A picture is worth a thousand words, yet some of them can touch deep into the soul. The following pictures are not only powerful, but also gripping and unforgettable. All of them speak about the human condition, about some of the best and worst moments of contemporary human existence.
A little warning for readers: some of these pictures may upset them, while others may fill them with joy, since these images reflect some of the best and worst parts of the human experience and world events. For the most part, they describe our present: our suffering and our triumphs, our perseverance and our failures, our compassion and our hatred, our intelligence and our stupidity.
1. 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.
2. Australian Scott Jones kisses his Canadian girlfriend Alex Thomas after she was knocked to the ground by a police officer’s riot shield in Vancouver, British Columbia. Canadians rioted after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.
3. Dr. Religa monitors his patient’s vitals after a 23 hour long heart transplant surgery. His assistant is sleeping in the corner. (1987)
4. The patient not only survived the surgery, but outlived his doctor.
5. Father and son. (1949 and 2009)
6. Jewish prisoners at the moment of their liberation from an internment camp “death train” near the Elbe. (1945)
7. A Buddhist monk shares his meal with a tiger at the Kanchanaburi ‘Tiger Temple’ in Thailand.
8. Young man just found out his brother was killed.
9. Christians protect Muslims during prayer in the midst of the uprisings in Cairo, Egypt. (2011)
10. A soldier in Vietnam grasps what war really is.
11. A firefighter gives water to a koala during the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, Australia. (2009)
12. Terri Gurrola is reunited with her daughter after serving in Iraq for 7 months.
13. “Wait For Me Daddy,” by Claude P. Dettloff, October 1, 1940. The photo shows a line of soldiers march in British Columbia on their way to a waiting train as five-year-old Whitey Bernard tugs away from his mother’s hand to reach out for his father.
14. Harold Whittles hears for the first time ever after a doctor places an earpiece in his left ear.
15. A man fell from the World Trade Center on 9/11, also known as “The Falling Man.”
16. Alcoholic father with his son.
17. Sunset on Mars.
18. Sergeant Frank Praytor took care of a two-week old kitten during the height of the Korean War.
19. Werfel, a 6 year old orphan from Austria after being given his first pair of new shoes by the American Red Cross. (1946)
20. A boy carrying his dog through Filipino flood disaster.
21. The first mother in space. Anna Fisher, astronaut, with stars in her eyes on the cover of Life magazine. (1985)
22. A North Korean man waves his hand as a South Korean relative weeps, following a luncheon meeting during inter-Korean temporary family reunions at Mount Kumgang resort October 31, 2010. Four hundred and thirty-six South Koreans were allowed to spend three days in North Korea to meet their 97 North Korean relatives, whom they had been separated from since the 1950-53 war.
23. An old WW2 Russian tank veteran finally found the old tank in which he passed through the entire war – standing in a small Russian town as a monument.
24. “La Jeune Fille a la Fleur,” a photograph by Marc Riboud, shows the young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir planting a flower on the bayonets of guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. The photograph would eventually become the symbol of the flower power movement.
25. A woman cries while sitting on a road amid the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan after the massive earthquake and tsunami.
26. The Graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband in Holland. (1888)
27. A French civilian cries in despair as Nazis occupy Paris during World War II.
28. PoW Horace Greasley defiantly confronts Heinrich Himmler during an inspection of the camp he was confined in. Greasley also famously escaped from the camp and snuck back in more than 200 times to meet in secret with a local German girl he had fallen in love with.
29. Protester plays piano over the sounds of chaos, with riot police in the backdrop.
30. Lt. Colonel Robert L. Stirm is reunited with his family after being taken prisoner during the Vietnam war.
31. Agim Shala is passed through a barbed wire fence to his grandparents at a camp for refugees of the Kosovo War.
32. The iconic photo of Tank Man, the unknown rebel who stood in front of a column of Chinese tanks in an act of defiance following the Tiananmen Square protests. (1989)
33. Earthrise: A photo taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. (1968)