Iconic Photos:  Children  that Changed History

Iconic Photos: Children that Changed History

A historian analyses the image-related connotations and criticizes the media. Should a photographer — or any journalist for that — help victims of atrocities while trying to perform his or her duty of reporting? Not an easy question. By helping, an image that might become iconic to document atrocities may get “lost.” And ever wondered how removed from reality unedited images can be?   (www.the.me)

Innocent bystanders are always victims of war, in modern day conflicts there are often more “collateral victims” than uniformed dead.

That sensation can trigger a response in the heart, a sudden attention to a faraway issue that was abstract and unending, too many words, too often the same. When the photo goes viral, millions of hearts can be touched. People whose hearts are touched talk about it, even in high places. Changed hearts can change minds and ultimately policy and history.

The photos of children suffering or lost makes us quiver with grief because it makes us think of our own , or we think that the child we once were.  Children are valued as precious gifts of life — treasured icons of hope.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa  

“A child is a beam of sunlight from the Infinite and Eternal, with possibilities of virtue and vice, but as yet unstained.”
  — Lyman Abbott, American Congregationalist minister  

Here are some photos of children that changed the world:

Omran Daqneesh, Aleppo, Syria

Omran Daqneesh’s image shattered human conscience across the world on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.. His face, bloodied and covered with dust, has become another stark reminder of the toll of the war in Syria.. What hurts the most is the silence and the dazed look as the five-year-old boy sits on a seat in an ambulance after being rescued from a building that was hit in an air strike in Aleppo. The haunting video of Daqneesh went viral on social media soon after it was released by Aleppo Media Centre.


1. Aylan Kurdi , Syrian Refugee   

On September 3, 2015, Wednesday, Aylan Kurdi  is  a drowned child whose body washed up on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey.

This tragic picture of a little boy lying lifeless on a Turkish beach has become a symbol of Europe’s mounting refugee crisis (dailymail.co.uk)

The family of Aylan, a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing the war-torn town of Kobani, one of their relatives told a Canadian newspaper. A photograph of the tiny body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up in the Aegean resort of Bodrum swept social media on Wednesday, spawning sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees. His 5-year-old brother Galip and mother Rehan, 35, also died after their boat capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. His father, Abdullah, was found semi-conscious and taken to hospital near Bodrum, according to Turkey’s Sabah newspaper. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The image of Aylan, went viral on social media and piled pressure on European leaders.  It  sent shock waves around the world, changing public opinion that  reaches in and grabs your heart and pulls it out.  The image became a symbol of the plight of refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis.   


2. Kim Phúk,  Napalm Girl of Vietnam  

On 8 June 1972, the village of Trang Bang,  north west of Saigon, about a mile away from the front line, was hit by an air strike. Kim Phúk, nine years old at the time, was photographed fleeing and shows a naked, screaming girl, arms spread out helplessly, on the road to Trang Bang. She was without a doubt an innocent victim: liquid fuel from a bomb sheath had burned large parts of her back.

This image of her went around the world and was promptly adopted as an anti-war symbol.  

The photo of a naked girl fleeing from a napalm cloud is one of the classic symbols of the Vietnam War.  The girl,   Kim Phúk, will always be 9 years old and wailing “Too hot! Too hot!” as she runs down the road away from her burning Vietnamese village.

She will always be naked after blobs of sticky napalm melted through her clothes and layers of skin like jellied lava. Kim Phúk suffered burns on her whole body. Over the course of 14 months she needed 17 skin transplantations. (news.yahoo.com)


3. “Vulture Stalking a Child”   

Can we possibly empathize with the pain of the child? Or are we more akin to the vulture that waits to consume?

In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, where he took now iconic photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. He said that the high pitched whimpering sound of a toddler near the Ayod village attracted him. The girl was taking a rest while struggling to get to a feeding center.  Carter said he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. (The parents of the girl were busy taking food from the same UN plane Carter took to Ayod).

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KEVIN CARTER, Visiting Sudan, a little-known photographer took a picture that made the world weep. Kevin Carter is a South African photojournalist and member of the Bang-Bang Club who was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for hos photograph depicting the 1993 famine in Sudan.  What happened afterward is a tragedy of another sort.

The haunting photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993 as ‘metaphor for Africa’s despair’. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run an unusual special editor’s note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl. The St. Petersburg Times wrote this about him: “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later. (Sources: unbelievable-facts.com , iconicphotos.wordpress.com)


4. Tereska of Poland 

This photograph was taken by Chim (David Seymour) in a home for emotionally disturbed children (Warsaw, 1948). It’s generally agreed upon that the subject, Tereska, was a victim of the Holocaust. This isn’t really disputed information. (reddit.com)

The original caption reads as follows:

Children’s wounds are not all outward. Those made in the mind by years of sorrow will take years to heal. In Warsaw, at an institute which cares for some of Europe’s thousands of “disturbed” children, a Polish girl named Tereska was asked to make a picture of her home. These terrible scratches are what she drew. (aphelis.com)

Terezka “Draws Her Home” by David Seymour, 1948. She grew up in a concentration camp draws a picture of “Home” while living in a residence for disturbed children. Poland, December 27, 1948.

“Teresa, a child in a residence for disturbed children, grew up in a concentration camp. She drew a picture of "home" on the blackboard. 1948.” by David Seymour. LEFT: Magnum Image Reference Image Reference SED1948029W00010/5-109R(PAR192677), RIGHT: Magnum Image Reference SED1948029W00010/X02C (PAR150821). © The Estate of David Seymour.

Magum has two slightly different portraits of Tereska, taken at slightly different moments while she was drawing on the blackboard. On one, her name is still clearly visible on the upper section of the board, while on the other, the name has been covered with her drawings. Notice also how Magnum has turned her name into “Teresa” in the captions. Limited, signed prints of the photo on the right are being sold by Magnum.  (aphelis.net)

This photograph was taken by Chim (David Seymour) in a home for emotionally disturbed children located in Warsaw, 1948. There are a few versions of this image, but most of the captions (including one at the War/Photography Exhibit currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum) mention that the subject grew up inside a concentration camp. There’s little information about the girl’s identity, her name was Tereszka, a diminutive version of Teresa. Her eyes are piercing, like a window to her soul. Not the eyes of an innocent youth. She’s probably experienced horrors at that age most will fortunately never have to. Like the soldiers who have seen heavy combat, she’s got the terrifyingly haunting one thousand yard stare.  (rarehistoricalphotos.com)

Insert Comment: 

Good morning,

I am writing to you regarding article published on a website cloudmind.info. To be precise: http://cloudmind.info/iconic-photos-children-that-changed-history/

I am happy to announce that our team managed to solve the mystery of Tereska’s photography by David Seymour. (point 4 in your article). Most of the information which you have provided were in fact just speculations and we have found them to be false.
First article describing our research was published in polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita Plus Minus: www.rp.pl/Plus-Minus/303309935-Tereska-Rozwiazujemy-zagadke-slynnego-zdjecia.html (only in Polish)
Carole Naggar, biographer of David Seymour had written an article to TIME Lightbox about our findings too and website aphelis had been updated.

Will you able to make amends to your original article (or if you want you are free to let people know about our findings)? We would like to fight all the myths which arose around that photography and gave honours back to Teresa Adwentowska, poor woman whose life was destroyed by the war and her life forgotten while her picture used to be hang in the biggest galleries around the world.

Best regards,
Patryk Grazewicz

5. Bloody Saturday   

Bloody Saturday” – Depicting a Chinese baby crying within the bombed-out ruins of Shanghai South Railway Station, the photograph became known as a cultural icon demonstrating Japanese wartime atrocities in China. Taken a few minutes after a Japanese air attack on civilians during the Battle of Shanghai, Hearst Corporation photographer H. S. “Newsreel” Wong, did not discover the identity or even the sex of the injured child, whose mother lay dead nearby. One of the most memorable war photographs ever published, and perhaps the most famous newsreel scene of the 1930s, the image stimulated an outpouring of western anger against Japanese violence in China. Journalist Harold Isaacs called the iconic image “one of the most successful ‘propaganda’ pieces of all time”. (rarehistoricalphotos.com)

To this day, no one knows the name of the "Shanghai Baby" or even if he survived the injuries sustained during the Aug. 28, 1937 Japanese raid on the city. (Image source: Public Domain)

“Bloody Saturday” – An iconic photo of a crying baby amid the bombed-out ruins of Shanghai’s South Railway Station after a Japanese air strike against civilians. August 28, 1937. (rarehistoricalphotos.com) (Image source: Public Domain)

It was of a lone infant sitting upright in the smoking ruins of a bombed out Shanghai railway station. The child, whose clothes appear to have been singed, is wailing in agony.

The photograph struck a raw nerve in the United States when it was published. Until that moment, few in the U.S. had paid much attention to the atrocities being committing by the Japanese army in its murderous march across China. As far as most westerners were concerned, the war in Asia was somebody else’s problem — certainly none of America’s business. The Life spread helped change those opinions.

Entitled “Bloody Saturday” or just “Shanghai Baby”, the photo became a potent symbol of the plight of the Chinese people, not to mention a lighting rod for anti-Japanese sentiment. If nothing else, it immortalized one of the many waypoints on the long road that would eventually lead Japan and the United States to war in 1941.

Wong developed his film the following day and showed what he’d captured to the editors of the China Press newspaper. They were blown away by the explosive visuals. Wong delivered his film to a U.S warship departing Shanghai for the Philippines. From there, the package was put aboard a flight heading stateside. (Sources: militaryhistorynow.com)


6. Brotherly Love Without Boundaries    

The Gadget, the first atomic bomb, 1945

Joe O’Donnell, the man who took this photo at Nagasaki, was sent by the U.S. military to document the damage inflicted on the Japanese homeland caused by air raids of fire bombs and atomic bombs. Over the next seven months starting September 1945, he traveled across Western Japan chronicling the devastation, revealing the plight of the bomb victims including the dead, the wounded, the homeless and orphaned. Images of the human suffering was etched both on his negatives and his heart.

In the photo, the Japanese boy stands erect, having done his duty by bringing his dead brother to a cremation ground. Standing at attention was an obvious military influence. Looking at the boy who carries his younger sibling on his back, keeps a stiff upper lip, tries so hard to be brave is heart-breaking. He has epitomized the spirit of a defeated nation. 1945 (rarehistorical photos.com)

Sometimes later Joe O’Donnell spoke to a Japanese interviewer about this picture:

“I saw a boy about ten years old walking by. He was carrying a baby on his back. In those days in Japan, we often saw children playing with their little brothers or sisters on their backs, but this boy was clearly different. I could see that he had come to this place for a serious reason. He was wearing no shoes. His face was hard. The little head was tipped back as if the baby were fast asleep. The boy stood there for five or ten minutes.”

“The men in white masks walked over to him and quietly began to take off the rope that was holding the baby. That is when I saw that the baby was already dead. The men held the body by the hands and feet and placed it on the fire. The boy stood there straight without moving, watching the flames. He was biting his lower lip so hard that it shone with blood. The flame burned low like the sun going down. The boy turned around and walked silently away.”


7. “Abandoned boy holding a stuffed animal amid ruins following German aerial bombing of London, 1945” 

Toni Frissell or antoinette frissell was the photographer who took pictures of this boy.

Abandoned boy holding a stuffed toy animal amid ruins following German aerial bombing of London, England. Photograph by Toni Frissell, 1945. (commons.wikimedia.org)

Photo by Toni Frissell. London 1945. “I was told he had come back from playing and found his house a shambles—his mother, father and brother dead under the rubble…he was looking up at the sky, his face an expression of both confusion and defiance. The defiance made him look like a young Winston Churchill. This photograph was used by IBM to publicize a show in London. The boy grew up to become a truck driver after the war, and walking past the IBM offices, he recognized his picture.”  (reddit.com)

Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. The boy did in fact survive the war. In the photo he’s actually sitting outside where his house used to be. The child is sitting alone in the ruble with his stuffed animal. Nazi Germany continued to bomb London up until 1945 using a variety of delivery methods. The “Little Blitz” of 1944 was the last time Nazi Germany employed aircraft to drop bombs over England. The Nazi Germany was using V-1 and V-2 rockets in 1945. (rarehistoricalphotos.com)


 8. Agim Shala  , Albania 

Family members, reunited after fleeing Kosovo, pass 2-year-old Agim Shala through the barbed wire fence into the hands of his grandparents at a camp in Albania. The photo was taken on March 3, 1999.

Agim Shala, 2 years old, is passed thru the barbed wire fence

Agim Shala, 2 years old, is passed thru the barbed wire fence at the Arab camp as members of the Shala family are reunited after fleeing Kosovo. The relatives who just arrived from Prizren had to stay outside the camp until shelter was available. (Photo by Carol Guzy/Washington Post/Getty Images)

In 2000, former Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy spent time at a refugee camp in Albania during the Kosovo crisis and took a photo that won the Pulitzer Prize — one of four in her career. It depicts a young boy being passed through a barbed wire fence at the border.

“It’s actually a joyful photo,” Guzy says. “Families that had escaped ethnic cleansing did not know if their loved ones had survived or not, were lined up on along that fence.” When one family saw their relatives on the other side of the barbed wire, they celebrated and handed their young children back and forth while waiting to be reunited.

Guzy says images of children are particularly moving. “It’s something about being completely at the mercy of events happening around you, and being unable to protect yourself — children especially — that reaches the heart and soul of people,” she says.


9. Malala Yousafzai   

Malala is a symbol of struggle , peaceful and progressive and educated Pakistan.  Malala Yousafzaai has been nominated for awards, and has won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

On 9 October 2012, BBC Blogger Malala Yousafzaai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen.

On 9 October 2012,Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban while returning home on a school bus.

Malala Yousafzaai was born in 1998. She is a student from the town of Mingora in Swat District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban has at times banned girls from attending school.


 10.  Sharbat Gula, Afghan Mona Lisa 



What are your thoughts?