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


  1. 21 Soviet Soldiers Harassing A German Woman

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    Although the photograph speaks for itself, context is still necessary in order to understand all the circumstances surrounding it and the gravity of it. In the image captured, a woman is seen to be openly harassed by two Soviet soldiers, near the West Hall section of the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof central railway terminus. Sadly, it was not an isolated incident - the mass rapes took place in the occupied German territory during and after the war. The act of rape, as per historians, is oftentimes used to emphasize the victory. While most historians agree that such vile acts were commited not only by the Soviets, it was estimated that a staggering amount of 2 million German women suffered from the hands of communists, some as many as 60 to 70 times.

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  2. 22 An Injured Young Mill Worker

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    The image captured on October, 1912, shows Giles Edmund Newsom who was injured while working in Sanders Spinning Mill in Bessemer City, North Carolina earlier that year. A piece of machinery fell on his foot and smashed his toe, which caused him to fall onto a spinning machine which crushed and tore out two of his fingers. He was 11-years-old at the time. Both Giles and his younger brother worked in the mill several months before the accident. After the boys' father found out that the company was to pay out money for Giles and not the parents, he tried to compromise, while their mother blamed the boys that they got their jobs on their own. The aunt is documented to have said: “Now he’s jes got to where he could be of some help to his ma, an’ then this happens and he can’t never work no more like he oughter.”

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  3. 23 Argument

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    Photographed by Abbas - a French-Iranian photographer - in Tehran, Iran, 1978, the heart-wrenching image shows a rioter holding the shoes of a dead friend. His comrade was shot after the military opened fire on a crowd. The soldier argues with a man that it was not his unit which opened fire. The capture is from Abbas' book 'Iran Diary: 1971– 2002'.

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  4. 24 The Youngest Mother

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    When she was just 5-years-old, Lina Medina (born on 23 September, 1933) was brought by her parents to a hospital, who complained of extreme abdominal growth. After being examined by a doctor, a shocking truth was discovered - Lina was seven-months pregnant. Apparently, Lina was born with a rare condition called 'precocious puberty', which, simply put, is the early onset of sexual development. Lina Medina then officially became the youngest documented mother in medical history. She gave birth to a boy on May 14, 1939, by a cesarean section, as her pelvis was too small. The child born was completely healthy and was named Gerardo. However, the father of the child remained a mystery.

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  5. 25 'Tragedy By The Sea'

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    One morning on the spring of 1954, a photographer for Los Angeles Times, John Gaunt, was in the front yard of his beachfront home when he heard a neighbor shouting that, “something’s happening on the beach!” John grabbed his camera and rushed to the shore. When he arrived, he saw a couple near the water who were clutching each other. As it turned out, their 19-month-old son who had been playing in their yard had wandered off to the beach and vanished into the water. The heart-wrenching photograph appeared on the front page of Los Angeles Times and won a Pulitzer Award.

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  6. 26 “I Will Not Be Sued! I Have The Voice Of An Angel! No Man Can Sue Me.”

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    On November 17, 1955, Maria Callas gave a triumphant performance in Chicago’s Civic Opera House. However, the real drama began after the opera was over. U.S. Marshal Stanley Pringle and Deputy Sheriff Dan Smith burst into Callas’s dressing room and served her with court summons for a breach of contract. Maria was furious: “I will not be sued! I have the voice of an angel! No man can sue me,” she yelled. The photograph perfectly conveys the intensity of the moment at the time and after the image made its way to the press, Maria Callas was dubbed "The Tigress". After the incident, the great diva of the Opera vowed to never return to the Windy City again.

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  7. 27 Rajiv Gandhi

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    This is the last photo taken of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was captured moments before a suicide bomber, (wearing orange flowers, lower left, also on the inset, top left) hugged him and detonated her bomb. The photographer was also killed during the attack.

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  8. 28 'Leap Into Freedom'

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    Following World War II, the city of Berlin was carved into four occupation zones. The life conditions on each part were not equal and during the period from 1949 to 1961, around 2.5 million people from East Germany had fled the Soviet section of Berlin. The Soviets were concerned and the East German leader Walter Ulbricht, in order to stop the flow, had barbed-wire-and-cinder-block barriers thrown up in early August 1961. In the photo, the primary subject is 19-year-old border guard Hans Conrad Schumann, crossing the barrier. The West Berlin crowd were enticing Hans to come on over and he himself has then said, that he does not want to “live enclosed,” and suddenly jumped the barbed wire. The photo quickly made its way to the press and the iconic image of Hans leaping over the barrier became a symbol of freedom. The young soldier went on to live quietly in the West, however, Hans himself did not deal well with the newly-found fame and his status of an icon and, sadly, committed suicide in 1998.

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  9. 29 Rodney Alcala

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    A photograph of Rodney Alcala in court cross examining himself. The man was a serial killer known as the 'dating game killer' who killed women back in the 1970’s. He got the name as he was a guest on one dating game show. He represented himself back in 2010. He would cross examine himself and would change his voice in the process as if it’s a different person. He was sentenced to death.

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  10. 30 "The Last Laugh?"

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    The photo is of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, two murderers, after hearing that they've been sentenced to death. The two killers murdered a family of four, including two children, after planning to rob them, but failing to find anything worth stealing except for mere $50. The seemingly casual and unconcerned smile on Perry's face brings an eerie atmosphere into the photograph, which, without the context, looks rather mundane.

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