7 May 2011

Shit Worth Checking Out: What is the most epic photo ever taken?

Quora has an amazing thread right now featuring the attempt to find the 'most epic photo ever taken'.  Right now, there are over 50 photos posted, most with accompanying stories (my choice for title photo was based at least in part on it needing no such description).  Some of the pics submitted are quite epic indeed.  Many are also highly disturbing, and I thus hesitate to designate the photographs I have picked out as my "favourites", so I will instead refer you to some of the best, or most intriguing, photographs after the jump.  Which gets your vote?

Nick Ut's Vietnam napalm-attack photograph.

Morning of September 11, 2001 from Empire Park in Brooklyn.

Eddie Adams's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing Nguyễn Văn Lém, a Viet Cong officer.

Testing of the peacekeeper missile.
"It represents the power of man, both in terms of scale and complexity. Every single beam of light represents a MIRV carrying a 300 kiloton warhead.  It required a vast investment of resources, and represents a humongous amount of power.  It's the creation of a people - who, less than a century ago, first managed powered flight.  It shows both the intelligence, resourcefulness, and cleverness of man, when we are pushed to compete on a lethal scale."

The first permanent photograph ever taken, by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826.

Sunday, August 6, Bitterroot River just north of Sula, Montana. By John McGolgan.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức in 1963, taken by an American journalist and photographer Malcolm Browne.

Raising Banner of Victory on roof of Reichstag building in Berlin, May 1945,
by Yevgeny Khaldei.

F-18A Breaking Sound Barrier.

"Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken from a record distance of 3.7 billion miles, at the edge of our solar system. It was shot and transmitted by the Voyager 1 spacecraft almost 13 years after its launch. [The Earth is the small single-pixel white dot to the right of the picture, about halfway down.  If you are having trouble seeing it, click here.]
Dr. Carl Sagan, who originally requested that the picture be taken, famously reflected on its meaning:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known

Tiananmen Square, China, 1989.

"This image was taken in Sudan during the 1994 famine. 
That's a little girl, crawling slowly and painfully across the ground toward a food distribution center a kilometer away, while a vulture watches her and follows, waiting for her to die so it can eat her.
The photographer, Kevin Carter, chased the bird away and then sat sobbing uncontrollably after taking the photo. Three months later, he killed himself out of grief and desperation over the things he'd seen and his depression at the things humanity does to one another.
This image explains something very basic and true about our world, and something we are very reluctant to admit: in order for some of us to have more food than we need, children have to starve to death and animals have to eat them. We purchase our excess with those children's lives. And this photo captured this truth purely and literally for us all to see."

School Integration Begins at Central High School in Little Rock, 1957.

Robert Capa's Death of a Loyalist, from the civil war in Spain, 1937.

Plane Hits Truck, Guatemala, 1976.  Courtesy: National Geographic.

Apollo 17.

Malboro ad.

Don Mc'Cullin: Shell-Shocked Soldier, Hue/Vietman, 1968.

Henri-Cartier Bresson's Behind the Gate St. Lazare.

source: Quora
Any quotes are taken from those who posted the images.  Many said it better than I ever could have myself, especially those whom you see quoted at length here.


  1. so which is the most epic photo? i think its the"pale blue dot". but that's just me with my ossesion with space and the fact that it is so unfathomably vast that it almost seems that even if the human race lives for another million years we could never explore the whole thing.