Since then, humankind's ability to capture real life on film - and now, digitally - has changed our world.
These days, smart phones are omniscient and easily document what we see around us in real-time. Thanks to the popularity of social media platforms like Instagram, we took more photos last year than in the entire course of history before combined! Let that sink in!
But that wasn't always the case. One iconic photograph splashed across our morning newspapers, nightly newscasts, or on the cover of National Geographic, as the case may be, had a profound impact on how we perceived our lives and drew meaning.
I wanted to share some of the most iconic and world-changing photographs in the modern era, whether they illuminated seminal world events, the dawn of a new age, phenomenon the world had never seen before, or just exposed our humanity.
Enjoy these 20 images that changed the world!
"Tank Man" protester in Tienamen Square, Beijing,China
This 1989 photo by journalist Jeff Widener captures one lone, unidentified civilian protestor standing his ground in front of a column of tanks. He was never seen again, but this image remains as the perfect symbol of human bravery in the face of the technological war machine.
"Tank Man" protester in Tienamen Square, Beijing China. This 1989 photo by journalist Jeff Widener captures one lone, unidentified civilian protestor standing his ground in front of a column of tanks. He was never seen again, but this image remains as the perfect symbol of human bravery in the face of the technological war machine.
This iconic photo captures 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, an African American student in Arkansas, trying to enter Little Rock's Central High in 1957 while fellow students scream and harass her.
Eckford was one of the "Little Rock Nine," the first black students to attend a racially segregated (white) high school after the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education constitutionally guaranteed integration in schools, ruling against "separate but equal" segregation practices.
On this day of September 4th,, Eckford was denied access to the school by the Arkansas National Guard in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. In fact, the actual pig-headed Governor of Arkansas blocked her entry into the school that morning.
When she was turned away, Eckford had to make her way through an angry mob of white students and protestors who threatened to lynch her. To escape the mob, the girl ran into a bus stop, where she broke down and couldn't stop crying.
A sympathetic reporter named Benjamin Fine, thinking about his own 15-year-old daughter, sat next to Elizabeth and comforted her, telling her not to let them see her cry. Another white woman, Grace Lorch, also offered Elizabeth protection and escorted her safely onto a city bus.
For the next two weeks, the Arkansas Nine studied at home. Even after President Eisenhower requested the students be granted access, they were blocked by the Governor, National Guard, and thousands of protestors.
Finally, President Eisenhower assumed control of the National Guard and set up a military escort to accompany the students into the building. On September 23, 1957, Eckford and the Arkansa Nine finale were able to enter the high school.
It wasn't easy, and the Central High actually shut down the next year, but Eckford did graduate high school and went on to earn a BS in History from Central State University in Ohio. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her courage and significant moment in history.
American Airlines flight 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001, confirming for a terrified public that the first airplane collision was not an accident, but a terrorist attack.
This photo of a 32-year old California farmworker, taken by Dorothea Lange, is considered to show the face of the Great Depression. This mother of 7 children had just sold her tent and the tires off her broken down car for food, as the whole family was living on foraged vegetables and wild birds.
A 1977 advertisement for the Apple II personal computer, which revolutionized the concept of aesthetics and ease of use in computers that sparked the personal computing phenomenon.
These innovations in computing and eventually, music tech and smart phones, changed our world by ushering in the dawn of the Digital Age.
Taken from the moon on Christmas Eve of 1968, either by Frank Borman or Bill Anders of the Apollo 8 mission. It was called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken,” by adventure photographer Galen Rowell.
In 1963, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist priest in Southern Vietnam, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire to protest the government's abuse and torture of priests. He never made a move or uttered a sound as he burned to death.
Music Television's first on-screen logo, signifying a musical renaissance in which culture and art would drive the innovation of technology, not the other way around.
DNA has been depicted with renderings and images nice 1953, when James Watson and Francis Crick first mapped DNA's famous double helix formation.
But not until very recently has technology allowed is to take an actual photo of DNA, this image, thanks to Enzo di Fabrizio, a researcher at the University of Genoa in Italy. He found a way to photograph strands of DNA through an electron microscope.
The Cuban Missile Crisis comes to a heated standoff in the United Nations session, October 22, 1962.
In this photo U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson points to a photo of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, offering incontrovertible proof that they existed. The U.S. and Soviet Union narrowly avoided a full scale nuclear war.
A-bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, as taken by the U.S. air force.
The mushroom cloud-producing atomic bomb killed 80,000 people and forced the surrender of the Japanese military, ending WWII in the Pacific Theater.
"The Afghan Girl."
A portrait of a 12-year old Afghan refugee living in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation, taken by Steve McCurry, appearing on the famous 1985 cover of National Geographic Magazine.
She was identified in 2002 as Sharbat Gula and became the face of struggle of refugees all over the world, and this photo was often called the "Afghan Mona Lisa."
Execution of VietCong soldier
The Vietnam war was the first military action in U.S. history where journalists had direct access to soldiers and combat, often traveling around with soldiers and killed in action, themselves.
The results was shocking images like this, taken by Eddie Adams February 1, 1968 when a police captain summarily executes a captured VietCong soldier on the street by shooting him in the head. The photo made the front page of the New York Times, and created an outrage against the senselessness of the war that sparked protests.
After Vietnam, journalists were placed on restrictions where they could go and what they could photograph in combat.
This famous photo, taken in 1962 by Alan Stanley Tretick of Life Magazine, depicts President John F Kennedy at work at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office of the White House, while his son, Jon Jr. plays underneath.
JFK Jr. was the first child born to an active President, but his father was assassinated less than a year after this photo was taken.
The Berlin Wall falls
On November 11, 1989, East German border guards demolished a section of the Berlin Wall to create a crossing point between east and west. West Berliners started tearing down the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, signifying the end of Soviet Bloc in Europe and soon the fall of communism.
The wall, also called the Iron Curtain, divided free West Germany from oppressed East Germany for 28 years, since August 13, 1961.
Raise a fist for Black Power at the Olympics
It was a far different time in America, but so much was the same. 1968 at the Mexico City Olympics, US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood during the medal ceremony after winning gold and silver, respectively.
In an act of solidarity for the Black Power movement and civil rights strife in their home country, these men raised their fists skyward for all the world to see.
When Japan surrendered and World War II was won, Americans were ready to celebrate. On that very day, photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a Navy sailor kissing a woman in a white dress in the middle of Times Square in New York City, which became the symbol for post-war jubilance and hope.
This iconic image of the band crossing Abbey Road in London would guild their 11th studio album, and last recording before disbanding in 1970, the end of the British Invasion.
The album, their top-selling ever, was met with critical acclaim and swirled in controversy, some people theorizing that it was a big staged metaphor for Paul McCartney's death.
None the less, the image of the four Beatles crossing the road over a piano key-like crosswalk has been one of the most replicated and imitated album covers ever.