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21 Powerful Photos Of People’s Eyes That Say More Than Words Ever Could

21 Powerful Photos Of People’s Eyes That Say More Than Words Ever Could


“The eyes are the windows of the soul” – this quote has been attributed to countless different historical figures. In the first split-second that we observe someone, our gaze often snaps directly to their eyes – in an attempt to figure out who they are and what their intentions are. Human eyes can often communicate truths about an individual and about their soul that cannot be fathomed by something as inadequate as language.

The guys at santabanta forum has started a search for various historical photos where the eyes say it all. Along with the stories of the people in these images these powerful photos are truly raw and emotional, portraying people at their best and at their worst – joy, hatred, fear, and courage.

We added a couple of our own portrait photography finds to santabanta forum’s list, and you can do this too at the end of our article.

1. Madness

A Shell Shocked soldier in a trench during the Battle of Courcelette in mid-September 1916. Shell shock was the reaction of soldiers in World War I to the trauma of battle. It has been described as a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness appearing variously as panic, or flight, an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk. “Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.” (Image credits:

2. Defeat

Red Army soldier marches a German soldier into captivity after the Battle of Stalingrad. The Germans were trapped and rapidly ran out of heating fuel and medical supplies, and thousands started to die of frostbite, malnutrition, and disease. It is among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, with the higher estimates of combined casualties amounting to nearly two million. (Image credits:


3. Fear

A portrait photo of a 15-year-old German soldier, Hans-Georg Henke, crying after being captured by the US 9th Army in Rechtenbach, Germany, on April 3, 1945. He was a member of the Luftwaffe anti-air squad (Flakhelfer) who burst into tears as his world crumbled around him. His father died in 1938 and his mother in 1944. He joined the Luftwaffe to support himself. (image credits:

4. Fatigue


A shocking photo of the haunting stare of an emaciated American war prisoner as he lies on a cot after his liberation from a German prison camp by Allied forces. Taken in Limburg, Germany, 1945. (Image credits:

5. Courage

Bibi Aisha, 18. In a practice known as baad, Aisha’s father promised her to a Taliban fighter when she was 12 years old as compensation for a killing that a member of her family had committed. She was married at 14 and subjected to constant abuse. At 18, she fled the abuse but was caught by the police, jailed, and returned to her family. Her father returned her to her in-laws. To take revenge on her escape, her father-in-law, husband, and three other family members took Aisha into the mountains, cut off her nose and her ears, and left her to die. Bibi was later rescued by aid workers and the U.S. military. Her mutilated face with fierce, beautiful eyes on the cover of Time magazine sparked controversy over the threat that looms over every Afghan woman. (Image credits: Jodi Bieber)


6. Deception

Photo shows Corporal Yukio Araki (age 17 years old) holding a puppy with four other young men (age 18 and years old) of the 72nd Shinbu Corps around him. An Asahi Shimbun cameraman took this photo on the day before the departure of the 72nd Shinbu Corps from Bansei Air Base for their Kamikaze (Divine Wind) mission in Okinawa. Yukio Araki died at the age of 17 years and 2 months in a suicide attack on American ships near Okinawa on May 27, 1945. Almost all Army kamikaze pilots during the Okinawan campaign were between 17 and 22 (Muranaga 1989, 12). Not the kind image people imagine when they hear about the infamous fanatic kamikaze pilots. (Image credits:

7. Envy

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield at a 20th Century Fox party thrown in Sophia Loren’s honor April 12th, 1957. (Image credits: Vanity Fair)

8. Innocence


The picture is called The Boy with the Sapphire Eyes. As soon as photographer Vanessa Bristow posted it she was flooded with accusations of photoshop. She responded by posting other pictures of the boy as it is in fact not altered. The blue eyes and dark skin probably represents Ocular Albinism or Nettleship-Falls albinism, or Juvenile uveitis. Both conditions cause the pigment of the iris to be less dense. (Image credits: Vanessa Bristow)

9. Acceptance

Picture from an Einsatzgruppen soldier’s personal album, labelled on the back as “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”, it shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D is just about to shoot a Jewish man kneeling before a filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1941. All 28,000 Jews from Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas were massacred at the time. (Image credits:

10. Relief

Heart surgeon after 23-hour-long (successful) heart transplant. His assistant is sleeping in the corner. (Image credits: James Stanfield)

11. Despair


A woman lying on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto, starving to death. Taken by a a German soldier called Heinz Joest, in Poland, 1941. (Image credits:

12. Amazement

The exact moment Harold Whittles, born deaf, hears for the first time after being fitted with a hearing aid. (Image credits: Jack Bradley)

13. Panic


The 1989 Hillsborough disaster was an incident that occurred during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs on 15 April 1989 at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. The crush resulted in the deaths of 96 people and injuries to 766 others. The incident has since been blamed primarily on the police. The incident remains the worst stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the world’s worst football disasters. (Image credits:

14. Lost Innosence


The photo shows Ahmed, the eight-year-old son of a Syrian rebel fighter, smoking and standing guard with an AK-47 outside a barricade in Aleppo. He is one of the youngest fighters to be swept into his country’s civil war and something in his blank expression seems to hint at horrors that no child of his age should ever have to witness. (Image credits: Sebastiano Tomada)

15. Hatred

Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels smiled at him until he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish – a moment Eisenstaedt captured in this photo. Suddenly, “he looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither,” the photographer recalled. (Image credits:

16. Caution

Sharbat Gula was orphaned during the Soviet Union’s bombing of Afghanistan and sent to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan in 1984. Her village was attacked by Soviet helicopter gunships sometime in the early 1980s. The Soviet strike killed her parents, forcing her, her siblings and grandmother to hike over the mountains to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in neighboring Pakistan. (Image credits: Steve McCurry)

17. Shame

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops. Taken just after WWII ended. (Image credits:

18. Suffering

Nguyen Thi Ly, 9, suffers from Agent Orange disabilities. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed some 12 million gallons of Agent Orange herbicide over Vietnam. This defoliant was used to immediately destroy crops, clear vegetation, and remove the dense forest that provided food and cover for Vietcong forces. At least 4.5 million Vietnamese, and 2.5 million American veterans, may have been exposed to the pesticide. Although the spraying ended 30 years ago, the dioxin from Agent Orange is still wreaking havoc on three generations of victims. (Image credits:

19. Peace

The soldier in the photo is unknown but he is with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion on defense duty at Phuc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam. June 18, 1965. (Image credits: Horst Faas)

20. Awe

Children watching a dragon being slain in a Puppet show, Paris, 1963 by Alfred Eisenstaedt. (Image credits:

21. Joy

Beauty Liberated, 1945. “Depicting a woman at the moment of her liberation, so skinny you can hardly see her, her face is aglow and alive. As if she was never imprisoned.” (Image credits:

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