Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Archive for May 2009

Richard Nixon Jumps

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“Halsman felt that asking a person to jump shifted their attention from being photographed to the act of jumping, thereby revealing the subject’s inner personality,” said Kurt Sundstrom, Assistant Curator at the Currier Gallery of Art. “In fact, Halsman compared his ability to reveal character to the work of a good psychologist.”

Halsman himself admitted, “[Revealing character] can’t be done by pushing the person into position or arranging his head at a certain angle. It must be accomplished by provoking the victim, amusing him with jokes, lulling him with silence, or asking impertinent questions which his best friend would be afraid to voice.”

Halsman himself was daunted to photographer Vice President Richard Nixon in the White House and thought that the proper and grumpy politician would refuse to jump. However, Nixon readily agreed, but like his subsequent presidency, the photo was awkward to say the least.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 27, 2009 at 12:15 am

Posted in Culture, Politics

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The Highway of Death

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Officially known as Highway 80, the Highway of Death runs from Kuwait City to Basra in Iraq. During the Gulf War (1991), it became the scene of one of the most haunting images of the war.

On the night of February 26-27, 1991, Iraqi military personnel and civilians retreating from Kuwait were attacked and destroyed by American aircraft and ground forces during the United Nations Coalition offensive. The use of force was disproportionate, and the retreating forces included hostages and refugees. The scenes of carnage on the road were seen by the international community as a turkey shoot (Elaine Sciolino, the New York Times) and led to the war’s quick end subsequently.

[See CBC Archives]

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 27, 2009 at 12:04 am

Posted in Politics, War

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The Baldwins

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Above the Rt. Honorable and Mrs. Baldwin at their home days after King Edward VIII’s Abdication.

In Stanley Baldwin and the Conservatives entered into a coalition with Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. With MacDonald’s health failing, Baldwin became Prime Minister in June 1935. Baldwin’s last major test in office was the Edward VIII Abdication Crisis–the king’s proposed wife, two-time divorcee Wallis Simpson was detested throughly by Baldwin, who joined the royal family in trying to dissuade the king from the marriage.

Despite the public being left uninformed of the looming crisis, and the press barons and royalists respecting the king’s choice, Baldwin’s government insisted that ‘the voice of the people must be heard’. Although Baldwin hoped the king would choose the throne over Simpson, by turning the crisis into a constitutional question, Baldwin pushed it too far. (For the king to act against the cabinet’s wishes would have precipitated a constitutional crisis which would demand Baldwin’s own resignation.

Although Baldwin restored his popularity through his handling of the crisis, this didn’t deter the royalists’ cries of ‘God save the King—from Bald-win! FLOG BALDWIN! FLOG HIM!! WE—WANT—EDWARD!”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 26, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Politics, Society

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Trnopolje, Bosnia, 1992.

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 As the media attention in Bosnian Crisis rose, Newsday‘s Roy Gutman, a British film crew from ITN, and the Guardian’s Ed Vulliamy are among the first television crew on the ground. Serb officials blocked their access, but allowed them into a camp, Omarska. As fate would have it, as they departed, they drove past another camp, Trnopolje, where ghastly scenes awaited.

ITN would broadcast the first pictures from Trnopolje on August 6th 1992. The images of wilting Muslims behind barbed wire inflamed public outrage about the war like no postwar genocide. The next day’s frontpages were full of outrage; the Star and the Daily Mirror both recalled “Belsen” in their headlines, with the latter paper captioning the photos, “The Horrors of a New Holocaust”. The media fixated on one particular man with protruding ribs, Bosnian Fikret Alic. His gaunt terrified face became an icon of the Bosnian civil war. It was hard to imagine that he had been at the camp for only nine days when journalists stumbled upon him. American public approval from intervention jumped from 35% to 53%. In a rare emotive address, former British PM Margaret Thatcher criticized her successor John Major, beginning “I never thought I’d see another holocaust in my life.”

The picture was used as evidence in war crimes tribunals in The Hague. But it also sparked a controversy; five years after its publication, LM (formerly Living Marxist) published an article entitled ‘The Picture that Fooled the World‘, claiming that the broadcasts gave the impression Trnopolje was a concentration camp run by Serbs for Bosnians and Croats rather than just a refuge centre and that Alic was emaciated because of a childhood bout of tuberculosis. ITN and Vulliamy never actually used the term concentration camp in their reports, and the latter didn’t even mention barbed wires, focussing instead on Omarska camp; Vulliamy later angrily retorted that those who had died in Trnopolje and Omarska camps were ‘most horribly insulted’ by the LM; ITN and Alic successfully sued the magazine into bankruptcy. But this being the Internet age, blogs and youTube are chockfull of LM supporters but here is the original ITN report:

Soon, other photojournalists headed to Trnopolje, including Ron Haviv. For Agency VII/Newsweek, Haviv covered turmoils in the Balkans, such as the fall of Vukovar, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, the Sarajevo detention camps, the ethnic conflict in Kosovo, the bombing and the flight of the refugees, ending with the civil unrest in Macedonia.


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 26, 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Politics, War

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Diana at the Taj Mahal

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During her trip to India with Prince Charles in 1992, Lady Diana is pictured alone at the Taj Mahal. On a bench (now affectionately known as Lady Di’s Chair) in front of the greatest monument to love, Lady Diana was photographed alone. She sat by herself and posed for customary photographs on a bench in front of the marble mausoleum, during the visit that took place as her marriage to Prince Charles was collapsing.

A statement on her solitude and a symbol of her failing marriage, the photograph shifted the public sympathy from the stoic prince to seemingly vulnerable princess. The image would come to epitomize the couple’s estrangement. They split up the same year.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 11:05 pm

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Warschauer Kniefall

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December 7, 1970. It was a crowning end to his first year in office. Later that day, Willy Brandt would signed a treaty in Warsaw, which effectively acknowledged the de facto post-war borders between Germany and Poland. But it was his act of penance at the monument to Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that spoke louder than any treaty.

The uprising inside the Warsaw Ghetto in then the Nazi-occupied General Government of Poland was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the Holocaust.  The effort to resist transportation of the remaining ghetto population to the Treblinka extermination camp was poorly armed and brutally crushed by the German troops. Brandt wrote in his 1992 memoir:

It was a great burden I carried with me to Warsaw. Nowhere had a nation and its people suffered as they did in Poland. The routine extermination of Polish Jews took bloodlust to lengths no one would have thought possible. Who can name all the Jews from Poland, and other parts of Europe, who were annihilated in Auschwitz alone? The memory of six million murder victims lay along my road to Warsaw, and the memory of the fight to the death of the Warsaw ghetto, which I had followed from my observation post in Stockholm, and of which the governments fighting Hitler had taken hardly any more notice than they did of the heroic rising of the Polish capital itself a few months later.

On the morning after my arrival, my Warsaw programme contained two wreath-laying ceremonies, the first at the grave of the Unknown Soldier. There, I remembered the victims of violence and treachery. The screens and newspapers of the world featured a picture that showed me kneeling — before the memorial dedicated to the Jewish ghetto of the city and its dead. I have often been asked what the idea behind that gesture was: had it been planned in advance? No, it had not. My close colleagues were as surprised as the reporters and photographers with me, and as those who did not attend the ceremony because they could see no ‘story’ in it.

I had not planned anything, but I had left Wilanow Castle, where I was staying, with a feeling that I must express the exceptional significance of the ghetto memorial. From the bottom of the abyss of German history, under the burden of millions of victims of murder, I did what human beings do when speech fails them.

Even twenty years later, I cannot say more than the reporter whose account ran: ‘Then he who does not need to kneel knelt, on behalf of all who do need to kneel but do not — because they dare not, or cannot, or cannot dare to kneel.’

At home in the Federal Republic, there was no lack of questions, either malicious or foolish, as to whether the gesture had not been ‘overdone’. I noted embarrassment on the Polish side.  The day after the incident, none of my hosts referred to it. I concluded that others besides ourselves had not yet digested this chapter of history.

Carlo Schmid, who was with me in Warsaw, told me later that he had been asked why, at the grave of the Unknown Solider, I only laid wreath and did not kneel. Next morning, in the car on the way to the airport, [Polish Premier] Cyrankiewicz took my arm and told me that the gesture had in fact touched many people; his wife hand telephoned a friends of hers in Vienna that evening, and both women shed bitter tears.

As Brandt remembered, 48% of West Germans thought the “Kniefall” was exaggerated. The opposition tried to use the Kniefall against Brandt with a vote of No Confidence in April 1972 which he survived by only two votes. However, Brandt’s Ostpolitik and Kniefall helped his reelection; his reformist policies underscored that after years of evasion, Germany was finally ready to repent and commit to liberal values.  A few weeks after the Kniefall, he was Time magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ and in 1971, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Various photos from several angles ran in the following day’s papers across the world. The photo above, by Sven Simon which ran on the cover of Der Spiegel, has all the qualities of an alterpiece — the black bulk of the coat and religious connotations of the kneeling creates ephemeral and poetic moment. However, it was not Simon, or other photographers that defined that photo. It was Brandt who was the true maker of this photograph.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Politics, Society

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Chagall at the Lincoln Centre

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In this photo of Sept. 8, 1966, the painter Marc Chagall poses by his mural “Le Triumphe de la Musique,” The Triumph of Music, during the unveiling ceremonies in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, in New York. Through the transparent windowpanes of the building, The Sources of Music in yellow (right) and The Triumph of Music in red (left) dominate the frontal view of the opera house. Although specifically created for the opera house, there were various autobiographical elements by Chagall in those paintings. Only at night, the murals are on view. During the day they are covered with white sheets in order to protect them from the sun.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm

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Orgreave Riots

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The Battle of Orgreave is the name given to a confrontation between police and picketing miners at Orgreave, South Yorkshire, in June 1984. It was during the Miners’ Strike of 1984, when the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) staged 5,000 to 6,000 pickets across the UK. Orgreave strike started out like most others, with stone and coal throwing from the miners. Then, arguments started and then, arrests.

The most famous photograph of the day was that of a woman narrowly missing a baton strike. The photograph by John Harris who spent a year on the picket lines photographing key moments of the Miners Strikes was one of many such incidents caught on camera. Ironically, the subject of this iconic photograph was also a photographer, Lesley Boulton who was helping an injured miner. The photo would also gain notoriety in that only one of 17 national newspapers published the photograph, leading to allegations of bias against the miners.

Ninety-three arrests were made, with 51 picketers and 72 policemen injured. Ninety-five picketers were charged and tried in 1987, but the trials collapsed. In 1991, South Yorkshire police were forced to pay out half a million pounds to 39 miners who were arrested in the events at the Battle of Orgreave.

See: BBC report

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 10:26 pm

The Glimpse from the Mill

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As a photographer for National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), sociologist Lewis Hine documented child labor in American industry to aid the NCLC’s lobbying efforts to end the practice. Hine’s work resulted in a wave of popular support for federal child labor regulations put forward by the NCLC. In one of the earliest examples of documentary photography, Hine visited mills and factories all over the United States, opening an otherwise unavailable window into the somber working conditions facing America’s youth. When asked about his work on the subject Hine simply stated that he “wanted to show things that had to be corrected.”

The picture above was noted, “A moments glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 11 years old. Been working over a year. Rhodes Mfg.” and it would become one of the most iconic photos of Hines’ anthology. Hine indeed met with considerable opposition from the employers, who accused him of muck-raking. Sometimes he was banned from the premises, on other occasions the children were hidden from view when he arrived. Hine posed as a fire inspector, Bible salesman or insurance agent in order to gain access to the premises. Where he was banned from premises, he would photograph the children arriving at or leaving the factory….and he measured the children’s height by the buttons on his jacket.

After NCLC, Hine documented life in the steel-making districts of Pittsburgh, American Red Cross relief work in Europe, the construction of the Empire State Building and other human contributions to modern industry.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Industries, Society

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Actors during McCarthyism

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Actors (l. to r.) Danny Kaye, June Havoc and Humphrey Bogart (standing) and Bogart’s wife actress Lauren Bacall (sitting) listens intently to House Un-American Activities Committee Hearings on the presence of communists in the film industry. October 1947. Martha Holmes for LIFE.

Although Bogart organized another group (Committee for the First Amendment) to counter HUAC’s harassment of Hollywood screenwriters and actors, he tried to distance himself from Hollywood blacklist, writing “The ten men cited for contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee were not defended by us.” in Photoplay.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 9:46 pm

War is over

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Three years, eight months and six days after the United States entered World War II, the fighting official ended. President Truman’s announcement–at seven p.m. EST on August 14, 1945–that Japan had surrendered started a party that lasted for days. One GI called V-J Day “the kissingest day in history,” politely describing the first act of what would soon become the baby boom.

LIFE Magazine: U.S. Servicemen and servicewomen, Paris, August 15, 1945.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 9:33 pm

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Sadat Assassination

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Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by Islamic extremists within the Egyptian army on October 6, 1981. They killed him for negotiating a peace agreement with Israel in 1979.

Sadat was a close confidant of Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom he succeeded as President in 1970, but in his eleven years as president he changed Egypt’s direction, departing from some of the economic and political principles of Nasserism. He reinstitute the multi-party system and launched an open-door policy towards Israel. Although he started the Yom Kippur War together with al-Assad of Syria to regain the Sinai Peninsula, he later pursued peace openly with Israel. Sadat became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel and he spoke before the Knesset

However, his peace agreement made him extremely unpopular in the Middle East and led to Egpyt being expelled from the Arab League. Wikipedia details his assassination and aftermath.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 25, 2009 at 9:41 am

Posted in Politics

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