There are tonnes of breathtaking, soul-stirring images by talented photographers who transformed split-second moments into lifelong memories. Some stand out of the crowd because of their provocative nature and others tell interesting stories. We examine eight photographs.
Princess Diana by Mario Testino
Taken in 1997, this iconic image represents Princess Diana in her true character – plain, selfless, loving. Mario Testino captured this photograph with Diana wearing no jewellery and very little makeup, neither exhibiting any glamourous pose nor set in extravagant lighting. It is in fact very unprincesslike, but it portrays who she really was and I believe it is exactly this essence that made the photograph famous. Princess Diana was loved throughout the world for her selfless, caring character. Her face is in soft (slightly out of) focus which further softens her gaze and emphasizes that she did not care much for the limelight. Instead, the focus is on her arm and hands, with which she gave a lot to the world.
The Vulture and the Little Girl by Kevin Carter
As the title suggests, the child in the photo was initially thought to be a girl; however, is a boy. This photograph caused an outburst of responses toward Sudan’s famine and hate towards the photographer – many argued that Kevin Carter should’ve helped the child instead of taking out his camera and taking the photo. In essence, this presents how photojournalism is often misunderstood and complex stories of human suffering in a modern era often overshadowed by questions of human morality.
Apart from being a disturbing image of human suffering, I think the big thing with Kevin’s photograph is the uncertainty of the future which awaits the girl. Kevin never opened up about what happened to the girl and took it to the grave when he committed suicide in 1994, a year after taking the photo.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz
This photo was taken in December 1980, the same month as John Lennon’s assassination. That in itself is bone-chilling, but the way he entirely wraps his bare body around Yoko betrays their relationship dynamic. Annie has since moved on from being Rolling Stone’s chief photographer to become a world famous portrait photographer capturing fantastical scenes.
Dalí Atomicus by Philippe Halsman
I absolutely love this iconic photo where Philippe Halsman set out to capture the true essence of Salvador Dali and that is exactly what he did, ingeniously! This photograph is inspired by Dalí’s painting, Leda Atomica and just as with the painting, the photo took intense preparation with multiple assistants, full buckets of water flying and cats being tossed in the air.
“A true portrait should, today and a hundred years from today, be the testimony of how this person looked and what kind of human being he was.” – Philippe Halsman
Twiggy by Bert Stern
Named the “The Face of ’66’” by the Daily Express, the photo captures Twiggy at the height of her career when she weighed just over 40 kg (92 pounds) – the first super skinny supermodel, introducing a different look that shapes fashion to this day.
The skinny girl with the boyish figure who changed fashion. She was different, as was Bert Stern with his clean and uncomplicated photographic style. In my opinion, this image is iconic because although the make-up screams 1960s fashion, the photo is timeless.
Robin Williams by Peter Hapak
Peter Hapak is a famous portrait photographer whose captivating images have graced the covers of countless magazines. This modest black and white photo of Robin Williams photographed for Time Magazine in 2011 pulls the viewer in with his gentle eyes that seem to tell a thousand stories. Now, after his passing, the image can be seen as giving a glimpse into Robin’s mind, perhaps revealing a part of him that is lesser known.
What makes distinguished photograph? In my humble opinion, it’s not only when the photographer has the skill to capture a great technical photograph, but when they have the ability to conjure the true declaration of their subject’s inner most thoughts and feelings. These are the thoughts and feelings that so many of us miss during our trivial meetings with our loved ones. The immediate sense of sadness that generates inside the viewer by looking into Robin’s eyes, proves that this is an image that deserves centuries of recognition.
Albert Einstein by Arthur Sasse
I’ve always loved this photograph; not only does it provide a glimpse into the character of this 20th Century genius, but it always leaves a silly smile on my face.
In 1951, UPI photographer, Arthur Sasse, captured what has become the most iconic image of Einstein. The reason I think this photo is so famous is because it is so far from “professional”. He was known for not wearing socks, messy hair and being very forgetful and this photograph seems to embody all these quirks.
Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry
Nicknamed a “modern Mona Lisa” the portrait of Sharbat Gula, or Afghan Girl, is one of the world’s most recognised photos. Representing the suffering of children in war, she appears both strong and vulnerable at the same time, and it is this emotion that draws the viewer in.
I don’t believe that I know anyone who hasn’t seen this photograph before. The first thing I notice are those unbelievably piercing blue-green eyes which are only enhanced by the green background. Thereafter, I’m hit by the way she looks at the camera dead on; looking both fearless and neglected. I can’t help but wonder what happened to her after this photo was taken. Interesting fact: this photograph is in accord with Da Vinci’s Golden Ratio.
In my opinion, this photograph gained fame through revealing pure beauty from a very unexpected origin. At the time this was taken, not much detail was known about the Afghan culture and seeing beauty like this was surprising to most. Without a doubt, her eyes and her gaze is the most striking aspect of this image. As the saying goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul. The perfect complement between the red of the chador and the green of the background and her eyes further enhances the visual appeal and creates a striking, memorable image that has stood the test of time, literally.