25 of the most iconic photographs

Updated 10:46 AM ET, Tue September 27, 2016
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Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph of an American sailor kissing a woman in Times Square became a symbol of the excitement and joy at the end of World War II. The Life photographer didn't get their names, and several people have claimed to be the kissers over the years. A book released last year identifies the pair as George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman. "Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor," Friedman said in 2005. "It wasn't that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back (to war)." Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Following a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of student demonstrators in Beijing, a lone Chinese protester steps in front of People's Liberation Army tanks in Tiananmen Squarein 1989. At least five photographers captured the event, which became a symbol of defiance in the face of oppression. Charlie Cole, working for Newsweek, won a World Press Photo Award for his version of the image. The identity and fate of the "Tank Man" remains unclear. Charlie Cole/Newsweek
Joe Rosenthal's 1945 photograph of U.S. troops raising a flag in Iwo Jima during World War II remains one of the most widely reproduced images. It earned him a Pulitzer Prize, but he also faced suspicions that he staged the patriotic scene. While it was reported to be a genuine event, it was the second flag-raising of the day atop Mount Suribachi. The first flag, raised hours earlier, was deemed too small to be seen from the base of the mountain. Joe Rosenthal/AP
A hooded detainee in U.S. custody during the Iraq War stands on a box with electrical wires hooked up to his fingers. The image became a symbol of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal after it was released, among others, in late April 2004. It did what a written report could not do, showing front-and-center what human rights groups had been saying for months: that prisoners were being abused at the hands of U.S. troops. The fallout was immediate, both overseas and at home. AP
During the Vietnam War, Eddie Adams photographed Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, killing Viet Cong suspect Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street during the early stages of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Adams later regretted the impact of the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, apologizing to Gen. Nguyen and his family for the damage it did to the general's reputation. "I'm not saying what he did was right," Adams wrote in Time magazine, "but you have to put yourself in his position." Eddie Adams/AP
Richard Drew captured this image of a man falling from the World Trade Center in New York after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Its publication led to a public outcry from people who found the photograph insensitive. Drew sees it differently. On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, he said he considers the falling man an "unknown soldier" who he hopes "represents everyone who had that same fate that day." It's believed that upwards of 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths after the planes hit the towers. Richard Drew/AP
In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, local journalist Shannon Hicks witnessed police escorting children out of the school in Newtown, Connecticut. "I knew that, coming out of the building -- as terrified as they were -- those children were safe," Hicks later told Time magazine. "I just felt that it was an important moment." The photograph made it onto the front pages of newspapers, magazines and websites around the world. Shannon Hicks/Newton Bee/AP
Robert Capa, co-founder of the Magnum Photos cooperative, became known for his 1936 photograph said to depict the death of a solider during the Spanish Civil War. Since the 1970s, doubt has been cast on the authenticity of the image. Many people suggest that it was staged. The International Center of Photography in New York and Magnum, among others, have defended the image. Either way, "The Falling Soldier" remains one of history's most famous war photographs. Robert Capa/ICP/Magnum Photos
Yousuf Karsh's 1941 portrait of a scowling Winston Churchill -- reportedly reacting to Karsh snatching Churchill's cigar -- graced the cover of Life magazine and cemented the British prime minister's reputation as a "roaring lion." "By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me," Karsh recalled. "It was at that instant that I took the photograph." The Bank of England announced in 2013 that the famous portrait would be featured on the £5 note. Yousuf Karsh
During a raid at a Miami home in 2000, armed federal agents confront Elian Gonzalez, 6, and one of the men who helped rescue the boy. Gonzalez watched his mother drown when the boat smuggling them from Cuba capsized. Under international law, U.S. authorities were required to return the boy to his father in Cuba. Alan Diaz's photograph of the saga's defining moment won a Pulitzer Prize. "The cry I heard that day I had never heard in my life," Diaz said a decade later. "A cry like that will haunt anyone forever." Alan Diaz/AP
Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over Jeffrey Miller's body during an anti-war demonstration in 1970 at Kent State University. Student photographer John Filo captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image after Ohio National Guardsmen fired into the crowd of protesters, killing four students and wounding nine others. A widely published version of the image was manipulated by an anonymous editor to remove the fence post above Vecchio's head, sparking a major controversy. John Filo/Getty Images
American athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos raise their fists and hang their heads while the U.S. national anthem plays during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Their black power salute became front page news around the world as a symbol of the struggle for civil rights. To their left stood Australian Peter Norman, who expressed his support by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. AP
Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki was near the finish line when 78-year-old runner Bill Iffrig was knocked down by the first explosion at the Boston Marathon on April 15. The bombings left three people dead and injured more than 100. Iffrig got up and finished the race. Tlumacki's image of the fallen runner was widely published and selected for the cover of "Sports Illustrated." John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Five decades after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains one of Hollywood's most adored sex symbols. Her sultry legacy is often traced back to the 1954 image of her posing over a New York City subway grate in character for the filming of "The Seven Year Itch." Monroe's then-husband, Joe DiMaggio, reportedly witnessed the spectacle and became enraged with jealousy. They divorced weeks later. Matty Zimmerman/AP
Dorothea Lange's photograph of a struggling mother with her children in 1936 became an icon of the Great Depression. Lange was traveling through California, taking photographs of migrant farm workers for the Resettlement Administration, when she came across Florence Owens Thompson. "I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet," Lange recalled in 1960. The image was retouched to remove the woman's thumb from the lower right corner. Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress
President Barack Obama and members of his national security team monitor the Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. It was a crucial moment in American history, and White House photographer Pete Souza captured the tension in the room. "It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled," counterterrorism adviser John Brennan later told reporters. A classified document on the table was obscured by the White House. Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images
Alberto Korda photographed Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in 1960 at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana, Cuba. The portrait, titled "Guerrillero Heroico," has been widely reproduced through the decades, evolving into a global symbol of rebellion and social justice. As a supporter of Guevara's ideals, Korda never sought royalties for the distribution of his image. Alberto Korda
Associated Press photographer Nick Ut photographed terrified children running from the site of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped napalm on its own troops and civilians. Nine-year-old Kim Phuc, center, ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The image communicated the horrors of the war and contributed to the growing anti-war sentiment in the U.S. After taking the photograph, Ut took the children to a hospital in Saigon. Nick Ut/AP
President Bill Clinton hugs Monica Lewinsky at a 1996 fund-raiser in Washington. At the time their relationship wasn't public, so the image fell into obscurity. But when the news of their affair broke, photographer Dirck Halstead recognized Lewinsky and recovered the photo from his archives. It eventually ran on the cover of Time magazine, and the Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton's impeachment. Dirck Halstead/Liaison Agency
Aspiring photojournalist Charles Porter was working near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 when "there was just a huge, huge explosion." He rushed to the scene and saw firefighter Chris Fields emerge from the rubble holding a dying infant, 1-year-old Baylee Almon. Porter's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the moment became a symbol of the Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives. Charles Porter IV/ZUMA Press/Corbis
In 1937, Sam Shere photographed the Hindenburg disaster while on assignment in New Jersey. The crash killed 36 people and ended the era of passenger-carrying airships, which were once hailed as the future of flight. "I had two shots in my (camera) but I didn't even have time to get it up to my eye," Shere later said. "I literally shot from the hip -- it was over so fast there was nothing else to do." Sam Shere/Getty Images
Two days after President John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin. Photographer Robert H. Jackson, who covered the event's surrounding Kennedy's assassination, instinctively captured the moment and won a Pulitzer Prize. Ruby was later found guilty of murder. He appealed his conviction but died before the start of a new trial. Robert H. Jackson/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Kevin Carter's 1993 photograph of a starving child in southern Sudan brought him worldwide attention -- and criticism. Carter said the girl reached a nearby feeding center after he drove the vulture off, but questions persisted about why he didn't carry her there himself. Months after winning a Pulitzer Prize for the image, the South African photographer committed suicide. He was struggling with depression and coping with the recent death of his close friend and colleague Ken Oosterbroek. Kevin Carter/Sygma/Corbis
On Albert Einstein's 72nd birthday in 1951, photographer Arthur Sasse tried to get him to smile for the camera. Tired of smiling for pictures, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist stuck out his tongue instead. It went on to become one of the most recognizable images of Einstein, who reportedly liked the photograph so much he asked for nine copies. He signed one of the prints, which sold for more than $74,000 in 2009. ARTHUR SASSE/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein raise a flag at the site of the World Trade Center in New York after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. The scene was immortalized by photographer Thomas E. Franklin and has been compared to the iconic image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. CNN Films' "The Flag" examines what happened to the flag at ground zero and explores its impact in the aftermath of the tragedy. Thomas E. Franklin/The Record/Getty Images