There is no standardized answer as it is subjective. However, there are certain photographs that are considered to be masterpieces and have stood the test of time. These include:
-The Steichen portraits of President Theodore Roosevelt and his family. Taken in 1903, these images captured a moment in history and demonstrated the power of photography to capture both individual personalities and a family dynamic.
-Eugene Atget’s photographs of Parisian streets and architecture. Atget was a pioneer of documentary photography and his work provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.
-The “Migrant Mother” photograph by Dorothea Lange. This powerful image captures the reality of poverty during the Great Depression and has come to symbolize America’s resilience in the face of adversity.
-Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”. Adams was a master landscape photographer and this photograph is considered one of his finest works. It perfectly captures the beauty and mystery of nature.
1 The Terror Of War, Nick Ut, 1972
The greatest photograph ever taken is The Terror of War by Nick Ut. This photo was taken during the Vietnam War and shows a group of children running away from a napalm bombing. The photo is incredibly powerful and has been credited with helping to end the war.
2 The Burning Monk, Malcolm Browne, 1963
On June 11, 1963, Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne took what would become one of the most iconic and influential photographs of the 20 t h century. The image, simply titled “The Burning Monk,” showed a Buddhist monk named Thích Quảng Đức sitting in the lotus position as he calmly set himself ablaze in a busy intersection of Saigon, Vietnam.
The self-immolation was a protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government, which had recently banned Buddhist religious practices and arrested several high-ranking monks. As Thích Quảng Đức sat in meditation with flames engulfing his body, Browne took six photos of the scene before police extinguished the fire and removed his charred corpse.
The first photo that Browne transmitted to Associated Press headquarters showed only Thích Quảng Đức’s silhouette as he sat engulfed in flames; it was this dramatic image that quickly made its way around the world and into history books. The subsequent photos that Browne took depicted different stages of the monk’s self-immolation, including one chilling shot that showed his skeleton still seated in meditation after his flesh had been burned away.
While some have criticized Browne for taking such graphic images, there is no doubt that “The Burning Monk” helped to shape public opinion about the Vietnam War and bring attention to the plight of Buddhists in South Vietnam. The photograph won numerous awards and is considered one of the most important news images ever taken.
3 Starving Child And Vulture, Kevin Carter, 1993
The photograph that is often cited as the “greatest photograph ever taken” is actually a highly controversial one. It was captured by photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993 and depicts a starving child in Sudan, with a vulture lurking nearby.
The image caused an uproar when it was first published, with many people accusing Carter of being insensitive and heartless. However, others praised him for his bravery in capturing such a powerful and harrowing image.
In the end, the photograph helped to raise awareness about the plight of those suffering in Sudan, and Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. However, he was also criticised by some who felt that he should have done more to help the child he photographed rather than simply taking its picture.
4 Lunch Atop A Skyscraper, 1932
In 1932, eleven construction workers gathered a top the steel beams of the RCA Building in New York City to enjoy their lunch break. Unbeknownst to them, the photographer Charles C. Ebbets was waiting nearby to capture what would become one of the most iconic images in American history: “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper.”
For more than eighty years, this image has captivated audiences around the world with its simple yet powerful message of hope and possibility. In a time when the country was still reeling from the Great Depression, “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” offered a glimpse of a brighter future; a future where even everyday Americans could aspire to great heights.
Today, “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” remains an enduring symbol of progress and possibility. It reminds us that no matter how difficult life may seem at times, we always have the potential to reach new heights if we work hard and never give up.
5 Tank Man, Jeff Widener, 1989
The greatest photograph ever taken is one that has the power to stop you in your tracks and take your breath away. It’s a photograph that makes you question everything you thought you knew and leaves you with more questions than answers. It’s a photograph that stays with you long after you’ve seen it, haunting your dreams and forcing you to confront the ugly reality of the world around us.
TheTank Man is such a photograph. Taken by Jeff Widener in 1989, it shows an unidentified man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square, China, boldly defying the forces of oppression. The man quickly became an international symbol of resistance against tyranny and his act of defiance was hailed as one of the most courageous acts of the 20 t h century.
Sadly, we will never know what happened to the Tank Man after that fateful day. Some say he was pulled away by onlookers and disappeared into the crowd. Others believe he was arrested and executed by the Chinese government. Regardless of his fate, his legacy lives on through this iconic image which continues to inspire people around the world to stand up against injustice and fight for their rights.
6 Falling Man, Richard Drew, 2001
The September 11 t h terrorist attacks were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. On the morning of Tuesday, September 11 t h, 2001, nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and causing the collapse of both buildings shortly thereafter.
Drew’s photograph became an indelible image of that day, representing to many the moment when horror turned to tragedy as they watched helplessly as people jumped or fell from the burning towers. In his picture, a single man is seen falling headfirst from one of the towers with his arms flailing about in what appears to be a desperate attempt to grab hold of something to stop his fall. The man in Drew’s photograph has come to be known as “the Falling Man.”
Although it was taken in one of the most tragic moments in American history, Drew’s photo is not without its share of controversy. Some have criticized it for being too graphic and for exploiting the suffering of those who perished on 9/11. Others have praised it for its raw emotion and power as well as for its place in history as an iconic image capturing a defining moment in time.