A picture says a thousand words… while sometimes, pictures are left indescribable. In this installment, we'll delve into such ten incredible, shocking photos that range from jarring to inspirational.
The Waiting Vulture
There are a few elements of this Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that can make your skin crawl. First, there’s the malnourished girl in the foreground of the picture, crumbled to the floor as if she has no strength to even lift her head. The features of her body are grossly thin, making the element in the background an added shock to Kevin Carter’s 1993 photograph. A vulture stalks nearby as if it knows the young girl doesn’t have long before becoming a feast for the scavengers of Sudan. According to The New York Times, which originally ran the photograph, the young girl was able to escape an untimely death by her stalker, but what happened after remains unknown.
Shadows of Hiroshima
To bring an end to Japan’s involvement in World War II, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, laying waste to two vital cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people. After the death toll stopped increasing and the cities recovered from the attack, it seemed the shock of it all could have been replaced by a hopeful future – until photos like this eerie snapshot started to surface. In the wake of the explosions, shadows in the shape of the bomb’s victims were left behind, imprinted on what was left standing.
Though some may try, there is no denying the atrocities that took place at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. Most skepticism should be quelled by pictures such as this one, which not only gives us a look inside of a gas chamber but lets us experience the suffocating terror that the Nazi party’s victims must have gone through. As they gasped for air, their fingers clawed desperately at the cement interior. Through this picture, we can hear the resonation of every frantic gasp for air as their lives were choked from them.
The devastating effects of war can be felt throughout time, but sometimes we forget what the people of that era actually went through. That’s when images like this shocking shot remind us and hopefully help to set us in a more proper path. As this painful image depicts, it’s not just soldiers and government leaders that feel the effects of war, it’s civilians, young and old, that often get the worst of it all. The child in this picture is not sitting in the wreckage of a fatal storm, but rather the destructive after effects of a bomb set off during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937.
Handprints of Rwanda
We hear tales of genocide occurring in parts of the world, but our eyes are mostly shielded from the dreaded truths of these atrocious acts. These grisly events are difficult to avoid, however, when images such as this one are distributed, forcing the world to feel the shock and awe of the massacre of nearly 800,000 Rwandan people. This disturbing snapshot depicts a series of bloody hand and footprints of victims who were trying to escape the confines of their prison. The shocking image may not have put a face to the victims, but it made it impossible to ignore that something terrible had swept through Rwanda.
The Hindenburg Airship
It left 36 dead, drew the attention of viewers all over the globe and marked the end of passenger airships. The German airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was in the process of docking at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey on May 6th, 1937 when a fire broke out and rapidly devastated the vessel. Believed causes of the fatal fire range from sabotage, engine failures, and static electricity, but remain mostly hypothetical. While the cause may still be a mystery, photos like this prized snapshot ensure we’ll never forget the scope of the disaster itself. As you take in the size of the tragedy, your mind fills with the screams of the 36 individuals that never made it off of the doomed airship.
Thich Quang Duc lived as a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, giving his life on June 11th, 1963 for his faith. Under the rule of President Ngo Dinh Diem, Vietnam faced a period of Catholic rule which impeded growth of the heavy Buddhist population. Diem favored those of Catholicism, even ensuring that the bulk of his military were Roman Catholics. Some Buddhists converted to fall in line with Diem’s rule, but those like Duc chose martyrdom over abandoning their faith, giving their lives in ill-fated protests. Duc chose his own path to dissension and immolated himself blocks away from the Presidential Palace. Journalist Malcolm Browne was able to snap a photo of the burning monk, a disturbing image that shook those that saw it and also won the World Press Photo of the Year.
Children 4 Sale
Parents joke endlessly about selling off their rambunctious children, but there was no humor in this mother’s sign. In 1948 Chicago, Lucille Ray turns her head from the camera’s shutter as her four children sit behind a “4 Children For Sale” sign, an indication that, for the Ray family, things had hit an all-time low. What the heartbreaking picture doesn’t capture is that the Ray’s were facing eviction and were jobless, leaving no hope for them; but maybe they could provide a glimmer of a decent future for their children.
Proof of Life
What started as a controversial procedure to treat spina bifida in a fetus turned into a picture of shock and awe. Doctors Joseph Bruner and Noel Tulipan succeeded in performing the risky surgery, but it didn’t go off without some lasting message for the world to latch on to. The story goes that the tiny hand of the unborn child named Samuel reached out and grabbed ahold of Bruner’s finger, making the snapped photograph a goldmine for anti-abortion advocates and further glorifying the miracle of childbirth and pregnancy. Despite initially shocking those that first saw it in issues of USA Today and other magazines, Dr. Bruner has assured that the child did not willingly reach out to grab his hand. Instead, while closing up the uterus, the hand simply fell out.
A Man on the Moon
To people sitting comfortably at home on July 20th, 1969, hearing that we put a man on the moon couldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow. It was talked about often and the mission had been underway for a while long before the lunar landing, but even today there is something far too surreal about seeing a photograph of a man standing on a celestial body that isn’t our home world. It was so shocking, in fact, that there are still people today that believe the photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing triumphantly on the moon’s surface was staged by the U.S. government.