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20+ Of The Most Powerful Photos Ever Taken That Make You Believe In Humanity Again

A picture is worth a thousand words, but not all pictures are created equal.  They are gripping and unforgettable because of the volumes they speak about the human condition – about some of the best and worst moments of contemporary human existence. These images reflect some of the best and worst parts of the human experience and world events. These powerful, must-see images from our history will describe our suffering, triumphs, perseverance and our failures. Not to mention our compassion, hatred, intelligence, and our stupidity. Some of these photographs may mean more to some of our readers than to others. But hopefully, they will remind us all that the world can always use a little bit more love, tolerance, compassion, and understanding.

Heart-Wrenching Reunion

man holds dog after Alabama tornado

An Alabama man finds his dog inside a destroyed home after a tornado in March, 2012. He thought that he had lost literally everything. His house had been blown away and his car was totalled. He luckily didn’t lose any family in the tornado, but he thought he had lost his most important family member, his dog. While he was being interviewed by the local news, his tears were interrupted by the sound of his dog barking from underneath the rubble. The team rushed over to reunite him with his best friend!

Terri Gurrola hugs her daughter at the airport after serving seven months in Iraq

Even now, looking at the picture brings tears to my eyes. It shows the true emotion of what we military parents go through. Leaving my daughter behind is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. She was two when I began a year-long deployment in Iraq in 2007. She was going to turn three while I was away, and I wouldn’t even be able to see her on her birthday – this was in the days before internet video calls. My biggest fear was that she would forget who I was.

Man kisses his girlfriend after she was knocked to the ground by a police riot shield in Vancouver

It was a kiss that caught the imagination of the world, a tender moment as chaos raged around them. A young couple unknowingly became the image of the 2011 riots in Vancouver, when thousands of ice hockey fans took to the streets after the city’s team lost the season-ending Stanley Cup Final. But it seems the moment when the couple lay down in the middle of the street and shared a passionate kiss as riot police shut off the street was not a fleeting moment. The couple are still together today and are living together in Australia.

A starving child in Africa

The photographer, Kevin Carter, felt very guilty for taking this photo and later committed suicide. He was deeply affected by the terrible image of a child suffering and knowing how the picture he took would be monetized while suffering like this happens all around the world every day. This child hadn’t had water for nor food for days.

A sergeant feeds a kitten during the height of the Korean War

In the middle of the Korean War, this kitten found herself an orphan. Luckily, she found her way into the hands of Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor. He adopted the two-week-old kitten and gave her the name “Miss Hap” because he explained, “she was born at the wrong place at the wrong time”. There’s a juxtaposition between the soldier and the human. He’s dressed for war but hasn’t lost the ability to care for another living creature.

23-hour-long heart transplant surgery

National Geographic chose this as the best picture of 1987, and for good reason. Here, we see Dr. Zbigniew Religa keeping watch on the vital signs of a patient after a 23-hour heart surgery he conducted. In the lower right corner, you can see one of his colleagues who helped him with the surgery fallen asleep. Dr. Religa was a pioneer of heart transplantation in Poland, and even though the surgery was considered borderline impossible at the time, he took the chance, and the operation was entirely successful. Today, even though Dr. Religa’s heart has stopped beating, his patient’s is still running.

Girl sees her dog while being isolated for radiation screening in Japan.

A girl in isolation for radiation screening looks at her dog through a window in Nihonmatsu, Japan. She wasn’t being told if she would ever make it out of isolation or just how sick the radiation would make her. She thought this would be the last time she would ever see her dog and best friend again. This is one of those images that’s just heartbreaking for everyone.

Raising the American flag the day after the 9/11 attacks.

The photograph is perhaps the most iconic taken at ground zero: In it, three New York City firefighters — Daniel McWilliams, George Johnson and William “Billy” Eisengrein — stand amid the ruins of the twin towers late in the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001 to hoist a jerry-rigged American flag. The image, captured by Thomas E. Franklin, a staff photographer for The Record in Bergen County, N.J., was quickly picked up by national newspapers, magazines and television networks. Many felt it was reminiscent of Joe Rosenthal’s image of the Marines raising a flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Scratch marks inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz.

These marks are not from the blown up gas chambers in Auschwitz II Birkenau (which remain blown-up today save the Bunker I or Red House gas chambers, where today a part of the exhibit and memorial site can be found. They are from the gas chamber in Auschwitz I Stammlager. The first gassing in Auschwitz took place in the summer of 1941. It’s main victims were at that time Russian POWs. These took place in the cellar of Block 11, the camp prison, and were of an experimental type of nature since they represent some of the first tries to kill a large number of people (about 600) with Zyklon B. While the test was successful, the cellar of Block 11 proved hard to vent after a gassing had taken place. In light of this, the camp commander ordered a new place found for the gas chambers. This was the so-called “corpse room” in the camp crematoria building, which had previously been used as a place to execute prisoners already.

A firefighter gives water to a koala during the devastating Australian wildfires in 2009.

The Delburn Complex fire had been burning for four days, and was still going a week later when the Black Saturday bushfires started. This was no ordinary bushfire – it had been deliberately lit by criminals. I was volunteering with the Country Fire Authority firefighters, though I had a day job as a real-estate agent, and we were in the Strzelecki State Forest, which surrounds my hometown of Mirboo North in Victoria. We were “back burning”, lighting a controlled fire to burn out the bush near the community. It’s a defensive measure: if you’ve already burned the area near people’s houses, when the fire spreads to that area there’s nothing left to burn. We were driving up Samson Road, monitoring the fire, when I spotted a koala wandering across the burnt ground. I shouted, “There’s a koala, pull up the truck!” I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for 33 years, and I can tell you any one of my colleagues would have done the same.

A woman was buried in a Catholic cemetery, and her husband was buried in a Protestant cemetery in Holland.

Graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, who were not allowed to be buried together. On the Protestant part of this cemetery J.W.C van Gorcum, colonel of the Dutch Cavalry and militia commissioner in Limburg is buried. His wife, lady J.C.P.H van Aefferden is buried in the Catholic part. They were married in 1842,the lady was 22 and the colonel 33, he was a Protestant and didn’t belong to the nobility. This caused quite a commotion in Roermond. After being married for 38 years the colonel died in 1880 and was buried on the protestant part of the cemetery against the wall. His wife died in 1888 and had decided not to be buried in the family tomb but on the other side of the wall, the closest she could get to her husband. Two clasped hands connect the graves across the wall.

Boy plays the violin at his teacher’s funeral.

Diego Frazão Torquato, 12 year old Brazilian playing the violin at his teacher’s funeral. The teacher had helped him escape poverty and violence through music. Its incredible to see faith restored in humanity like this.

Boy Runs To His Soldier Father Marching in British Columbia.

It’s October 1, 1940 and Province photographer Claude P. Dettloff is standing on Columbia Street at 8th Street in New Westminster, his press camera up to his eye, preparing to take a shot. He’s focusing on a line of hundreds of men of the B.C. Regiment marching down 8th to a waiting train. Soldiers of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles are marching past. Suddenly, in the view-finder, Detloff sees a little white-haired boy tugging away from his mother’s grasp and rushing up to his father in the marching line . . . click.

A soldier is offered tea in Afghanistan.

This photo was taken with perfect timing. It’s incredible to thing how different these men look and how easily their differences have the potential for conflict, yet humanity stepped up that day. This older, middle-eastern man walked over to these soldiers to offer them a spot of tea in an incredible act of kindness in the middle of a war-zone.

A Russian WWII veteran finally finds the tank he used during the war.

This is incredibly touching: an old WW2 Russian tank army veteran finally found his tank that he rode through all throughout the war, standing in a small Russian town as a monument. He became overwhelmed with emotion as people worried his heart wouldn’t be able to cope with the emotion.

Moments after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, terrorist attack that took place a short distance from the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. A pair of homemade bombs detonated in the crowd watching the race, killing 3 people and injuring more than 260.

A father reads his son’s name at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero.

It was perhaps the most touching photo among thousands of poignant images taken on Sunday at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. When Robert Peraza knelt to say a prayer for the son he lost on Sept. 11, 2001, photographer Justin Lane caught the moment. We along with many others in the news media, then spread the image around the world. Peraza, 68, tells ABC “I was just honoring Rob. … I was saying a prayer for his soul”.

A British soldier’s gun doesn’t scare an Irish teen in Northern Ireland.

An Irish teenager yells at British soldiers during unrest in Northern Ireland. The Irish community didn’t seem to feel too comfortable running from anything by the looks of this image. They stood in the face of opposition and screamed down at the weapons of British soldiers. That’s intense.

A dog who saved thousands of lives after the Mumbai blasts in 1993 was buried with full honors in 2000.

Zanjeer the bomb dog is laid to rest with full military honours for saving thousands of lives. There’s nothing more powerful than the pure heart of a good boy. Rest in peace Zanjeer.

Martin Luther King, Jr. pulls a burnt cross from his front yard. His son hides his eyes.

Martin Luther King Jr. received dozens of death threats due to his role as a civil rights leader. In 1956, Dr. King’s Alabama house was bombed, blowing the windows out and damaging the front porch. King was just relieved to hear that his wife and children were unharmed; speaking to an angry crowd after the bombing, he warned: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword…We must meet hate with love.” In 1958, Dr. King travelled to New York City for a book signing in Harlem where he was stabbed by an assailant and rushed to the hospital. Death threats were part and parcel of his job: Dr. King would not be intimidated.

Starving child in Uganda holding hands with a missionary.

In 1980 Mike Wells took this powerful photograph of a missionary holding the hand of a starving Ugandan boy. In so many ways it almost looks like the hand is not human. It’s almost the hand of a space alien, a different species, a doll, oh please be anything but the hand of a human being. Unfortunately, it can’t be ‘willed’ into being something else, it is the hand of a human being. A starving human being. There are times when we in the ‘civilised’ world, obese from fast food and opulence, forget how lucky we are. We forget how unlucky others are. We become consumed with self-pity over trivia whilst others have nothing to consume.

A Rwandan boy left scarred after being liberated from a death camp.

In 1994 TIME photographer James Nachtwey witnessed the devastating effects of the Rwandan genocide. Humans make war, and we make peace. We make love, and we make hatred – hatred and fear. Those two are the killers. Orchestrate hatred and fear, and humans make genocide. European colonialists used fear and hatred to cut an incision deep into Rwanda to divide and conquer. It was never allowed to heal and became the subtext for society long after the white rulers made their exit. In 1994, tribal enmity between Hutus and Tutsis was politically manipulated to a state of critical mass. Between 500,000 and 1 million people were slaughtered in the span of three months using farm implements as weapons. The killing by the Hutu interahamwe was committed face-to-face, neighbor-against-neighbor, and sometimes even brother-against-brother.

Man Falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11. ‘The Falling Man.’

The most widely seen images from 9/11 are of planes and towers, not people. Falling Man is different. The photo, taken by Richard Drew in the moments after the September 11, 2001, attacks, is one man’s distinct escape from the collapsing buildings, a symbol of individuality against the backdrop of faceless skyscrapers. On a day of mass tragedy, Falling Man is one of the only widely seen pictures that shows someone dying. The photo was published in newspapers around the U.S. in the days after the attacks, but backlash from readers forced it into temporary obscurity. It can be a difficult image to process, the man perfectly bisecting the iconic towers as he darts toward the earth like an arrow.

A Buddhist monk shares his meal with a tiger at the Kanchanaburi ‘Tiger Temple’ in Thailand.

Founded in 1994, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand, is also known as “Tiger Temple.” This forest temple/animal sanctuary is, in fact, home to many wild animals, the majority of which are Indochinese tigers. As of July 2014, the total number of tigers living at the temple has risen to 135. Though the temple has fallen under scrutiny for years and even been accused of animal mistreatment, Thai officials have found no evidence. In fact, the temple’s monks have established an extraordinarily unique relationship with the nearby tigers, allowing the big cats to freely wander the temple grounds alongside them.

17 year old Jan Rose Kasmir offers a flower to soldiers during the Pentagon anti-war protest in 1967.

As we approached the Pentagon, the National Guard lined up to form a barrier to keep us from encroaching. Somebody was handing out flowers, which is how I came to have a chrysanthemum in my hand. I was going back and forth, beckoning the soldiers to join us. It never dawned on me that I was in any danger. This was before Kent State, so who would ever think that they would kill me?

The Power Of Cigarettes On The Youth

In 1989, Sally Mann captured this photo of a young girl looking like she’s smoking a cigarette, but she is actually pretending to smoke a candy cigarette. Candy cigarettes were popular in the 20th century because they allowed children to pretend to be like their elders. These candies were often made out of bubblegum or chocolate, which became really popular with kids. The candies became a controversial topic since then, and they have been banned in many countries around the world.

A Mursi tribe woman discovers Vogue magazine, Ethiopia.

Mursi have a lot of imagination to decorate themselves! They loved the magazine, but i think my driver loved it much more! The Mursi (also called Murzu tribe) is the most popular tribe in the southwestern Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley, 100 km north of the Kenyan border. They are estimated to 10 000 people and live in the Mago National Park. Due to the climate, they move twice a year between the winter and summer months. They herd cattle and grow crops along the banks of the Omo River.

3 weeks old infant with albinism snuggles up to his cousin for a snooze.

When we found out we were pregnant again, we were surprised, but had no idea just how surprised we were going to be. I had felt pregnant for about 2 weeks, but thought maybe I was just imagining things since two of our friends had just told us they were expecting. When we finally got the confirmation that we would be adding to our family, that’s when the rest of the surprises began. We waited until the birth to introduce our albino baby to his older sister. They seem to love each other all the same despite their opposing complextions.

A Brazilian protester stands before gunfire during protests against corruption and police brutality.

Brazilian authorities are investigating reports that police officers opened fire with live ammunition during clashes with protesters demanding the resignation of the president, Michel Temer, over corruption allegations. Troops were deployed in the country’s capital late on Wednesday following a day of protests in which fires broke out in two ministries and several were evacuated. Protesters also set fires in the streets and vandalized government buildings. Images in national media appeared to show police officers firing weapons, and the secretariat of public security said it was investigating. In all, 49 people were injured, one by a bullet.

A man was playing bamboo music in Tenganan Village, Bali (2010) to entertain a disabled child which is not his son.

This picture was taken in Tenganan Village, Bali (2010). Tenganan is the most famous Bali Aga (original Balinese) village and is located close to Candi Dasa in East Bali. A man was playing bamboo music to entertain a disabled child which is not his son, but he loves this child likes he loves his own son.

A North Korean waves at his South Korean brother after inter-Korean temporary family reunions.


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