Photos That Look Normal Until You Know Their Story


Photography is an art capable of freezing emotions over time. The development of this form of expression has given humanity the power to define through images the time in which they live. To feel the true impact of photography, nothing like knowing the context behind them.

  1. 1 Tadeusz Zytkiewicz Holding A Picture Of Himself

    Tadeusz is holding in his hands the best picture of 1987, as chosen by National Geographic, which shows Dr. Zbigniew Religa keeping watch on his patient after performing the first heart transplant surgery in Poland, which took 23 hours. In the lower right corner, one of his colleagues who fell asleep after the surgery is seen. Even though the surgery was considered almost impossible at the time, Dr. Religa took the chance and the patient - Tadeusz Zytkiewicz - even out-lived his savior.

  2. 2 The Three Unsung Heroes Of Chernobyl

    If not for these three men in the picture - Alexei Ananenko and soldiers Valeri Bezpalov and Boris Baranov - millions of lives would have been lost during the catastrophe of Chernobyl. Ten days after the meltdown, the plant's water-cooling system had failed, and a pool had formed directly under the highly radioactive reactor. Without cooling, the lava-like substance could easily melt through the remaining barriers, dropping the reactor's core into the pool. If this would have happened - it might have set off steam explosions, firing radiation high and wide into the sky, spreading across parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the photograph, engineer Alexei together with Valeri and Boris are fitted with protective gear after they volunteered to dive down into the waters and drain the fluid near the reactor during the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in Pripyat, Ukraine in 1986. The mission was successful and while the damage was still vile, the three heroes prevented what could have been a much more devastating event. Surprisingly and luckily enough, all of the three men survived.

  3. 3 Cher Ami

    This pigeon delivered a message from a trapped battalion of soldiers in WW1 saving nearly 200 men. She was shot multiple times and ended up losing a leg and an eye. The soldiers gave the pigeon a wooden leg and gave her the name “Cher Ami” (although the pigeon was female, the French 'Ami' is of a masculine form) meaning “Dear friend”.

  4. 4 Living with the Enemy

    The couple in the picture are Elisabeth and Bengt - the photographer, Donna Ferrato, came to know them through a photo project she did on wealthy swingers. That particular night in 1982, in the suburban couple's home, the two got in a fight while Donna was taking pictures. The argument escalated quickly, and you can see in the photo Elizabeth being hit by her partner. Donna wanted to get the pictures published, but all the magazine editors contacted, refused. But the photographer knew that something has to be done and such vile actions should finally be brought into the daylight, so, in 1991 she published a book 'Living With the Enemy'. The book chronicled events of domestic violence and their aftermath. Donna's work blew the lid off the very controversial topic at the time and thanks to her, in 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

  5. 5 'Wait For Me, Daddy'

    A touching photo, captured by Claude Detloff in Vancouver as the soldiers of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles marched off to fight in World War II. The emotions seen in the parents' and child's face and their body language combine together to make it into an unforgettable image, freezing the heart-wrenching moment forever. Luckily, the father of the boy returned safe and sound in October 1945.

  6. 6 Behind The Counter

    The humiliating and fury-inducing moment was frozen in time on May 28, 1963, by Fred Blackwell, a photographer for Jackson Daily News. From left to right, at the whites-only counter at a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in Jackson, sits three protesters: John Salter, a sociology teacher and students Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody. All three were from the Tougaloo College - a black college, which became the core of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. While sitting at the counter, the party was assaulted by an angry white mob, who were pouring ketchup, mustard, and sugar on John, Joan and Anne.

  7. 7 Childhood friends

    Taken by Jacques Gourmelen, the photograph became one of the iconic pictures from the people of Brittany, France. On April 6, 1972, in Saint-Brieuc, workers from the company Joint Français went on strike and CRS (French riot police) intervened. In the photo, face-to-face stand two men - Guy Burmieux, a worker and Jean-Yvon Antignac, a riot policeman. As it turned out, the two had been childhood friends and recognized each other. The photographer later recalled: "I saw him [Guy Burmieux] go toward his friend and grab him by the collar. He wept with rage and told him, ‘Go ahead and hit me while you’re at it!’ The other one didn’t move a muscle."

  8. 8 'Burst Of Joy'

    'Burst of Joy' is another Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. It was taken by Associated Press photographer Slava "Sal" Veder, taken on March 17, 1973, at Travis Air Force Base in California. The image depicts United States Air Force Lt Col Robert L. Stirm reuniting with his family, after spending more than five years in captivity as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The centerpiece of the photograph is Robert's 15-year-old daughter Lorrie, who's seen with outstretched arms and a huge smile on her face while running up to her dad. "You could feel the energy and the raw emotion in the air," the photographer recalls. The photograph went on to become a symbol of the end of US involvement in the Vietnam War.

  9. 9 'Terezka’s Scrawls'

    This haunting and eerie photograph was taken by David Seymour (one of the founders of Magnum Photos and one of the leading photojournalists of the 20th century) in a home for emotionally disturbed children located in Warsaw, 1948. The assignment at the center that day was to draw “home” on the blackboard. While other kids drew houses, Terezka, who grew up in a concentration camp, had a different idea of home. One can only wonder what the scribble depicts, but it seems as if the pain and the horrors endured on the camp is clearly seen in the piercing glare of Terezka.

  10. 10 Two brothers

    This seemingly fun and lively photo of two brothers - Michael and Sean McQuilken - was taken at Moro Rock in California’s Sequoia National Park on August 20, 1975. The photograph was captured by their sister Mary just seconds before they were struck by lightning. One of the brothers later recalled: “At the time, we thought this was humorous. I took a photo of Mary and Mary took a photo of Sean and me. I raised my right hand into the air and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it. I found myself on the ground with the others. Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back.” At the time, all the three survived, but Sean, the younger brother, sadly took his own life in 1989.

  11. 11 The Youngest Mother

    When she was just 5-years-old, Lina Medina (born on 23 September 1933) was brought by her parents to a hospital, who complained of extreme abdominal growth. After being examined by a doctor, a shocking truth was discovered - Lina was seven-months pregnant. Apparently, Lina was born with a rare condition called 'precocious puberty', which, simply put, is the early onset of sexual development. Lina Medina then officially became the youngest documented mother in medical history. She gave birth to a boy on May 14, 1939, by a cesarean section, as her pelvis was too small. The child born was completely healthy and was named Gerardo. However, the father of the child remained a mystery.

  12. 12 Moving An Apartment Building To Create A Boulevard In Alba Iulia, Romania

    In the early spring of 1987, in Alba Iulia, Romania, an instruction from the government was given to rework the infrastructure and make way for the boulevard - however, one apartment building stood in the way of the plan. Therefore, it was decided to split the building into two and move the parts 180 feet (55 meters) away. The building housed over eighty families and weighed over 7600 tons. The process took almost six hours to complete and the two separate parts of the building were moved apart on a 33-degree inclined angle. Stories went around that people remained in the building all throughout the moving process and one woman even put a glass of water on the edge of her balcony, which didn't spill a drop. Also, all the utilities (water, electricity, gas, etc.) remained intact, too.

  13. 13 Motel Manager Pouring Acid In The Water

    The famous photograph, perfectly conveying the shaky times of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, was taken by Horace Cort. The image shows a group of white and black young people, swimming in the pool of a Monson Motor Lodge motel on June 18, 1964, while the manager of the motel is pouring bleach on them. Seven days prior to the incident, Martin Luther King Jr was arrested for trespassing at the same Monson Motor Lodge after being asked to leave from its segregated restaurant. A group of protesters decided to fight back peacefully and decided to plan a swim-in in the pool designated for "whites only" as a form of protest. Whites, who paid for their rooms in the motel, invited black people to join them in the motel pool as their guests. Then, the motel manager, Jimmy Brock, in an effort to break up the party, poured a bottle of muriatic acid into the pool in order to scare the swimmers so that they would leave.

  14. 14 Children For Sale

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one is probably worth even more. Life during a war was extremely difficult - food and supplies were rationed, jobs were scarce. For some folks, the struggling continued even after the war. In this tragic photo, taken in 1948, four children are seen on their front stoop while their mother hides her face from the photographer in embarrassment. Lucille Chalifoux was only 24 years old but pregnant with her fifth child at the time. Her husband has just lost a job and the family was facing eviction from their apartment. To evade possible homelessness, the parents chose to auction off their children. All of the children were eventually bought off. Some, as rumors have spread, were forced into slavery.

  15. 15 'An Armenian Man Dances For His Lost Son In The Mountains Near Aparan, Armenia'

    Antoine Agoudjian is a legendary French photographer of Armenian descent. As no one could describe the work of art better than the artist himself, here's Antoine's story on capturing this striking image: “In 1998, I found myself in Aparan, a large town an hour’s drive from Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. A local dance troupe was performing that evening, in the open air, with most of the suburb in attendance. As soon as I took my first shot, an old man approached me. Tears streamed down his face. He told me that his son had died. That he had been electrocuted, that he was his pride and joy, and that I looked just like him. He broke into sobs and moved towards me with outstretched arms. His name was Ishran. I asked if he would dance for me, and he began dancing. The troupe paused and perched on an outcrop of rocks in the background. It was beautiful, not because the man is beautiful, but because he represents something deep inside the collective consciousness of the Armenian community: a celebratory resilience in the face of overwhelming loss.”

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