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Most famous photograph in the world

Blog - 10 most famous photos of all time & their history

Photography was invented nearly two hundred years ago. Ever since, its capacity to capture moments has continued to amaze and has propelled the medium to the forefront of the art world. Artalistic has curated a selection of ten of the most famous photos ever taken.

View from the Window at Gras - Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, 1827

This is the very first photograph ever taken. The scientist Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) was enthralled by the burgeoning craze for Lithography and decided to place polished pewter plates coated with a light sensitive chemical called bitumen of Judea inside a camera obscura. Niépce took this famous picture from his house in Saône-et-Loire. The exposure took eight hours. Once the plate was removed from the camera he used a mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum to develop the image.

Man Jumping the Puddle – Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1932

The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson took this famous photo behind the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris. Cartier-Bresson is known for coining the term “the decisive moment,” which refers to a photographer’s capacity to capture a subject at precisely the right instant and in doing so shattering normal life to retrieve a transcendent moment. The man jumping over the water can be compared to a dancer whose silhouette is reflected most gracefully in a puddle. An enigmatic, grey background juxtaposes this elegant figure. The image also perfectly reflects Roland Barthes’ theory about the punctum and stadium, which he explains in his book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1980). In this seminal book he defines punctum as the features of a photograph that produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognizable symbolic system. This kind of meaning is unique to the response of the individual viewer of the image. The punctum punctuates the stadium - historical, social or cultural meanings extracted via semiotic analysis - and as a result pierces its viewer. To allow the punctum effect, the viewer must repudiate all knowledge. Barthes insists that the punctum is not simply the sum of desires projected into the photograph. Instead, it arises from details that are unintended or uncontrolled by the photographer, namely the detail that attracts the eye and the general impression that emanates from a photograph.

Lunch atop a Skyscraper - Unknown, 1932

We don’t know the names of the subjects in this famous photo or the name of the photographer. This image of workers taking a daredevil’s lunch break at the top of a skyscraper certainly makes the viewer dizzy but it also brings their attention to the very risky life the workers building the Rockefeller Center lead. In the first half of the 20th century, dozens of workers died after fatal falls during the construction of various skyscrapers.

V-J Day in Times Square - Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945

In the aftermath of World War II, Alfred Eisenstaedt took to the streets of New York's Time Square to immortalize celebrations marking the end of the war. This is one of the most famous photos of the 20th century; however while some critics believe it to be capturing a loving reunion between a sailor and a nurse others see it as sexual assault. The latter interpretation resonates with the present day #MeToo movement.

Gandhi and the Spinning Wheel - Margaret Bourke-White, 1946

Margaret Bourke-White, an iconic female photographer from the 20th century, immortalized Gandhi several times and is well known for this famous photo that was taken two years before his death. This picture was first published in the American magazine Life. After Gandhi's assassination, on January 30, 1948, Bourke-White’s photographs of Gandhi skyrocketed in price and took an important place in art history.

The Burning Monk - Malcom Browne, 1963

On June 11, 1963, in a street in Saigon, Vietnam, the monk Thich Quang Duc immolated himself as an act of protest over discrimination toward Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. During a demonstration, he asked to be doused with gasoline and demanded that he be set on fire. Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne was on the scene at the time and captured a stunning image, a world-famous photo that also won a Pulitzer Prize. The American fusion-rap band Rage Against The Machine used it for the cover of their 1992 self-titled album.

Napalm Girl - Nick Ut, 1972: a famous photograph supporting human rights

The Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut captured this chilling photograph on June 8, 1972. During the Vietnam conflict, the American army often used napalm during their missions, however this time one of the planes mistakenly hit the village of Trang Bang, wounding many civilians. Nick Ut brought the 9-year-old girl in this photograph to an American hospital where she was saved. After 17 skin grafts, the young girl went on to live a full life and even had two children.

Afghan Girl - Steve McCurry, 1984

Steve McCurry took this famous photograph during a trip to Afghanistan in 1984 to document the migration of Afghan refugees. This picture of 17-year-old Sharbat Gula was taken in the refugee camp of Nasir Bagh. It became the symbol of the Afghan struggle and was featured on the front page of the National Geographic newspaper in June 1985.

Tank Man - Jeff Widener, 1989

This famous photo of a young Chinese man standing in front of tanks during the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising made Jeff Widener the most famous photojournalist of the late 20th century. The day before taking this photograph Widener had been injured by a stone and was told to stay in his hotel, while all the other American and European journalists took refuge at the airport. Widener took the opportunity to photograph the uprising from his hotel window. He ran out of film and asked an Australian tourist staying in the hotel to borrow a roll of film. Widener used this roll to take this famous photograph, which is now widely held to be one of the most recognized photos ever taken and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990.

Death at the Gates of Paradise - Javier Bauluz, 2000

Javier Bauluz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this famous photograph, which underlines the large disparity between social classes in the world. This image depicts two tourists passively sitting in front of the lifeless body of a migrant who was trying to reach Europe.

We hope that you enjoyed our selection of the 10 most famous photos of all time. Feel free to browse our curated collection of photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings and limited edition prints. Thank you and see you soon for the latest news from the art world.

This is the most famous photography in history, according to image search study

(Image credit: NASA)

New research has revealed the world's most famous and liked images, discovered using tools that include reverse image searching and Instagram likes to compile the list together. 

A world-record holding image of an egg photographed in front of a white backdrop is the most liked image on Instagram, with a staggering 56. 1 million likes! The other set of data revealed that one of the most recognizable photos in history is the Apollo 11 moonwalk captured by NASA.

•  Check out these 5 photographs that changed the world

When we think of the world's most famous images, there's a certain list that come to mind – William Henry Fox Talbot's latticed window, Henri Cartier Bresson's decisive moment, the controversial Kevin Carter image featuring a vulture preying on a child, and what is regarded as the first ever permanent photo in history captured by Joseph Niépce in 1825. 

The most famous photographs of all time are usually also the most recognizable, and printing company inkifi has taken the opportunity to discover through new research not only the world's most famous photographs, but the most Instagram-famous photographs to reflect our current digital era of worldwide photo sharing. 

Top 3 most famous photographs (Image credit: inkifi )

The results from inkifi's research are a little surprising, as the images they found to have the highest reverse image search results – and therefore what they consider as the most famous images in the world – were not necessarily the most obvious. And famous images didn't feature at the top end of the list that would instantly come to mind when reflecting on the most famous photographers and their notable works. 

The full set of research from inkifi can be found on its blog, but to make things simple we've created basic data tables to display the findings, so we can easily compare the statistics:

Swipe to scroll horizontally

The 10 most famous photographs of all time
RankName of PhotoPhotographerYearReverse Image Search Results
1Man on a MoonNASA196831,003
2Lunch atop a SkyscraperUnknown193218,691
3Flag Raising on Iwo JimaJoe Rosenthal194516,235
4Einstein's BirthdayArthur Sasse195115,206
5Migrant MotherDorothea Lange193614,711
6Earthrise, NasaWilliam Anders196814,351
7Afghan GirlSteve McCurry198410,556
8Napalm GirlNick Ut19728,925
9The Wright Brothers first flightUnknown19038,419
10Muhammad Ali vs Sonny ListonNeil Leifer19658,224
11Mushroom cloud over NagasakiLieutenant Charles Levy19458,074
12Winston Churchill PortraitYousuf Karsh19416,015
13V-J Day in Times SquareAlfred Eisenstadt19455,409
14The Burning MonkMalcolm Browne19634,207
15Falling ManRichard Drew20012,294
16Tank ManJeff Widener19892,112
17Gandhi and the Spinning WheelMargaret Bourke-White19461,946
18Black Power SaluteJohn Dominis19681,910
19The SteerageAlfred Stieglitz19071,765
20Leap into Freedompeter Leibing19611,725

If you're unfamiliar with reverse image searching, it is a tool accessible primarily via Google that enables users to search using an image as opposed to text – and the yielded results show every corner of the web in which the image has been used. (This is also a great way to search for copyright breaches of your own photography and other interesting applications.) 

With this in mind, the data gathered from inkifi may not best reflect what are the most famous images in the world, but should perhaps instead be referred to as the 'most replicated' or 'most used' images. The Apollo 11 image being top of the list might therefore make sense, as a lot of NASA's images are public domain, hence them being used and repurposed a lot more frequently. 

(Image credit: inkifi )

As for the most famous images on Instagram, top of the rank is the most basic of images of an egg pictured with a white background. Made Instagram famous for the purpose of obtaining a world record, it certainly succeeded, with 56.1 million likes to date, which is over 23 million more than the second most liked post. 

This egg is more famous on Instagram than the Kardashians, Spider-Man actors and even Billie Eilish! 

Swipe to scroll horizontally

The 10 most-liked photos on Instagram
RankDescriptionYearNumber of Instagram Likes
1An Egg201956. 1m
2Cristiano Ronaldo announces twins with his partner202132.9m
3XXXTentacion's last Instagram post201829.5m
4Ariana Grande & Dalton Gomez marriage photos202126.6m
5Travis Scott & Kylie Jenner second child announcement202125.0m
6Zendaya's Birthday post to Tom Holland202224.5m
7Tom Holland recreates Spiderman meme202224.2m
8Kylie Jenner holds her second baby's hand202223. 0m
9Billie Eilish reveals blonde hair202122.9m
10Lionel Messi PSG announcement202122.0m
11Billie Eilish in British Vogue202121.9m
12Lionel Messi wins the Copa America202121.9m
13Lionel Messi says goodbye to Barcelona202121.2m
14Tom Holland's Happy Birthday post for Zendaya202120.04m
15Girl reacts to real life mermaid video202120.0m
16Cristiano Ronaldo says goodbye to Diego Maradona202019. 7m
17Billie Eilish at the Met Gala202119.3m
17Cristiano Ronaldo's first game back for Manchester United202119.3m
17Chadwick Boseman death announcement202019.3m
18Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United return202119.0m

The interesting thing about the most famous images on Instagram and their total number of likes, is that the images often have no photography related purpose or elements to them. The popularity of these images (or 'posts', we should probably refer to them as) are often less to do with the images posted themselves and more to do with which celebrity or influencer has posted it, and the meaning behind it.  

For example, the post below shared to Instagram by Tom Holland made the list of most famous photos on the platform, and this is in part due to the actor's celebrity status, the fact it is a recreation and reference to an existing pop culture meme that took over the internet – and the relevance to Spider-Man, Marvel and an enormously publicized new Hollywood blockbuster will undoubtedly bring in likes from a high volume of people. 

A post shared by Tom Holland (@tomholland2013)

A photo posted by on

This photo in terms of photographic approach is nothing super special, and would not necessarily appeal to a panel of judges or experts in the medium of photography. The reason many of the posts on this list have a high quantity of likes is due to the influencer culture and celebrity gossip culture, less so than the actual contents of the image when observed from a photographic standpoint. 

How do we critique and define what are the world's best or most famous images in a digital age dominated by hashtags and social media? Are the most famous and worthy images even posted to Instagram any more? Especially with the changing algorithm and constant updates putting pro photographers off of using the platform. Let us know what you think!

Read more:

The 50 best photographers ever
20 famous photographers you should follow on Instagram
10 most Instagrammed landmarks in America – top photo hotspots
My Instagram page is a mess: How do photographers organize their grids?
10 tips for Instagram success with your photography

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A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'. 

😮 The most famous photos in the world: XX century in photos | Interesting facts

Since photography was invented, this way of capturing reality has become a real art. The editors of uznayvse.ru invite you to recall the most famous photographs in the history of mankind.

Afghan Madonna

A 1985 photograph of a 12-year-old girl in a Pakistani refugee camp featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine and became a symbol of the war in Afghanistan. The haunted look of a teenage girl seems to look straight into the soul and in her eyes the expression seems to change. Because of this, the portrait has been compared to Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

The identity of the Afghan Madonna was established by retinal biometrics

The uznayvse.ru editors note that photographer Steve McCurry did not recognize the name of the girl. Her identity was established only in 2002. It turned out that an Afghan woman named Sharbat Gula returned to her homeland in 1992, got married and gave birth to several children.

Times Square Kiss

Alfred Eisenstadt's photograph of a sailor and nurse kissing in New York's Times Square has become a global symbol of the joy and relief associated with the end of World War II. The photographer who shot for Life magazine did not ask the names of his models, and many people claimed that they were the ones in the picture.

That Kiss in Times Square

The book describing the history of this photo states that these people are named George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman. “Suddenly I was in the arms of a sailor,” Friedman recalled in 2005. “It wasn’t even a kiss, actually, but a spontaneous act of happiness and relief that he no longer had to go to war.”

Marilyn Monroe in a flowing dress

Even five decades after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains one of Hollywood's most famous sex symbols. And the first image of her that comes to everyone's mind is this picture taken during the filming of the movie The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn is standing on the sidewalk, and the warm air coming out of the New York subway lifts the hem of her white dress. It is said that the then-husband of the star, the famous baseball player Joe DiMaggio, after seeing this frame, gave Monroe a terrible scene of jealousy. A few weeks later they divorced.

Marilyn Monroe in flowing dress


In 1972, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured children fleeing in terror from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. The bomber accidentally dropped a napalm charge on his own soldiers and civilians. Nine-year-old Kim Phuk flees a bombed-out village after ripping off her burning clothes. The photo has become one of the most famous symbols of the Vietnam War protest. After taking a picture, Nick took the children to the Saigon hospital.

Haunting evidence of the Vietnam War

Einstein with his tongue hanging out

At Albert Einstein's 72nd birthday party, photographer Arthur Sass asked the birthday boy to smile for the camera. Tired of such requests, the Nobel laureate suddenly stuck out his tongue. The photo became one of Einstein's most famous images, and he liked it so much that he ordered nine copies for himself. One of the photographs signed by Einstein was sold at auction in 2009.year for an amount exceeding $75,000.

Albert Einstein didn't really want to be photographed

Falling man

Richard Drew managed to film the flight of one of the victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The publication of the photo caused a lot of protests from people who called the reporter insensitive. The reporter himself sees it differently. Ten years after the event, he said in an interview that he considered this picture to be an image of the “unknown soldier”, representing all who shared his fate that day. At least 200 people are believed to have jumped out of the WTC windows after two airliners crashed into the Twin Towers.

The identity of the man who jumped out of one of the Towers is still controversial

The most famous selfie in the world

At the 2014 Oscars, where it turned out that 12 Years a Slave was better than Gravity ”, several first-class Hollywood stars got into the frame of the famous selfie of the host of this ceremony, comedian Ellen DeGeneres. The picture shows: Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen herself, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong'o, Channing Tatum, as well as Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Lupita Nyong'o, Angelina Jolie and her now ex-husband Brad Pitt.

The most famous selfie in the world, taken at the Oscars

No film can boast such a stellar cast. No wonder internet users retweeted this photo over a million times in just the first hour after it was posted. The photo caused more noise than the Oscar ceremony itself.

Man against tanks

An unarmed man stopped a column of tanks in Beijing during student protests in 1989. Then, hundreds of demonstrators were killed by bullets from the People's Liberation Army of China on Tiananmen Square. The moment, captured by at least five reporters, has become a symbol of unarmed resistance to state violence around the world. Charlie Cole, photographer for Newsweek magazine, won a World Press Photo award for this image. The identity and fate of the man standing in the way of armored vehicles remained unknown.

A tiny figure in the foreground is a man who stopped the tanks

A portrait of Che Guevara

Alberto Korda photographed Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara in 1960 at a ceremony dedicated to the victims of the explosion of the Belgian ship La Couvre in Havana. The portrait, called by the author "Partisan Hero", was replicated on millions of posters and T-shirts, becoming a universal symbol of resistance and social justice. The photographer, who shared Che's Marxist ideals, never demanded royalties for this shot.

One of the most recognizable photographs in the world - a portrait of Che Guevara

Explosion of the Hindenburg

In 1937, Sam Shear photographed the explosion of the hydrogen-filled airship Hindenburg in New Jersey. The plane crash, which claimed the lives of thirty-six people, marked the end of the era of passenger zeppelins, until then considered the main means of transportation in the future. “There were two blank shots left in my camera, and I didn’t even have time to bring the camera up to my eyes,” Scheer later wrote. “I shot literally from the hip – everything happened so quickly that there was nothing else to do.”

Photographer Captures Hindenburg Zeppelin Explosion


Kevin Carter's 1993 photograph of a famine in South Sudan garnered worldwide attention - and criticism. Carter said the emaciated girl made it to the food stand after the photographer chased off the vulture, but that only raised more questions as to why he didn't take her there himself. The editorial office of uznayvse.ru notes that a few months after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for this picture, the South African photographer committed suicide. He suffered from depression and the loss of his friend and colleague Ken Osterbrock, who was killed by a peacekeeper's accidental bullet near Johannesburg.

Horrible illustration of famine in South Sudan


A 1934 photo of the Loch Ness monster taken by British military surgeon Robert Wilson in Scotland made a lot of noise and for a long time was considered irrefutable evidence of the existence of a lake monster. Wilson claimed to have filmed Nessie on an early April morning while driving along the northern shore of Loch Ness. Nessie is perhaps the most famous mythical monster in the world.

"Proof" of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster

Later, however, when the photo caused a worldwide sensation, Wilson took care not to associate his name with the image, and the photo became known as the "surgeon's shot." In 1994, one of the people who witnessed this shot confessed on his deathbed that the portrait of Nessie was just a prank, and that the photo actually showed a piece of plastic attached to a toy submarine.

The art of photography is relatively new (compared to, for example, painting), but it has managed to form its own canons, a hierarchy of artists and a cloud of meanings and currents. At the same time, one or another photograph, which is considered a reference in the professional community, may look unremarkable to an outsider. The editors of uznayvse.ru invite you to look at the most expensive photos in the world and decide for yourself whether they are so good.

The most famous photographs of the past

Lennon's photo is famous for being more than just a photograph. So let's take a look at the most famous photographs and learn about their history

“John F. Kennedy assassin shot”

“Oswald was taken outside. I squeeze the camera. The police hold back the pressure of the townspeople. Oswald took a few steps. I press the shutter. As soon as the shots rang out, I pulled the trigger again, but my flash did not have time to reload. I started to worry about the first photo and two hours later I went to develop the photos.” — Robert Jackson. This photo is also one of the most famous in the history of photography

“Boy with a Grenade”

An innocent boy with a toy grenade in his hand is a famous work by photographer Diane Arbus. The boy's name is Colin Wood, the son of the famous tennis player Sidney Wood. In his right hand, the boy squeezes a grenade, in his left hand is empty. The face of the child depicts either terror or fear. Diane took a long time to select the shooting angle she needed, as a result, the guy could not stand it and shouted “Shoot already!”. In 2005, the photo was sold for $408,000.

“Save the kitten!”

No, this is not a photo from a Korean restaurant. It was Helulu the kitten who decided to check out what the owners are preparing for dinner and dived into the pot of noodles.


Street punks threatening the photographer with a gun. Yes, the child is only 11 years old, and the gun in his hands is a toy. He's just playing his game. But if you look closely, you will not see any game in his eyes.

“The most famous kiss”

This kiss was the first of its kind to be recognized around the world. The photo was taken in Paris and is called “Kiss at the City Hall” (Le baiser de l’hotel de ville).

“Torment of Omaira”

November 13, 1985. Nevado del Ruiz volcano eruption (Colombia). Mountain snow melts, and a mass of mud, earth and water 50 meters thick literally wipes everything in its path from the face of the earth. The death toll exceeded 23,000 people. The disaster received a huge response around the world, thanks in part to a photo of a little girl named Omaira Sanchaz. She was trapped, up to her neck in slush, her legs trapped in the concrete structure of the house. Rescuers tried to pump out the dirt and free the child, but in vain. The girl held on for three days, after which she became infected with several viruses at once. As journalist Christina Echandia, who was nearby all this time, recalls, Omaira sang and talked with others. She was frightened and constantly thirsty, but she was very courageous. On the third night, she began to hallucinate. The photo was taken a few hours before death. Photographer: Frank Fournier.


A curious man with a dog fell into a trap carefully set by a photographer.


Look at the bread! Only four fingers! That's why I decided to call this photo "Picasso," Picasso told his friend, photographer Duwanuoshi.


Just a few years before the “Great Depression” in the USA. Shops are overflowing with fish, vegetables and fruits. The photo was taken in Alabama, next to the railroad.

“Broken Mirror”

Two mischievous people broke the mirror and started picking up the pieces. The rest of the children watch with interest and guilt what is happening, while the world around them continues to live its own life.

“Little adults”

Three American girls gossip in an alley in Sevilla, Spain. For a long time, the postcard with this image was the most popular in the United States.

“Winston Churchill”

January 27, 1941. Churchill went into a photographic studio at 10 Downing Street to take some of his portraits, showing his fortitude and determination. However, his gaze, despite everything, was too relaxed - with a cigar in his hands, the great man did not match the image that photographer Yousuf Karsh wanted to get. He approached the great politician and with a sharp movement pulled the cigar right out of his mouth. The result is slightly higher. Churchill looks angrily at the photographer, who, in turn, presses the shutter. So humanity received one of the most famous portraits of Winston Churchill.


Retreat of the US Marines in 1950 due to inhuman frosts. During the Korean War, General MacArthur overestimated his capabilities, and was absolutely confident in the success of the campaign. So he considered before the counterattack of the Chinese troops, after which he uttered his famous phrase: “We are retreating! For we are moving in the wrong direction!”

“Naked Runner”

In 1975, during the rugby final in England, all the main people of the country gathered in the stands - Her Majesty with her retinue, famous politicians ... Naked Australian Michael makes an “honorary circle” around the stadium . According to rumors, the Queen fainted. The runner was sentenced to three months in prison.


The picture does not have any particular theme, but the frame is quite famous. The boy proudly marches home, holding two huge bottles of alcohol in his hands. His face radiates joy and a sense of accomplishment. The girls in the background can't hide their admiration.

Sudan Famine

Photographer Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his work. The card depicts a Sudanese girl crouched with hunger. Soon she will die, and the big condor in the background is ready for it. The photo shocked the entire civilized world. The origin of the girl is unknown to anyone, including the photographer. He took a picture, chased away the predator and watched the child leave. Kevin Carter was a member of the Bang Bang Club, four intrepid photojournalists who travel around Africa in search of photo sensations. Two months after receiving the award, Carter committed suicide. Possibly haunted by horrific memories of what he saw in Sudan.


Marilyn Monroe. During the shooting, the girl looked away, which gave the photo even more charm, mystery and mood.

“Pain in the Look”

Between the winter of 1948 and the spring of 1949, Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled with his camera to Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. This photo was taken in Nanjing. The photo shows a line of starving people for rice.

“After you…”

Terry and Thomson decide who will start (or finish?) the dinner. Hamster Jim did not suspect that it was him who would be served at the table today. All three are pets of Mark Andrew. Outside the lens, these three are wonderful and dedicated companions!

“Time Square Victory”

After the end of World War II, a photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Time Square made the rounds in the newspapers. The image illustrates joy and love.

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