Can a picture be worth a thousand words? The answer to this lies in the actual image. There are many photographs out there that fit the description, and they are very powerful at evoking emotions in us. Some make us feel sad, some compassionate, some angry—often we carry the image with us forever.
For the photographer who manages to shoot an iconic photo, one that may have appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world, and one that serves as a poignant reminder of the past—sometimes all it takes is being at the right place at the right time. Not many words are needed to explain most of these shots, as they speak for themselves.
1. Candlelight vigil
The candlelight vigil pictured above is held annually to honor those victims who have lost their lives as a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) genocidal campaign to “eliminate” Falun Gong.
In this photo, 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil in Washington D.C. on July 21, 2006, to mourn their fellow practitioners who were killed in the persecution. Falun Gong practitioners’ appeal for justice continues still to this day, with peaceful protests, rallies, and vigils held worldwide.
The reason for this persecution? The sheer popularity of this gentle practice far outnumbered CCP members, which resulted in the former dictator, Jiang Zemin, flying into a jealous rage. “Ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically” was the order he gave in 1989.
2. Appeal at Tiananmen Square
Sixteen years ago on the afternoon of Nov. 20, 2001, 36 Westerners from 12 countries quietly appeared on Tiananmen Square—the symbolic heart of China—and staged a peaceful appeal to let the Chinese people know that Falun Dafa is good. The Chinese people had been inundated with slanderous propaganda, initiated by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, in attempts to turn public opinion against the popular spiritual practice.
Canadian Falun Gong practitioner Zenon Dolnyckyj, pictured above, unfurled a smaller banner strapped to his leg, which reads, “Falun Dafa is good.”
“America knows, the world knows, that Falun Gong is good!” Dolnyckyj cried out in Chinese while running across the Square, prominently displaying the banner, as the other practitioners were manhandled, beaten, and forced into police vans.
Three police knocked Dolnyckyj to the ground, and one brawny man punched him in the face, fracturing his nose, before forcing him into a police van.
This historic appeal, detailed in an earlier report by NTD, records for posterity an epic journey of courage and selflessness.
3. Vancouver riot kiss
Scott Jones says he was trying to calm his hysterical girlfriend, Alex Thomas, down after they had been beaten by police in the Vancouver riots in 2011. The couple had just watched an ice hockey final, and rioting had broken out afterwards. They happened to get caught in the middle.
“I was about 20 or 30 yards away. There were these 2 people on the ground in this empty street. Initially, I thought one of them was hurt. I took a few shots, and then the moment was lost. It was complete chaos. Rioters set 2 cars on fire, and then I saw looters break the window at a neighboring department store. At that point, the riot police charged right toward us. After I stopped running, I noticed in the space behind the line of police that 2 people were lying in the street with the riot police and a raging fire just beyond them. I knew I had captured a moment when I snapped the still forms against the backdrop of such chaos, but it wasn’t until later when I returned to file my photos that my editor pointed out that the 2 people were not hurt, but kissing.”—Rich Lam, photographer.
4. The Children of Black Dust
The Children of Black Dust is a photo series created by Bangladeshi photographer Shehzad Noorani.
In Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka, dry-cell batteries are recycled at hundreds of factories and workshops. Women and children are the main source of labor, and they spend all day there in horrific conditions. The carbon particles cause many lung and eye infections, especially in children.
“Like Marjina, many women bring their children to work because there is simply no other place for them to stay. The environment in and around the workshops is loaded with carbon dust and other toxic material. Young children play in this polluted area until they are tired and fall asleep, and most suffer from chest and eye infections. The sad fact is that these children have to work to stay alive; if they don’t work, they don’t eat. But that does not mean they have to be exploited.”—Shehzad Noorani, photographer.
5. “Tank man”
“Tank man” is considered one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century. This lone man standing in front of the tanks came to symbolize the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Younger people in China know little of those events, and it’s a forbidden topic. The public have no access to true information, photos, or real statistics of the massacre, and the terms “June 4, or 6/4” are highly censored.
According to declassified information leaked by an anonymous high-level source in the Chinese State Council, some 10,454 people were killed by Chinese soldiers during the massacre. This figure is far greater than the Chinese regime’s “official” fatality count of 200.
On June 4, 1989, students were gunned down in droves and “mown down” by tanks. “APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make ‘pie’ and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains,” read part of the statement, which was obtained by Alan Donald, Britain’s ambassador to China in 1989.
Despite knowing how the soldiers massacred all those students the day prior, Tank Man made his stand on June 5, and was “immortalized” by Jeff Widener, the Associated Press photographer who happened to be at the right place at the right time. Tank man was eventually led away by what appears to be undercover police officers—but not before bringing the convoy to a standstill and climbing up to speak to the soldiers.