"Words. Ever since chisel was taken to slate, it has been accepted that words can
and do change the world. Whether it be the Torah, the New Testament or the
Koran, the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence, J’Accuse, Oliver
Twist or Catch-22, Common Sense or Silent Spring, the effect of words can reach
so many hearts and minds that it impacts the human condition and the course of
mankind. Speeches incite, editorials persuade, poems inspire.
photographs perform similarly?
LIFE solicited an-swers to that question on its own Web site (www.LIFE.com) and
that of the highly regarded Digital Journalist (www.digitaljournalist.org), an
online publication affiliated with the University of Texas. We received many
opinions, most of which supported our conceit that a photo could change the
world—music to our ears—along with one detailed, intelligent rebuttal. “I really
do not believe that photographs actually change anything, least of all the
‘World,’” wrote Joshua Haruni. “To suggest that photographs, like the written
word, have had a profound effect on our lives is simply wrong. Just imagine
suggesting that Picture Post or Time or LIFE had as much impact on our lives as
Das Kapital, Mein Kampf or the Bible . . . Photographs can be very beautiful,
informative, ugly or anything else the photographer chooses to show. Photographs
can definitely inspire us, but the written word has the ability to spark the
imagination to greater depths than any photograph, whose content is limited to
what exists in the frame.” Mr. Haruni is, by the way, a documentary
His argument forced us to once again confront our premise.
We compared Mr. Haruni’s thoughts and those of other respondents and finally
determined: A collection of pictures that “changed the world” is a thing worth
contemplating, if only to arrive at some resolution about the influential nature
of photography and whether it is limited, vast or in between. We do not claim
that LIFE’s 100 are the 100 or the top 100, but that they, and the other related
landmark images presented here, argue on behalf of the power of pictures."
100 Photographs that Changed the World – LIFE