Most iconic photographs

10 Most Iconic Photographs of All Time – Revealed!

most iconic photographs

In a time where millions of pictures are taken every day choosing the most iconic images is an impossible task.  However, our team of Photographers have selected 10 images which have inspired them in their careers, be it historical, a lucky shot or perfectly staged. 

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Our 10 Best Handpicked Most Iconic Photographs of all time Revealed:

Here is an overview of 10 of the Most Iconic Photos of all time.

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper – Charles C. Ebbets, Thomas Kelley and William Leftwich

This may be one of the most famous lunch breaks to ever be captured on film. 11 men sitting on a beam having a casual bite to eat, chatting and even having a cigarette – 840 feet above Manhattan. These 11 men were in fact amongst the construction workers who helped build Rockefeller Centre.

However, the picture, which was taken on the 69th floor of the flagship RCA Building, was indeed staged.  This was done as part of a very striking promotional campaign for the massive skyscraper complex. Lunch Atop a Skyscraper has become a symbol of American resilience and ambition in desperate times and has since become an iconic emblem of New York.

V-J Day In Times Square – Alfred Eisenstaedt

Photography is known to capture moments of hope, anguish, wonder and the overall joy of life. Alfred Eisenstaedt was one of the first four photographers who were hired by LIFE magazine and he made it his personal mission “to find and catch the storytelling moment.” And on August 14, 1945 when World War II ended, he found that moment!  The joyful mood on the streets of New York City set the scene and a sailor in front of him grabbed hold of a nurse, tilted her back and kissed her. This beautiful image has become the most famous and frequently reproduced picture of the 20th century.

Muhammad Ali Vs. Sonny Liston – Neil Leifer

Some of the Best photographs in history have come down to “right place, right time”. This was indeed the case for sports illustrated photographer Neil Leifer when he managed to capture perhaps the greatest sports photo of the century. Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston, the man from who he took the title in the previous year. One minute and 44 seconds into the first round, Ali landed a punch which connected with Liston’s chin and Liston went down.  Here is where Leifer snapped an iconic photo of Ali towering over Liston, taunting him, “Get up and fight, sucker!” Power­ful!

Bandit’s Roost, Mulberry Street – Jacob Riis

In the late 19th-century New York City was a popular choice amongst the immigrants of the world, and the vast majority of them found nearly subhuman squalor instead of the American dream. Reporters like Jacob Riis managed to document the shameful conditions  by venturing into the city’s most ominous neighbourhoods.  He captured the casual crime, crippling poverty and frightful overcrowding. Riis’ image of a Lower East Side street gang conveys the danger which awaited in the New York City slums.

Betty Grable – Frank Powolny

Betty Grable, a platinum blond, blue-eyed Hollywood starlet had a set of beautiful legs that managed to inspire American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines alike. Betty represented the girl back home and Frank Powolny brought her to the troops by accident. Powolny was taking publicity pictures of the actress for a 1943 film when she agreed to take a “back shot.” The studio turned this pose into one of the earliest pinups, and the troops were requesting 50,000 copies every month of this iconic pic. Her poster adorned barrack walls and her image was even painted on bomber fuselages. Long before Marilyn Monroe, Betty’s smile and legs rallied countless homesick young soldiers in the fight of their lives.  Amazing!

Windblown Jackie – Ron Galella

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the beautiful young widow of the slain President was a popular public figure with a tightly guarded private life.  The first lady, even in her grief, was a prime target for  photographers who followed her every move. Paparazzo Ron Galella’s favourite subject was Jackie O, whom he followed and captured on film to the point of obsession. In October 1971, Galella spotted her on New York City’s Upper East Side and managed to capture a picture proudly called “my Mona Lisa” . “I don’t think she knew it was me,” he recalled. “That’s why she smiled a little.” Iconic!

Winston Churchill – Yousuf Karsh

In December 1941, Winston Churchill visited Parliament in Ottawa unaware that the photographer Yousuf Karsh had been asked to take his portrait. When Churchill saw the Turkish-born Canadian photographer, he demanded to know why he was not told. It is said that Churchill then lit a cigar, took a puff and said to the photographer, “You may take one.” Churchill reportedly refused to put down the cigar and once Karsh was ready, he walked over to the Prime Minister and said, “Forgive me, sir,” and took the cigar out of Churchill’s mouth. Karsh recalls – “By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent, he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph.” Churchill then smiled and said, “You may take another one” and shook Karsh’s hand.  The result is one of the most widely reproduced images in history.

Camelot – Hy Peskin

Before they became American royalty, America was introduced to a gorgeous couple – John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. Hy Peskin photographed a handsome politician and his radiant fiancée over a summer weekend in 1953. The photograph was taken as part of a feature for the pages of LIFE and the image would foster a fascination with John and his stunning girlfriend from one of America’s wealthiest families.

The Babe Bows Out – Nat Fein

Babe Ruth was known as the greatest ballplayer of them all. By 1948, Babe Ruth had been out of the game for over a decade and was sadly struggling with terminal cancer and on June 13 he stood before a massive crowd in order to help celebrate the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium and to retire his No. 3. It was clear to all that this was the legends final public goodbye.  Nat Fein of the New York Herald Tribune was one of many photographers present and as the sound of “Auld Lang Syne” filled the stadium, Fein walked behind Ruth, where he saw the proud ballplayer leaning on his bat.  Two months after the photograph was taken, Babe Ruth passed away, and Fein went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his picture.

Dovima With Elephants – Richard Avedon

When Richard Avedon photographed Dovima at a Paris circus in 1955 for Harper’s Bazaar, both individuals were already prominent in their respective fields. Dovima was one of the world’s most famous models, and Avedon – one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world. Dovima With Elephants shows a combination of the strength of the elephants and Dovima’s stunning beauty, all rounded off by the delicacy of her gown. Dovima With Elephants is said to have captured a turning point in broader culture with the last old-style model setting fashion off on its new path.

Final thoughts –

There is no one formula which makes for an iconic photograph.  An iconic photograph could include a famous person, a historical event or an interestingly staged scene and will gain notoriety for a multitude of different reasons.