When I think of iconic photos, I automatically think of this article and the cover photo from National Geographic in 1985:
It’s a hauntingly beautiful photograph, but it is iconic for more reasons than just the beauty of the colors and composition. This photo moved people to become aid workers in Afghanistan and stuck with people like me (even though I hadn’t even been born when the photo was published), who wondered about this girl, her story, and whether she lived through the war. (She did, and was found by National geographic nearly 20 years later: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text)
Iconic photos, then, are images that affect a viewer because of their aesthetic qualities as well as inspire something in the viewer, whether it is an emotion or a need for action. These images are overwhelmingly human: our experiences, our triumphs, our failures.
One event that inspired all sorts of iconic images and stories was the fall of the Berlin Wall. TIME photography Anthony Suau took some of the most widely published photos of the event and explains the stories behind the photos in this video.
His photos all capture moments during the week the wall fell. They show the joy people felt as they crossed back into the west after decades of isolation and repression, they show the determination on both sides to demolish the wall that had separated but not divided Germans.
Capturing emotion is often a matter of being at the right place at the right time. But through looking at some of the most emotional and iconic photos, viewers can understand the balance between aesthetics and inspiration to create their own iconic photos.