10 Great Photographs

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A Brief History

On June 8, 1972, Nick Ut of the Associated press took his famous photograph of a 9 year old Vietnamese girl running naked from a US napalm attack.  For this poignant photo Ut won a Pulitzer Prize.  Sometimes a photographer is just in the right place at the right time and takes the photo of a lifetime.  Here we list 10 great examples of the photographers’ art.  Please nominate photos you think should be on this list.  (Note: By its nature, this list is subjective!  That is why we do not presume to call them the “greatest.”  Also, because a picture already says a thousand words, we shall be brief in our comments on this list.)

Digging Deeper

10. John F. Kennedy Jr. (John-John to the public, not to his family) saluting his father’s funeral procession  in 1963.

This photograph is heartbreaking to look at.

9. Farrah Fawcett in a one piece red swimsuit poster in 1976.

The above is arguably the greatest poster of all time.

8. Frenchman crying after the fall of France 1940.

The man’s face is so expressive and pathetic it defies description.

7. Sailor kissing girl in Times Square on Victory over Japan (V-J) Day 1945.

The end of World War II was a happy time indeed, but not for long.

6. “The Blue Marble” photo of Earth from space 1972, the first photo showing the entire earth.

For the first time people could see how beautiful our planet is from space.

5. Neil Armstrong as the first man to stand on the Moon in 1969.

In the middle of racial strife and discontent about Viet Nam, Americans swelled with pride at the sight of this photo.

4. Billy the Kid (William H. McCarty)  standing with his six gun on his left hip in 1879.

An inverted image causing generations to wrongly believe he was left handed sold for $2.3 million in 2011.

3. Marilyn Monroe, skirt blowing upward in 1954.

She was possibly the most photographed person in History, according to American Masters documentary.

2. Abraham Lincoln, seated, February 5, 1865.

Lincoln went to the studio of Alexander Gardner in Washington, D.C. for this seated portrait late during the Civil War, the ravages of worry and strain obvious on his noble face.  Photographed as early as 1847, Lincoln appears as the wise and serious man he was in this picture.

1. Flag Raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima 1945.

Immediately recognized as a great shot, if you know the background of the men involved and the history of the battle for Iwo Jima it becomes even clearer how great this photo really is.

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Historical Evidence

For more great photographs, please see…

Kagan, Neil.  Great Photographs of the Civil War.  Oxmoor House, 2003.

Kagan, Neil and Stephen G. Hyslop.  Great Photographs of World War II.  Oxmoor House, 2003.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.