Stories From Behind the Camera

The World's Most Iconic Photos (Part 2)

Following on from part one of our iconic photo review we’ve gathered some more incredible photographs and the stories behind them in part 2.

The Agony of Omayra Sanchez, 1985 by Frank Fournier

What you’re seeing is the last photo ever taken of 13yr old Omayra Sánchez. Shot in 1985 and set against the backdrop of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano which had just erupted. Omayra was trapped in water and concrete debris for 3 days. Shortly after this was taken, Omayra died, which created quite a controversy regarding Fournier’s inaction.

“I felt the story was important for me to report and I was happier that there was some reaction; it would have been worse if people had not cared about it. … I believe the photo helped raise money from around the world in aid and helped highlight the irresponsibility and lack of courage of the country’s leaders.”

This iconic photo won the World Press Photo of the Year for 1986.


Copyright: Frank Fournier (1985)

Raising_the_Flag_on_Iwo_Jima iconic photo

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, 1945 by Joe Rosenthal

Four days after invading Iwo Jima, American troops planted a small flag atop Mt. Suribachi. The flag was ordered to be replaced with a larger one that could be seen by troops across the island.

Rosenthal’s iconic photo is actually a restaging of the original flag-planting. He was subsequently was accused of staging the moment. The image went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Three of the Marines in the photo were killed in action on Iwo Jima. The other three survivors were sent back to the U.S., where they were treated as heroes.

Copyright: Joe Rosenthal (1945)

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V-J Day Celebration, 1945 by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt this moment of a sailor laying on a celebratory kiss on a lady in the middle of New York City’s V-J Day Celebrations in Times Square.

A little known fact is that a Navy photographer called Victor Jorgensen also happened to get a shot of the impromptu kiss, from a different angle but it’s rarely seen.

No one got a chance to ask the couple their names.

As the years when by and the photograph became more iconic a number of men and several women came forward to claim they were the ones in the photo.

Copyright: Alfred Eisenstaedt (1945)

V-J_kiss_times_square iconic photo
heyres henri cartier bresson iconic photo

Hyeres, 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson’s iconic photo is a wonderful demonstration of composition in the frame. He used the rule of thirds, leading lines, and a golden spiral (alongside the slower shutter speed) to show a great sense of movement and dynamism of the rider.

The ‘decisive moment’, the term that Cartier-Bresso is famed for coining, is obvious, and it contrasts the freedom of the cyclist, against the harshness of the balcony and railings.

The image is a product of patience. Photography is about patience, and we must never forget it.

Copyright: Henri Cartier-Bresson (1932)

Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper, 1932 by Charles C. Ebbets

This iconic photo featuring the construction of the Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan was taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932. Many people question whether the scene really happened or if it was just a stunt.

Although the photograph shows real ironworkers other photographs taken on the same day show some of the workers throwing a football and pretending to sleep on the girder.

The man on the right was called Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič from Slovakia. In 1932 he sent his wife Mária (Mariška) a postcard with this photograph on which he wrote,

“Don’t you worry, my dear Mariška, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.”

LunchAtopASkyscraper copy

Copyright: Charles C. Ebbets, 1932

Schuman, 1961 by Peter Liebing

peter-leibing iconic photo

Copyright: Peter Liebing, 1961

When a 19-year-old photographer Peter Liebing arrived at the Western Border in Berlin her was informed by the local police that something worth his attention was about to happen.

Nothing happened for hours, but then Schumann, a GDR border guard, ran and jumped over the barbed wire, defecting from East to West Germany.

To some it became a symbol of freedom during the Cold War, others saw him as a traitor as he left his family on the other side of the wall.

“I had him in my sight for more than an hour. I had a feeling he was going to jump. It was kind of an instinct… I had learned how to [get the timing right photographing horses] at the Jump Derby in Hamburg. You have to photograph the horse when it leaves the ground and catch it as it clears the barrier. And then he came. I pressed the shutter and it was all over.”


If you’ve got an interesting and rarely told story about iconic photographs then we’d love to hear them! Send us a message to our iPhotography Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. 

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