Top 30 Historical Photos – Part 2 of 3

Top 30 Historical Photos – Part 2 of 3

This is the continuation of the “Top 30 Historical Photos”. Continue or go back to Part 1 to view the photo gallery in full.

Tear Down This Wall by the White House Photographic Office

tear down this wall
Source: Under Public Domain

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenberg Gate of the Berlin Wall and demanded that communism loosen its stranglehold on East Germany and allow people to come and go as they pleased. The focal point in this photograph is not President Reagan, but the gate separating East and West Germany and how it loomed over the entire proceedings. The image is actually a bit crooked and unfocused. However, the historical significance of that looming gate is one that is a powerful reminder of history.

The ‘Glory’ of Gettysburg by Matthew Brady

glory of gettysburg
Source: Under Public Domain

This photograph is from 1863 during the Civil War. The image is of federal soldiers dead on the field after the battle of Gettysburg. Brady used the early photography process called daguerreotypy. The images were burned onto a copper plate and were positive, rather than negative. This particular image is taken from the point of view of a survivor looking out over a field of fallen soldiers. The serene landscape in the background gives the image a surreal look.

Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief by Eddie Adams

murder of vietcong
Source: Eddie Adams

This graphic portrayal of a police chief murdering a Vietcong man was taken in 1968 and earned Eddie Adams a Pulitzer Prize the next year. The photo turned many Americans against the war in Vietnam. Adams took the photo with a 35-mm camera. The shutter was likely set at a fast speed, allowing the background to be a bit blurred and the subjects to be in sharp focus.

Loch Ness Monster by Ian Wetherell

loch ness monster
Source: Ian Wetherell

This photo, supposedly of the legendary Loch Ness Monster, was taken in 1934 by Ian Wetherell. The photo is blurred and was originally said to have been taken by a surgeon named Robert Kenneth Wilson. However, it was later revealed that the entire thing was a hoax and the photo was actually snapped by Ian. The photo encouraged generations of Nessie hunters, trying to spot the monster. The photo was taken from a distance and intentionally out of focus.

Starving Child and Vulture by Kevin Carter

starving child and vulture
Source: Kevin Carter

This photograph of an African child near starvation and a vulture waiting in the wings spurred the world to concern for the plight of the world’s starving children. The photograph was taken in the Sudan in 1993 by Kevin Carter, who won a Pulitzer for the picture. Carter approached the scene slowly, so he wouldn’t startle the vulture and force it to take flight. The rule of thirds gives the photo three distinct focal points (the child, the vulture and the background).

The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne

burning monk
Source: Malcolm Browne

This photo was taken by photographer Malcom Browne in 1963. It is the image of a Saigon monk who set himself on fire to demonstrate against the treatment his fellow monks received from the government of South Vietnam. Other monks followed his example, increasing pressure on the government to reform laws. In an interview with PBS, Browne described this image as a shock photo. He shot the pictures on 35-mm film and developed them in a dark room.

Napalm Girl by Nick Ut

napalm girl
Source: Nick Ut

Nick Ut, an Associated Press photographer snapped this image of a little girl fleeing from the devastation of the napalm bomb dropped on Trang Bang, South Vietnam. The date was June 8, 1972. Kim Phuc, the little girl in the picture, removed her clothes to escape the burning of the chemicals. During Vietnam, photographers like Ut were sent into war zones with small, lightweight 35-mm cameras. For this picture, Ut used a Leica M-2 and a 35mm Summicron lens. The film was Kodak 400 ASA black and white.

Nagasaki Mushroom Cloud under Public Domain

nagasaki mushroom cloud
Source: Under Public Domain

On August 9th, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. According to, about 40,000 people were immediately killed but the ongoing effects injured and killed many more in the days after the bomb. This photo is part of the National Archives and shows the infamous mushroom cloud effect of nuclear warfare. Although the photographer remains unknown, this photograph was taken from the vantage point of a B-29 Superfortresses, the same type of plane used to drop the bomb on Japan. The entire frame is filled with the “mushroom cloud”, which rose 60,000 feet into the air.

The Hand of Love by Mike Wells

hand of love
Source: Mike Wells

The tiny emaciated hand of a starving boy takes the outstretched hand of a missionary. This photo was snapped by Mike Wells in Karamoja district, Uganda, in April of 1980. Although information on the specific camera used to snap this photo is not readily available, most photographers of the time used a 35-mm. The sharp contrast between the skin tones and the size of the two hands in this photo are what helped it win World Press Photo of the Year.

Segregated Water Fountains by Elliott Erwitt

segregated water fountain
Source: Elliott Erwitt

This photo was taken in North Carolina in 1950. The starkness of the separate fountains and one fountain clearly being nicer than the other did eventually instigate change throughout the south. Erwitte was a freelance photographer who shot many candid photos over the years.

Crabby Housewife

AuthorCrabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.