30 Ordinary Photos With Amazing Backstories
Sometimes certain pictures have unique significant meanings to us even though others would see them as a simple snapshot. That old faded picture of you sitting on the beach? Maybe it was the first time you ever saw the sea. A 20-year-old picture with a childhood friend at their birthday party? Maybe it’s the last picture of you together before you drifted apart. Bored Panda has compiled a list of photos that look ordinary at first glance but become something special once you hear the stories behind them. Check them out in the gallery below!
h/t: Bored Panda
#1 Tadeusz Zytkiewicz Holding A Picture Of Himself
This is Tadeusz Zytkiewicz – the first person in Poland to receive a heart transplant – holding a picture of himself and the performing doctor, Zbigniew Religa, with his colleague, seen sleeping in the corner. The difficult surgery took 23 hours and Dr. Religa stayed up to monitor the patient’s vitals. The photo, taken by American photographer James Stanfield, was chosen to by National Geographic to be the best picture of 1987.
#2 The Three Unsung Heroes Of Chernobyl
The three men – Alexei Ananenko (second left) and soldiers Valeri Bezpalov (center) and Boris Baranov (far right) – risked their lives o drain the fluid near the reactor during the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in Pripyat, Ukraine in 1986. After the plant’s water-cooling system failed and a pool formed under the reactor 10 days into the disaster, there was a high risk that the lava-like radioactive substance could melt through the barriers and drop the reactor’s core into said pool, causing a steam explosion. Luckily, the men were able to drain the fluid and spectacularly, all three survived.
#3 Cher Ami
Cher Ami was the name given to a pigeon that saved 200 soldiers during WWI. The poor bird was shot multiple times and lost an eye and a leg but still managed to deliver a message from the trapped battalion.
#4 ‘Behind Closed Doors’
Photographer Donna Ferrato took this gruesome picture back in 1982 when photographing the lives of wealthy swingers. The couple – Elisabeth and Bengt – were having an argument and it quickly escalated, resulting in Bengt hitting his partner. The photographer wanted the photo to be published but many publishers refused and she only managed to do so in 1991. The book was titled ‘Living With the Enemy’ and chronicled events of domestic violence. Thanks to Donna’s efforts, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.
#5 Behind The Counter
The photo, taken by Fred Blackwell on May 28, 1963, shows three protesters – John Salter, Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody – sitting at the counter of a white-only Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in Jackson while an angry mob pours ketchup, sugar, and mustard on them. The three protesters were from the Tougaloo College, a black college that went on to become the core of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
#6 ‘Wait For Me, Daddy’
This moving photo was captured by Claude Detloff in Vancouver during WWII as soldiers of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles were marching off to fight. The boy’s father safely returned home in October 1945.
#7 Childhood Friends
On April 6, 1972, workers of French company Joint Français went on strike and were confronted by the riot police. This picture, captured by Jacques Gourmelen, shows two men – Guy Burmieux, a worker at the company, and Jean-Yvon Antignac, a riot policeman – standing face to face. In that moment, the two recognized eachother – they were childhood friends. “I saw him [Guy Burmieux] go toward his friend and grab him by the collar. He wept with rage and told him, ‘Go ahead and hit me while you’re at it!’ The other one didn’t move a muscle,” recalled the photographer.
#8 ‘Burst Of Joy’
This photo, taken in 1973 and titled ‘Burst of Joy’, shows United States Air Force Lt Col Robert L. Stirm reuniting with his family after spending over 5 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The girl with the open arms is Robert’s 15-year-old daughter Lorrie. The photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Slava “Sal” Veder and won a Pulitzer prize. “You could feel the energy and the raw emotion in the air,” recalled the photographer.
#9 The Youngest Mother
Lina Medina, born on 23 September, 1933, was the youngest woman ever to give birth. She did so when she was just 5-years-old. Turns out Lina was born with a rare condition called ‘precocious puberty’, a condition where sexual development happens at an early age. Lina gave birth on May 14, 1939, via a cesarean section, since her pelvis was too small. The child, named Gerardo, was born completely healthy but the father was never found out.
#10 ‘Terezka’s Scrawls’
The photo, taken by photographer David Seymour in 1948, shows Terezka, a young girl living in the home for emotionally disturbed children located in Warsaw, 1948. The girl grew up in a concentration camp and the past horrors can still be seen on her face.
#11 Two Brothers
What might look like a fun photo at first glance, showing two brothers, Michael and Sean McQuilken, is actually the last picture of them before being struck by lightning. The photo was taken at Moro Rock in California’s Sequoia National Park on August 20, 1975. “At the time, we thought this was humorous. I took a photo of Mary (their sister) and Mary took a photo of Sean and me. I raised my right hand into the air and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it. I found myself on the ground with the others. Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back,” recalled Michael. All of them survived but, sadly, Sean took his own life in 1989.
#12 Moving An Apartment Building To Create A Boulevard In Alba Iulia, Romania
This amazing photo, taken in Alba Iulia, Romania back in 1987, shows construction workers moving a whole house after it was deemed to be in the way of a new boulevard. The building was split into two parts and moved 55 meters to the side. The workers moved the 7,600-ton building in just six hours.
#13 Motel Manager Pouring Acid In The Water
The photograph, taken by Horace Cort, shows Jimmy Brock, manager of the Monson Motor Lodge motel pouring a bottle of muriatic acid into the pool to scare protesters swimming in the pool. Martin Luther King Jr was arrested for trespassing at the same motel seven days prior and the protesters planned a swim-in in the motel’s pool.
#14 Children For Sale
Image source: Rare Historical Photos
This photo, taken in 1948, shows Lucille Chalifoux, a 24-year-old woman auctioning off her children after her husband lost his job and the family was forced to move from their apartment. Lucille was pregnant with her fifth child at the time. All of the children were bought off and rumors say they were forced into slavery.
#15 ‘Tragedy By The Sea’
Photographer John Gaunt was in the front yard of his beach home when he heard his neighbor shouting “something’s happening on the beach!”. The photographer quickly grabbed his camera and rushed to the beach where he found a couple by the water clutching each other. Their 19-month-old son had just wandered off and vanished into the water. This heartbreaking photo went on to wn the Pulitzer Prize.
#16 ‘An Armenian Man Dances For His Lost Son In The Mountains Near Aparan, Armenia’
“In 1998, I found myself in Aparan, a large town an hour’s drive from Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. A local dance troupe was performing that evening, in the open air, with most of the suburb in attendance. As soon as I took my first shot, an old man approached me,” said French photographer Antoine Agoudjian. “Tears streamed down his face. He told me that his son had died. That he had been electrocuted, that he was his pride and joy, and that I looked just like him. He broke into sobs and moved towards me with outstretched arms. His name was Ishran. I asked if he would dance for me, and he began dancing. The troupe paused and perched on an outcrop of rocks in the background. It was beautiful, not because the man is beautiful, but because he represents something deep inside the collective consciousness of the Armenian community: a celebratory resilience in the face of overwhelming loss.”
#17 Class Of 1999
What looks like an innocent high school picture, actually hides a dark secret – the teens on the left, pretending to point guns at the camera, were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the same people that organized and carried out the Columbine shooting.
#18 Atomic Bomb Detonation
Image source: Reddit
Harold Edgerton was an MIT physicist, photographer, and pioneer of strobe light photography – a type of photography that allowed to capture incredibly fast moving things clearly. This photograph was taken at the Nevada ProvingGrounds by Edgerton on June 5, 1952, during the operation Operation Tumbler-Snapper test series.
#19 ‘flight Of Refugees Across Wrecked Bridge In Korea’
Back in 1950, Associatede Press photographer Max Desfor took this dramatic photograph of refugees trying to cross a destroyed Pyongyang bridge, over the Taedong River in North Korea to escape the country. The photo won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951.
#20 “I Will Not Be Sued! I Have The Voice Of An Angel! No Man Can Sue Me.”
After giving an amazing performance in Chicago’s Civic Opera House back on November 17, 1955, opera singer Maria Callas was served a court summons by U.S. Marshal Stanley Pringle and Deputy Sheriff Dan Smith for breach of contract. Upon being presented with the document, Maria screamed “I will not be sued! I have the voice of an angel! No man can sue me.” The singer was nicknamed “The Tigress” and vowed never to return to Chicago again.
#21 Young Osama
In this family picture taken in Sweden in 1971, the man second from the left seen in a brown shirt is no one else but Osama bin Laden.
#22 Rajiv Gandhi
Just moments after this picture was taken, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the girl seen on the bottom left wearing orange flowers – she was wearing a suicide west.
#23 SS Grandcamp
What might seem like an ordinary picture at first, shows a fire breaking out aboard the ship called SS Grandcamp. The people on the dock are members of the Texas City Volunteer Fire Department, attempting to extinguish the fire. Just moments after the picture was taken, the ship exploded and caused what is still known as the largest non-nuclear explosion in human history. Over 5,000 people were injured and 468 died in this 1947 tragedy.
#24 Soviet Soldiers Harassing A German Woman
During the Soviet occupation of Germany, mass rapes took place in the occupied territory during the war and after. Some historians say that as many as 2 million German women might have been raped.
#25 ‘Leap Into Freedom’
Image source: TIME
After post-war Berlin was divided into four occupation zones, the living conditions were greatly different in each one. Between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million people fled from Soviet-occupied East Germany. Barricades and barb wire was placed to stop people from fleeing but that did not stop 19-year-old border guard Hans Conrad Schumann. A crown in West Berlin was enticing the young soldier to come over. The soldier said he did not want to “live enclosed,” and jumped the barbed wire, escaping into the West side. The photo was considered a symbol of freedom but Hans did not deal with the newly-found fame well – he committed suicide in 1998.
Image source: TIME
LIFE photographer Robert Capa captured this dramatic image on 6 June, 1944 – during the D-Day invasion. The man in the photo is Private First Class Huston Riley, a 22-year-old soldier who was shot multiple times. The photographer and a fellow sergeant helped the wounded soldier who later recalled thinking “What the hell is this guy doing here? I can’t believe it. Here’s a cameraman on the shore.” Robert spent over an hour taking photographs as men around him died. Sadly, only one roll of the film survived but the grainy photos were enough to portray the gut-wrenching atmosphere of that day.
#27 An Injured Young Mill Worker
This photo, captured in October 1912, shows an 11-year-old Sanders Spinning Mill worker Giles Edmund Newsom, who recently lost two fingers after an accident in the workplace. He was working along his younger brother for a few months before the accident.
#28 Rodney Alcala
In this picture, Rodney Alcala, known as the ‘dating game killer’, cross-examines himself in court. He killed several women in the 70s and was even a guest on a dating show during that period. He tried representing himself in court, changing his voice and pretending to be a different person, but eventually lost and was sentenced to death.
#29 “The Last Laugh?”
Two convicted murderers – Richard Hickock and Perry Smith – laugh after hearing about their death sentences. They have murdered a family of four after trying to rob them and only finding $50.
This dramatic photo was taken by French-Iranian photographer Abbas in Tehran, Iran back in 1978. A rioter holds the shoes of a dead friend who was killed after the military opened fire on the crowd, while the soldier tries to convince the man it was not his unit that opened fire.