Of course on the one hand this image will put the hairs up on the back of anyone’s neck who is at all afraid of heights but it also speaks deeply to the camaraderie and companionship that these men shared. Together, sat on this strong metal girder reaching out across the empty space they look fragile and small, perched like lunatic birds way too high up for their own good! But they also represent that undying work ethic of the American people in the early years of the Great Depression that went on to make the USA a great country.
The casual attitude that they exude is in such stark contrast to the seemingly perilous position they are clearly in when this photograph was taken creates an emotional and psychological contrast in the viewer that makes it deeply riveting and is hard to find matched in any other photograph in history.
Amazing Historical Photos.
Our history is full of incredible photographs that tell every kind of story, not only immortalizing our shared experience for the future by helping to define our present day realities. Single photographs have sometimes changed the course of history and as a photographer it’s a humbling thing to consider that one day a photograph that you yourself take may play a major role in the events of the future.
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