I have a friend, Neil, who is an extremely talented photographer. A contemporary of my parents, he recently sent me a picture of my mother, then aged 21. It is, without question, the best picture I have seen of her. It’s also in black-and-white, which got me thinking – the majority of the really startling images I can think of are monochrome. There are one or two exceptions, of course, but by and large the starkness of those images is what helps make them compelling.
And from there it was but a short step to see if I could put together a post of those images – a sort of photographic guided tour of the 20th century or so. I hope most of these will be familiar to you…but also that there are one or two you don’t recognise.
The Wright Brothers’ ‘Flyer’ airborne in 1903
A father and son playing on the deck of the Titanic, 1912
The German declaration of War is announced on 2/8/1914 in Munich. A young and jubilant Adolf Hitler is in the crowd.
Up the Line to Death: British troops file through the trenches before going ‘over the top’.
Incessant shelling made a moonscape of the forests of France and Belgium.
Vimy Ridge, 1917
Although later revealed as a fake, this famous 1917 photograph at one point had Arthur Conan Doyle convinced.
The unbroken seal on Tutankhamum’s tomb, 1922
The Migrant Mother – the defining image of the Great Depression
Construction workers, New York
The Hindenburg disaster, 1937
The Rise of Hitler: Nuremburg, 1938
The Fall of France, 1940
St Paul’s Cathedral after an air raid, 1940
The USS Shaw explodes during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7/12/1941.
Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, 1945
A statue observes the devastation of Dresden.
Victorious Red Army soldiers raise the flag over the Reichstag.
A sailor celebrates VJ day with a nurse. Times Square, New York.
The Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946
Clarence Hailey Long, pictured here in 1949, was the inspiration for the cultural icon that was the Marlboro Man.
A grief-stricken American infantryman is comforted, Haktong-ni, 28/8/1950