November Update

A brief update as I don’t post here anymore, and moved my blogging to a new page: In the 1940s, Ladies Home Journal ran two great photo essay series. One was “How America Lives” which looked at ‘typical’ American families in detail: from how it raised its children, participated i … | Continue reading | 7 months ago

Mid-Month Update

Hi all,  A brief mid-month update as I don’t post here anymore, and moved my blogging to a new page. Go here to subscribe: Recent Posts I have been on a blogging binge and in last week produced three posts:  What’s Next My broad theme for next … | Continue reading | 7 months ago

Blog Update

For the time being, I have decided to migrate the blog to I was not able to transfer subscriber list from here (some sort of error in plugin). If you are subscribed here, I would request you to go to and put your ema … | Continue reading | 8 months ago

Blog Update

For the time being, I have decided to migrate the blog to Transferring domain from WordPress hosting has been a plain (partly because of the size of the blog, and partly because of various plugins, etc.). As such, I was not able to transfer subscriber l … | Continue reading | 8 months ago

Toffs and Toughs, 1937

This photo is presumed to illustrate Britain’s class divide — but does it really tell the whole story? . ‘Toffs And Toughs’ the picture was called. The five boys who came to illustrate the class divide of prewar Britain were photographed by Jimmy Sime outside Lord’s Cricket Groun … | Continue reading | 8 months ago

Eichmann identified, 1960

In 1960, justice finally caught up with one of the most notorious war criminals. Adolf Eichman was abducted by the Israeli secret agents in Argentina in a covert operation and subsequently taken to Israel, where he stood trial for crimes against humanity. Here is the story of how … | Continue reading | 9 months ago

Gunnar Bergstrom’s Kampuchea, 1978

Due to the favorable coverage in Sweden, Swedish media and diplomats were given special guided tours to Cambodia. Here are the photos of one of the Swedish visitors. … Continue reading Gunnar Bergstrom’s Kampuchea, 1978 → | Continue reading | 9 months ago

Khe Sanh, 1968

Khe Sanh, 1968. For war critics and news correspondents, it was a miniature microcosm for the War in Vietnam itself: 6,000 US Marines forced to defend an isolated untenable location that the top brass believed to be indispensable, only to abandon it after hundreds of Americans we … | Continue reading | 9 months ago

Deathrow in China, 2003

A rare glimpse behind the deathrow and how women prisoners accused of drug trafficking spent their last days in a Chinese prison… Continue reading Deathrow in China, 2003 → | Continue reading | 9 months ago

Iconic Photos Bookshelf 2.0

. I have a version of this at the top of the blog, but with various website rehostings and reformats, I am not sure how many of my readers have seen it, so I am revamping it a little bit. These are generally great coffee table books To write this blog, I rely on two… Continue rea … | Continue reading | 9 months ago

1986 | Chernobyl

. What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. Thus notes the TV show Chernobyl (2019). What happened at Chernobyl 33 years earlier was a deadly combination … | Continue reading | 10 months ago

1978 | Jonestown

Peoples Temple Agricultural Project it was called. In the ’60s, Jim Jones was a respected Pentecostal reverend, who preached a gospel of social justice and inclusion to  integrate churches, hospitals, restaurants and theaters and attract followers to his San Francisco-based congr … | Continue reading | 10 months ago

1970 | Ca Mau, Vietnam

. As I noted before – the war in Vietnam was mostly remembered through the work of Western photographers like Robert Capa and Larry Burrows. However, in North Vietnam, the war was witnessed through the lens of guerrilla fighters who doubled as photographers. Last time, I wrote ab … | Continue reading | 10 months ago

1948 | Oppenheimer

. Life magazine described him as “one of the most famous men in the world, one of the most admired, quoted, photographed, consulted, glorified, well-nigh deified as the fabulous and fascinating archetype of a brand new kind of hero, the hero of science and intellect, originator a … | Continue reading | 10 months ago

1984 | Jumpman

In lead up to the 1984 Summer Olympics, Life Magazine tried to put together a special issue featuring great athletes of past, present, and future. The subjects lined up included Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis, Edwin Moses, Nadia Comaneci, Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz and an upcoming basket … | Continue reading | 10 months ago

Generative A.I. Strikes Back

It has been a while since I talked about Generative A.I. Let’s check in with three that are pretty good: the OG ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Claude. Verdict: Bard broadly sucks. Claude is as good as ChatGPT (free version) and in some cases better. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use just nor … | Continue reading | 11 months ago

1976 | Thammasat, Bangkok

The military backed Senate this week blocked a popular progressive candidate from becoming Prime Minister in Thailand. We look back at a particularly troubled year in the Kingdom’s history. . Despite its status as a mecca for tourists, Thailand always has an undercurrent of polit … | Continue reading | 11 months ago

1959 | Dalai Lama in Siliguri

. The relationship between Tibet and China was historically complex, and Tibet, high in the Himalayas, had enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy throughout its history — periods of closer ties to China punctuated by periods of greater independence – and the country had long maintai … | Continue reading | 11 months ago

1963 | Ca Mau, Vietnam

. Historically, the news photography was predominantly the field of Western photographers. In this context, the Gwangju incident which I blogged about earlier was also notable. Magazines like National Geographic and Life, papers like New York Times, other news organizations like … | Continue reading | 11 months ago

1985 | Titanic is Found

A century after its sinking, Titanic still fascinates and lures explorers to their doom. We look back at the week in 1985 when the wreck of the oceanliner was found: . It was “the Mount Everest of wrecks.” Both its distance from land and depth – under 12,000 feet of waters roughl … | Continue reading | 12 months ago

1980 | Gwangju

There is a reason this blog is called Iconic Photos, not Iconic Images or Iconic Moments. I believe that a single well-placed photograph can be better and impactful than a video clip. In its simplicity and focus, in its emotional intensity, and in its ability to leave before and … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

2005 | Katrina

. In its wake as the most devastating Atlantic hurricane to date, Katrina exposed the failures of the government response, and the socio-economic disparities that existed in the Gulf Coast. With sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h), it was one of the strongest hurricanes ever re … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

1973 | Coup in Chile

. After three unsuccessful campaigns, Salvador Allende was finally elected in Chile in 1970 — the first Marxist president ever elected democratically anywhere in the world. His subsequent socialist reforms – which included nationalizing factories and agricultural estates, includi … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Berlin Airlift | Henry Ries

. “We must have a bad phone connection,” asked General Curtis LeMay, the cigar-chomping, gruff-talking head of Strategic Air Command. “It sounds like you are asking whether we have planes for carrying coal.” It was June 1948, and on the other end of the call was General Lucius Cl … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Pope John Paul in Managua

. There was the weightiness of history to the moment above. Canossa perhaps or the memories of the papacies of the Renaissance and the Inquistion perhaps. A pope wagging finger at a kneeling man on the airport tarmac. It was 1983 and Pope John Paul II was in Managua — on his firs … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

1944 | Vienne Execution

. After France was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, a wave of retributions swept through the country. Nazi collaborators and Gestapo informers were denounced; women suspected of having relationships with Germans were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved; those engage … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Coronation of George V

Ahead of Charles III’s coronation this weekend, we look back at the first time cameras were allowed inside the Westminster Abbey George V’s coronation in 1911 had several ‘firsts’: the first to use the newly developed processional route through the Mall and Whitehall; the first t … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Formula One Fire | 1994

. Refueling in the pit lane and Formula One has a complicated relationship since 1982 when Brabham team discovered that a faster race time could be achieved when starting a car with only half a tank of fuel. The sport’s governing authorities banned refueling in 1984 – but relente … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Three Communists

Often reprinted in Laos and Vietnam was the image above – that of Laotian Communist leader Kaysone Phomvihane with Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese revolutionary. The photo was never reprinted in its entirely in Laos and Vietnam – both still nominally communist – to include the third … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Woodstock ’69

. The whole world was there. At least it appeared to be — and later would claim to be. From August 15th to 17th 1969, the largest rock festival in American history was undergoing at Bethel, New York. The name ‘Woodstock’ would soon enter into cultural memory, but back then, it wa … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Indochina by Taizo Ichinose

. The haunting photo above showed the road leading to Angkor Thom – covered in detritus from the forest and devoid of any trace of people, except for a solitary human spine. It was taken by Taizo Ichinose, a Japanese photographer, whose ambition to capture images of the Angkor Wa … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Decisive Moments by A.I.

For years it has been in development, but in recent months, there has been remarkable breakthroughs in artificial intelligence — especially in the field of generative AI, that enables machines to create text and images. The operative word is create. AI creates. It doesn’t provide … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Poolside Gossip | 1970

. You have probably seen it. In bars, in restaurants, on walls of hotel lobbies. The photo of two attractive women sitting in lounge chairs next to a pool and a modern house. Gray and purple mountains in the background. Slim Aarons, a society photographer in Los Angeles, took the … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Blog Announcement

Normally Iconic Photos don’t reveal talk about current affairs photos. But on Patreon, I will start sharing short pieces, about photos that are currently in the news. Minimum once a month. Maybe once or twice a month. I started with this week with a Addenda post about India, and … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Hawaiian Statehood, 1959

. It was a long and arduous journey. Following the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893 by American businessmen, there were several attempts to incorporate the archipelago into the United States. For a time, it was considered a republic until it became a U.S. territory in 18 … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Albanian Migration to Italy

. In the final days of 1989, as communism faltered throughout Eastern Europe, Albania was facing upheavals too. The country had been isolated for decades, maintaining an antagonistic stance not only with the West but also against the fellow travelers in Soviet Union, China, and Y … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

National Geographic’s Edited Covers

. The year was 1982. That February, National Geographic’s cover showed the camel train in front of the Great Pyramids at Giza. Keen-eyed readers noticed something off about the photo: the editors have moved the pyramids to fit the original photo, which was taken in landscape onto … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

The 1954 Capitol Attack

As the mob of rioters barged through the Capitol building on January 6th 2021, they must have passed through the halls marked by earlier tumults.  It seemed unimaginable in the post-9/11 world of the ever vigilant security state, but the Capitol was bombed three times (in 1914, 1 … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Lenin and Stalin

. Even today, photographers who attempt to take pictures inside the mausoleum on the Red Square where Vladimir Lenin lay in repose are stopped by the sentries. In 1955, that didn’t deter British tourist Christopher Scott, who had bought his first camera only fourteen days earlier … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Beirut | Don McCullin

In January 1976, Christian Falangist fighters “cleared out” Quarantina, a Muslim neighborhood in Christian-dominated East Beirut. The Minet-el-Hosn district, a seaside area of downtown Beirut known for its hotels, became one of the frontlines of the religious war that began.  The … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

The Coffins, 2004

. In 1991, when his gruesome photo of a dead Iraqi soldier burnt in tank during the Gulf War was published, Ken Jarecke remarked: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.” For four presidential administrations — from the Gulf War until 2009 – th … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Falun Gong

Falun Gong protests in April 1999 symbolized much that came before and much that came since – so did the repression that followed.   . Last week, as Chinese cities erupted into anti-lockdown protests, commentators look back at the student led protests of 1989, which ended with th … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Jiang Zemin (1926 – 2022)

Jiang Zemin, a president and a meme, died this week, aged 96. . On “60 Minutes” in 2000, he was asked whether he was running China as a ‘developmental dictatorship’. Jiang Zemin was defiant. “Of course not,” he answered, capping an interview where he quoted from the Gettysburg ad … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

East Germany | 1953

. Earlier this year, as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, Yuval Noah Harari wrote a punchy editorial in the Guardian. One line stood out: “In the long run, stories count for more than tanks,” and reminded me of this photo. . Unrest had been brewing in East Germany for a while. U … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Ron Galella (1931 – 2022)

Ron Galella, patron saint of peeping toms, is dead, age 91. . “A great photograph shows the famous doing something unfamous. Ron Galella is my favorite photographer,” Andy Warhol once said. Ron Galella’s career was defined by taking pictures of the famous doing the routine – and … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Last Picture of War | Robert Capa

. His biographer called them “the most gruesome photographs of [Robert] Capa’s entire career.” On the floor of a Leipziger apartment, 21-year old Raymod J. Bowman lay dead, a German sniper’s bullet clean through his forehead. His legs were splayed out onto the balcony from which … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

The Zamzam Affair

. “One of the picture scoops of World War II,” Time magazine called it. The photos showed the sinking of Zamzam, an Egyptian vessel which departed New York in March 1941 bound for Alexandria, Egypt with approximately 200 passengers, mostly Protestant missionaries, plus two dozen … | Continue reading | 1 year ago

Henri Cartier-Bresson | Shanghai, Jan 1949

On the day the Japanese Army surrendered in September 1945, the wars in Asia were far from over. As Ronald Spector notes in a recent book, “A Continent Erupts,” the peoples under the territories until recent occupied by Japan had vastly different visions about their postcolonial … | Continue reading | 1 year ago