5 Impactful Photographs The World Will Never Forget

All photos can make some kind of impact. But only a small few stay at the front of society’s mind for eternity.

When we think of influential photos, our minds instantly goes to the likes of Nick Ut’s, The War of Terror, or Malcolm Browne’s, The Burning Monk. Most photos that stick in our minds tend to be related to politics, our environment, or terror. Very rarely do we hold on to good news. We’ve had uplifting images such as humankind’s first visit to the moon – but even that is not free of conspiracy and controversy. Many of society’s photographs that are never to be forgotten are from a century gone by. What about the modern era? What’s going to be the leading photographs for the next generation to reflect on? Let’s take a look.

Note: Some readers may find some of the images in the article disturbing.

1. The Begining of a Global Movement (Adam Johansson)

In the space of a year, Greta Thunberg went from being an unknown school kid to becoming Time’s Person of the Year. As polarizing as the young teenage Swede is, her impact on society can never be argued. It all began with this one simple – yet extremely powerful – photograph from 2018. Sat outside Swedish parliament, Greta skipped school and asked the world to listen. The photo, taken by Adam Johansson, would mark the beginning of a global climate revolution. Little is known about Johansson. He may be another person with a smartphone. What we do know, however, is he has a photograph that will be remembered for decades to come.

2. Strength (Jonathan Bachman)

After the 2016 police shooting of Alton Sterling, people took to the streets of Louisianna to protest outside the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department. It was during this time the Black Lives Matter movement was in full force, and the black community and those that stood with them wanted to show law enforcement that they would stand up for themselves. The above photo, taken by Jonathan Bachman, is of Ieshia Evans, as she’s being detained by law enforcement. The image went viral. Her stance displayed an act of strength, sending a message that she, and the people in her community, refuse to be bullied by those in power.

3. The Assassination of Andrei Karlov (Burhan Ozbilici)

Another image that shook the world from 2016, was the photo taken from the assassination of Andrei Karlov, a Russian ambassador to Turkey. The infamous event happened at an art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey. The shooter, an off duty policeman named Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, was pictured standing over the body of Karlov, holding his gun the air. The image was taken by photojournalist, Burhan Ozbilici. It was so impactful that it would go on to be recognized as the World Press Photo of the Year 2017.

4. The Falling Man (Richard Drew)

The oldest and most iconic image on this list was taken by Richard Drew. Not long into the new century, the world was shaken by one of the most brutal terrorist attacks the West had ever witnessed. There are thousands of images from the awful day. But very few hold the same impact as the one taken by Drew. The Falling Man, believed to be 43-year-old Jonathan Briley, can be seen falling from the World Trade Center. Although it cannot be confirmed, it suggests the man decided to jump from the towers, rather than be burned alive in the blaze. The photo highlighted the terror faced by those in the WTC that day on September 11th, 2001.

5. Alan Kurdi (Nilüfer Demir)

Likely to be the most heartbreaking photo on this list, is the image of Aylan Shenu (initially reported as Alan Kurdi.) Aylan, a three-year-old Syrian boy, was pictured motionless on a beach near Bodrum, Turkey. It was a huge wake-up call to the world about the dangers people face when seeking refuge. The Syrian war had been going on almost four years at the time the image was taken back in 2015. The country was extremely unsafe and families were doing anything they could to find safety. The photo was taken by Turkish photographer, Nilüfer Demir. It’s a photograph that remains one of the most impactful of recent times.

What Photographs Do You Find Impactful?

Photographs are created on a daily basis. In our ever-changing world, events are happening that change, inspire, and hurt society. Because of the freedom of photojournalism, we’re able to access information and understand critical world events. To say there are only five images would be wrong. Share yours and let’s keep the conversation going.

All images are screenshots.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.