“Be A Witness To The Events That Changed Mankind”: 40 Important Historical Photos That Might Change Your Perspective On Things
Although we cannot get into the minds of the people waiting in a queue on a cold day in Chukotka, Soviet Union back in 1985 to get wine, or what the daredevil sky boys who built the Empire State Building in 1930-31 were thinking when balancing unsecured on the 88th floor, we can get a fairly good glimpse into the wonders of history.
Thanks to photography, a new means of visual representation that debuted in 1839 and startled the entire world, a lot of incredible moments of the past are now carved into film forever. So today we’re taking a miscellaneous history class, one you wouldn’t have skipped at school, thanks to this educational Facebook page titled “Historic Photographs.”
With almost 2.5M followers, the page is an online destination for rare historical photos and incredible stories behind them. Below we selected some of the most captivating ones, so pull your seat closer!
Long Before Color-Sensitive Film Was Invented, Russian Photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky Took 3 Individual Black And White Photos, Each With A Filter (Red, Blue And Green) To Create High Quality Photos In Full Color. This Self Portrait Is Over 110 Years Old
Few things captivate our imagination as much as historical photographs that tell stories about people and their lives in the past. While very distant in time, they also feel somehow familiar – old photographs have a power to transcend time and space and put us in long-gone contexts, places, and situations.
On August 23, 1989, About 2 Million People From Latvia, Estonia And Lithuania Formed A Human Chain That United All 3 Countries To Show The World Their Desire To Escape The Soviet Union And The Communism That Brought Only Suffering And Poverty. This Power Stretched 600 Km
Mary Wallace: First Female Bus Driver For Chicago Transit Authority, 1974 (Colorized)
According to Lisa Yaszek, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since old photos affect our perception of time in unique ways. Yaszek is a Regents Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech where she researches and teaches science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures. We previously spoke with her about the cultural significance of old and historical photographs and what it tells us about the way we perceive not just the past, but also the present.
They affect the way we understand time “by making abstract historical events visually concrete, giving us an emotional connection to eras we might not otherwise know very much about, exactly, through books or family stories.” Yaszek explained: “For instance, when I was looking over the photos for this article I was really taken by images of Japanese-Americans in WWII U.S. internment camps, young people protesting low wages for teachers in the Great Depression, female engineers working for the Space Race, and little kids protesting Daylight Savings Time—my own son especially appreciated that one…”
Rosa Parks Sits At The Front Of A Bus Following The End Of Racial Segregation By The Transit Company, Circa 1965
Stoney First Nation Member, Guide Samson Beaver With His Wife Leah And Their Daughter Frances Louise, 1907. Photo Taken By Mary Schäffer
According to Yaszek, if you look closely at the subjects of historic photographs, you realize how alive they look. This is because they have a range of emotions on their faces—“from determination to silliness to fear to hope. It reminds us that historical events don’t just happen on their own—they involve real people taking real action, for better or for worse.”
German Soldier Helps A Little Boy Sneak Across The Berlin Wall, 1961
The Level Of Detail On The Column Of Marcus Aurelius In Rome Which Was Completed Around Ad 193
Although we may not realize that, old photos also remind us that people in the past led rich and complex lives, just as we do today. “For instance, we tend to assume that in the past, women were limited to work as wives and mothers, and we certainly see a number of images here celebrating women’s work in the home. But we also see women doing all sorts of work in the public sphere as well—everything from attending school graduations and working on supercomputers to taking back the streets of postwar London and bouncing drunks out of bars!” Yaszek explained.
Negotiation Between The Zoo Director And Escaped Chimpanzee. Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1988
Residents Of West Berlin Show Their Children To Their Grandparents Living In East Berlin, 1961
20-Year-Old Helen Mirren Dressed For Her Role As Cleopatra In A Theatrical Production, 1965
When asked whether we tend to idolize the past and vilify the present, Yaszek said that it’s true and that old photos can indeed play a part in that process. She explained: “Even as some photos help us put a personal face on big historical events, others give us very unrealistic understandings of what everyday life was really like in the past.”
Us Cavalry Soldiers Pose In Front Of A Tree Known As The "Grizzly Giant" 1900. The Tree Still Stands
Moreover, before the advent of digital cameras that could take and store hundreds of photos without costing users very much in terms of effort or money, photos were more expensive and difficult to create—in the 1800s, subjects had to stand still and pose to create good images.
“Throughout the early and middle 20th century, good cameras were often complicated to master; and even when instant cameras made it easier for people to take decent photos at the drop of a hat in the 1970s, users had to have the money to purchase expensive film cartridges,” Yaszek explained.