Photography often exposes the raw underbelly of life and through the ages there have been several iconic photos that have captured humanity at its worst. Some criticise journalist’s ability to take photos of sensitive subjects, but at the end of the day they capture a side of life that is real, and can often teach us about ourselves and help change the world for the better.
These heart-stopping images are sometimes controversial, sometimes stunning, and sometimes heart wrenching, but they all have made an impact, just as the photographer intended.
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Man Jumping the Puddle -1930
Captured through a fence behind Paris’ Saint-Lazare train station, this image has become the perfect example of a decisive moment. It’s the photographer’s way of showing just how they capture a second in time, like when you win big playing the Bingo Australia has to offer, or find out you’ve hit the jackpot.
The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz – 1907
The iconic image “The Steerage” shows exactly that. The image depicts the poorer section of a ship and the way people were packed in like sardines and did everything in the same space, from washing to cooking and sleeping. The photo was hugely significant as it showed the layer of classes of the time, and its composition reflects this too.
Stanley Forman’s Woman Falling From Fire Escape – 1975
A shocking photo that is rather hard to look at, Forman was working for the Boston Herald when he was called to the scene of a fire. Sadly the escaping women and child were on the fire escape when it collapsed and they came crashing to the ground. Sadly the women died, but Forman won a Pulitzer Prize for the image and it shone much needed light on improving fire escape safety codes, so it definitely made a positive impact in some ways.
Kevin Carter’s Starving Child and Vulture – 1993
Carter captured the heart-breaking image of a starving child being preyed on by a vulture in Sudan, in Africa, and many shunned him for not stepping in to help. Carter was haunted by the image and eventually took his own life, despite actually repeatedly telling people that the image had been made to look far worse than it actually was, the child’s mother was close by and the vulture was actually quite far off. Sadly the child was starving as the country was griped by a famine, and the image remains one of the starkest depictions of this brutal reality many faced.
Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother – 1936
Migrant Mother has become the literal poster child for the Great Depression and this image truly captures the impact it had on people. The image shows a tight-lipped mother with her children behind her, and clearly shows just how much the stress and strain has taken its toll. This photo spurred the government to send 20,000lbs of food and to implement aid and assistance measures to alleviate the plight of those who were the worst off.