Visual Thinking/Visual Computing

Image Canon - Historic Images

Wright Brothers First Powered Flight - 1903

Photo from the Library of Congress

On December 17, 1903, two bicycle mechanics from Ohio realized one of humanity's wildest dreams: For 12 seconds they were possessed of true flight. Before the day ended, Orville and Wilbur Wright would keep their wood-wire-and-cloth Flyer aloft for 59 seconds. Sober citizens knew that only birds used wings to take to the air, so without being at the site, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., or seeing this photo, few would have believed the Wrights' story. Although it had taken ages for humans to fly, once the brothers made their breakthrough, the learning curve reached the heavens. Within 15 years of this critical moment, nearly all the elements of the modern airplane had been imagined, if not yet developed.


World War II Begins - Pearl Harbor - 1941

In less than three hours, Japanese planes crippled the U.S. Pacific fleet. Images from the raid - and the aftermath

At 7:56 A.M. the USS Arizona was rocked by two explosions. "The bridge shielded us from the flames," Pfc. James Cory said. "I think that at this moment I wanted to flee, but this was impossible. You're on station, you're in combat."

Pearl Harbor


World War II - Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima - 1945

Photo by Joe Rosenthal

"The battle of Iwo Jima stands out as an exceptionally hard-fought battle in world war history," said Kiyoshi Endo, who commanded Japanese troops on the northern part of the island.

During about a month of fighting that began Feb. 19, 1945, some 100,000 Americans battled more than 22,000 Japanese desperate to protect the first Japanese home island to be invaded.

Nearly 7,000 Americans died. Fewer than 1,000 of the Japanese survived. Japan surrendered the following August, after one more bloody battle, on Okinawa, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Iwo Jima produced one of the iconic images of American combat, when after the battle for Mount Suribachi six Marines raised an American flag, a moment that for many Americans symbolizes the Pacific theater of World War II. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was later used as the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C.

Flag raising images and history

Veterans mark Iwo Jima anniversary


World War II Ends - Jubilation - 1945

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Photographers across America captured victory kisses on August 14, 1945, the day World War II came to an end. So why did one embrace become a universal symbol of jubilation - and perhaps the most reprinted image in LIFE's history? Having spied a sailor smooching his way through Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt followed until he found the perfect composition - a confluence of lines and curves that draws the eye into a vortex of pure joy.

Life - Images of the Century


United States - Lynching - 1930

Photo from Bettmann/Corbis

A mob of 10,000 whites took sledgehammers to the county jailhouse doors to get at these two young blacks accused of raping a white girl; the girl's uncle saved the life of a third by proclaiming the man's innocence. Although this was Marion, Ind., most of the nearly 5,000 lynchings documented between Reconstruction and the late 1960s were perpetrated in the South. (Hangings, beatings and mutilations were called the sentence of "Judge Lynch.") Some lynching photos were made into postcards designed to boost white supremacy, but the tortured bodies and grotesquely happy crowds ended up revolting as many as they scared. Today the images remind us that we have not come as far from barbarity as we'd like to think.


Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla - 1968

Photo Eddie Adams/AP

With North Vietnam's Tet Offensive beginning, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnam's national police chief, was doing all he could to keep Viet Cong guerrillas from Saigon. As Loan executed a prisoner who was said to be a Viet Cong captain, AP photographer Eddie Adams opened the shutter. Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for a picture that, as much as any, turned public opinion against the war. Adams felt that many misinterpreted the scene, and when told in 1998 that the immigrant Loan had died of cancer at his home in Burke, Va., he said, "The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him."


Kent State - 1970

Photo by John Paul Filio Valley Daily News/AP

When President Richard Nixon said he was sending troops to Cambodia, the nation's colleges erupted in protest. At Kent State some threw rocks. The Ohio National Guard, called in to quell the turmoil, suddenly turned and fired, killing four; two were simply walking to class. This photo captured a pivotal moment: American soldiers had just killed American kids. Student photographer John Filo won the Pulitzer; the event was also memorialized in a Neil Young song and a TV movie. The girl, Mary Ann Vecchio, turned out not to be a Kent State student, but a 14-year-old runaway. She was sent back to her family in Florida.


How Life Begins - 1965

Photo by Lennart Nilsson

In 1957 he began taking pictures with an endoscope, an instrument that can see inside a body cavity, but when Lennart Nilsson presented the rewards of his work to LIFE's editors several years later, they demanded that witnesses confirm that they were seeing what they thought they were seeing. Finally convinced, they published a cover story in 1965 that went on for 16 pages, and it created a sensation. Then, and over the intervening years, Nilsson's painstakingly made pictures informed how humanity feels about . . . well, humanity. They also were appropriated for purposes that Nilsson never intended. Nearly as soon as the 1965 portfolio appeared in LIFE, images from it were enlarged by right-to-life activists and pasted to placards.


Tiananmen Square - 1989

Photo by Stuart Franklin Magnum

A hunger strike by 3,000 students in Beijing had grown to a protest of more than a million as the injustices of a nation cried for reform. For seven weeks the people and the People's Republic, in the person of soldiers dispatched by a riven Communist Party, warily eyed each other as the world waited. When this young man simply would not move, standing with his meager bags before a line of tanks, a hero was born. A second hero emerged as the tank driver refused to crush the man, and instead drove his killing machine around him. Soon this dream would end, and blood would fill Tiananmen. But this picture had shown a billion Chinese that there is hope.


Apollo 11 Moon Landing - 1969 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- It was a defining moment in all of human history and NASA made sure that cameras were on hand to capture the spectacle and the drama. We've seen these images -- this one in particular -- countless times during the past 34 years, but on this anniversary of the first Moon landing take a moment to look once more at the picture above and marvel at the accomplishment.

That's a man walking on the lunar surface, and in the reflection of his visor you can see another.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to step foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. They had launched aboard Apollo 11 with Mike Collins on July 16, and when this image was captured by Armstrong of Aldrin, a national goal of landing a man on the Moon had been accomplished. The other part of the goal -- the part about bringing them back safely to the Earth -- also was met, four days later, when the trio splashed down in the Pacific Ocean riding aboard the command module named Columbia.


Challenger Explosion - 1986

On January 28, 1986 America was shocked by the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, and the death of its seven crew members. A decade after this national tragedy, the World Wide Web hosts a variety of resources reviewed at this Challenger Accident homepage.

The Challenger Accident


Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in March 2001

The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley represent the artistic and religious developments which from the 1st to the 13th centuries characterized ancient Bakhtria, integrating various cultural influences into the Gandhara school of Buddhist art. The area contains numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the Islamic period. The site is also testimony to the tragic destruction by the Taliban of the two standing Buddha statues, which shook the world in March 2001.

Threats to the Site:

The Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee simultaneously with its inscription on the World Heritage List. The property is in a fragile state of conservation considering that it has suffered from abandonment, military action and dynamite explosions. The major dangers include: risk of imminent collapse of the Buddha niches with the remaining fragments of the statues, further deterioration of still existing mural paintings in the caves, looting and illicit excavation. Parts of the site are inaccessible due to the presence of antipersonnel mines.

Justification for Inscription

Criterion (i): The Buddha statues and the cave art in Bamiyan Valley are an outstanding representation of the Gandharan school in Buddhist art in the Central Asian region.

Criterion (ii): The artistic and architectural remains of Bamiyan Valley, and an important Buddhist centre on the Silk Road, are an exceptional testimony to the interchange of Indian, Hellenistic, Roman, Sasanian influences as the basis for the development of a particular artistic expression in the Gandharan school. To this can be added the Islamic influence in a later period.

Criterion (iii): The Bamiyan Valley bears an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition in the Central Asian region, which has disappeared.

Criterion (iv): The Bamiyan Valley is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape which illustrates a significant period in Buddhism.

Criterion (vi): The Bamiyan Valley is the most monumental expression of the western Buddhism. It was an important centre of pilgrimage over many centuries. Due to their symbolic values, the monuments have suffered at different times of their existence, including the deliberate destruction in 2001, which shook the whole world.



World Trade Center Terrorist Attack - Sept. 11, 2001

No single image has yet emerged as the canonical one. In this case:

--many more images, both amateur and professional
--lots of video too
--people saw in real time-at events and on TV (and then replays) different from a "report from abroad." Most of us were not in vietnmam, etc.

9/11 News Archives


United States in Irag - The Abu Ghraib prison photos - 2004

From a New Yorker article:

" ...A month later, General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army's prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski's brigade headquarters.) Taguba's report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added-"detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence." Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their "extremely sensitive nature."

The photographs-several of which were broadcast on CBS's "60 Minutes 2" last week-show leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses. Six suspects-Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, known as Chip, who was the senior enlisted man; Specialist Charles A. Graner; Sergeant Javal Davis; Specialist Megan Ambuhl; Specialist Sabrina Harman; and Private Jeremy Sivits-are now facing prosecution in Iraq, on charges that include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. A seventh suspect, Private Lynndie England, was reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after becoming pregnant.

The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she, too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded."

New Yorker article

NYTs articles an Article entitled "Crime Seen" (discusses main national newspapers' coverage of the story)