Photo Series Documents Photographs That Look Ordinary Until You Know The Backstory


Photography is a form of art that can freeze the emotions of the moment in time. The development of the art has influenced the world in remarkable ways and it provided people with power to define the eras they live in. 

Here, we have compiled a list of thirty, seemingly mundane and not-that-spectacular-visually photographs with remarkable, unforgettable, strange and sad backstories.

Scroll down with an open mind and read each of the fascinating stories behind each photo…

  1. 1 Tadeusz Zytkiewicz Holding A Picture Of Himself

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    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.

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  2. 2 'Terezka’s Scrawls'

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    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.

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  3. 3 The Three Unsung Heroes Of Chernobyl

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    If not for these three men in the picture - Alexei Ananenko (second left) and soldiers Valeri Bezpalov (center) and Boris Baranov (far right) - 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.

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  4. 4 'D-Day'

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    The photo, taken by the legendary LIFE photographer Robert Capa, captured the hellish events of 6 June, 1944 - on this day the Allies invaded Normandy, marking it as the largest seaborne invasion in history. The main subject of the photo is Private First Class Huston Riley, a 22-year-old soldier, who was struck several times by bullets. The photographer together with a sergeant, helped Huston, who later recalled thinking: “What the hell is this guy doing here? I can’t believe it. Here’s a cameraman on the shore.” Robert, the photographer, spent about an hour and a half under fire as men around him died. Only a few of the frames from the film remained, they were all grainy and blurry. However, the shaky and unstable photographs brought a jarred and disturbing feeling to the viewer, helping to transcend the infernal moment of World War II.

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  5. 5 'Behind Closed Doors'

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    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 contraversial topic at the time and thanks to her, in 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

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  6. 6 Class Of 1999

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    At a first glance, it looks like any other high school picture – a bunch of teenagers smiling and showing silly faces. However, you can see Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and their friends in the far left corner pointing pretend guns at the camera. Just a few weeks later after the photo was taken, Eric and Dylan would shoot 12 students and 1 teacher dead in a meticulously organised school shooting in Columbine.

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  7. 7 Behind The Counter

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    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 white-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.

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  8. 8 'Wait For Me, Daddy'

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    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 the 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.

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  9. 9 'Burst Of Joy'

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    '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.

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  10. 10 Young Osama

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    This is a photograph of a nice and large family vacationing in Sweden, in 1971. However, second from the left, in a brown shirt, you can see a 14-year-old boy named Osama. Some years later, the name Osama bin Laden is going to be associated with terror and a murderous pan-Islamic militant organization Al-Qaeda.

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