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Top 20 Most Controversial Photos on the Web

Posted on by in Images

A picture says a thousand words.”


As true as it sounds, a picture can change the perception of the people. History is filled with many such pictures that became significant for their timing. Few of the pictures stirred controversy after they went public. Some of the pictures even changed the course of history. A lot of these pictures are available on the internet. Here they are:

1. Mary Moorman JFK Picture

The assassination of JFK is one of the most mourned events in American history. Mary Ann Moorman was a bystander when the event took place right in front of her. The picture she took of the US president is of importance because it was taken a few nanoseconds after the bullet hit JFK.


Hence, it is absolutely possible that the murderer was caught on film too. Additionally, the picture showed that the shot was fired from behind, not the front. Some have claimed the picture was tampered with. Others claim to see several figures on the hill behind JFK.

2. London Bombing Terrorists

On July 7, 2005, home-grown terrorists launched several bombs on the London Underground trains. 52 people were killed. Al-Qaeda apparently later claimed responsibility for the bombings. However, there is a lack of facts in this case, mostly due to its strange timeline. The photograph above is the only one of all four attackers together, which is strange in and of itself.


What’s even more controversial is that here are no other CCTV images or videos available to the public. Plus, this picture is taken around 7:22 pm, giving only three minutes for these men to climb stairs, buy tickets, etc. Since this is not possible, many have rejected the Al-Qaeda claims and blamed the Brutish authorities for using the tragedy as a justification for the War on Terror.

3. Thomas Hoepker’s 9/11 Photograph


In 2001, during the Twin Tower collapse on 11th September, a German photographer snapped a picture of these youngsters. What makes the seeming innocent picture controversial is the backdrop; a huge cloud of smoke completely engulfing the Twin Towers. The young people are apparently relaxed and unbothered by the tragedy taking place behind them. The picture obviously started a volley of speculations as to the uncaring attitude of the young generation among others.

However, one of the groups has confirmed that they were all actually frozen in shock here. Still, there has been much public dispute and outrage against this picture since its release in 2006.

4. Samar Hassan By Chris Hondros


The war in Iraq was documented by several disturbing images, much like what we are seeing in Syria today. This image shows a 5 year old Iraqi girl, Samar Hassan, crying while covered in her parent’s blood. The couple was shot when they omitted to stop at a checkpoint. This image is controversial because of its obvious disturbing content, as well as criticism of the war in Iraq. Along with this, the opportunism of the photographer is also called into question.

5. Image Of The Sudan Famine By Kevin Carter


This photograph went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. It accurately conveyed the bitter realities of the Sudanese famine. Disturbed by the images he had witnessed in his lifetime,Carter himself committed suicide later. He was also severely criticized by his audience who called him a predator just like the vulture waiting for the child to die.

6. The Burning Monk


In 1963, some Buddhist monks protested against their oppressive treatment by the Catholic rule. They began as a procession, but things soon started escalating. A 66 year old monk named Quang-Duc set himself on fire and remained in a meditative state while he burned. The image captured by Malcome Brown provided and insight into the grim situation, provoking other countries to raise protests.

7. Michael Jackson OK! Magazine Cover


Known to the world as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson was known for creating controversies during his life and after his death too. His last moments were featured in OK! Magazine. The image above was severely criticized to be in bad taste, merely sensationalizing a truly great loss.

8. Genie Cover By Girls’ Generation

Kpop was and is a Korean music trend that took the world by the storm. Girls’ Generation is one of the major bands of this new wave. The above images show the band in a military theme which showed the Nazi symbol, as well as features of the Third Reich. Using these images for their album cover Genie was obviously a mistake for the band, who quickly deleted and replaced the offending pictures.

9. Iraqi War Prisoner Holding Son


Jean-Marc Bouju was the photographer behind this image which shocked the world. The boy was terrified by the way his father was hooded and handcuffed. The father’s hands were loosened in order to le him hold and comfort the child. Released in 2002, this picture was awarded the World Press Photo of 2003.

10. A Young Brooke Shields

This cropped image is just one of a series of the famous actress when she was only ten years old. In the series, she was unclothed, covered in oil and makeup, and posing in a bathtub. What’s even more disturbing is that her mother gave permission for these snaps.

The photographer, Gary Gross, took them as part of a project. The actress herself tried to prevent the photographs from public circulation but a court rules that the images were not child pornography. Obviously, these images are quite disturbing in context and without.

11. Omayra Sanchez By Frank Fournier


In 1985, Columbian volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupted. The Red Cross appeals to the government for help were useless, especially with regards to the rescue of thirteen year old Omayra Sanchez. In this image, she is just moments away from her death after three days of entrapment. Her haunting eyes and helpless situation shocked many and pointed fingers at the heartless government.

12. Marlborough Street Fire Escape Breaking


This image is by Stanley Forman and later won a Pulitzer Prize. This picture was one of the many triggers for changing the fire escape legislation in the U.S. two females are seen falling to their death after a fire escape collapsed from under them. Viewers of this image have criticized it for being sensationalizing, intruding upon the victim’s privacy, and benefiting from their plight.

13. Cordaid Ad Campaign Featuring Ethiopian Models


This image is just one of a series of the Cordiad “People in Need” campaign. It featured Ethiopian people holding luxury items. It also featured the prices of these items as well as those of necessities like clean water and food. These images sent a powerful message to their audience.

14. The Falling Man by Richard Drew


In 2001, Drew took several pictures of people jumping from the twin towers, preferring to die that way rather than burning. This particular image showed the calmness of one such individual. This picture has disturbed quite a few people, while some of whom even said its release was a mistake.

15. Children in Napalm


Taken in 1972, Hyunh Cong Ut took this picture during the Vietnam War. It is cited as one of the images and evidences that led to the war’s end. The children were fleeing a burning village, and one of the girls was even on fire. The photograph was and still is a symbol of the peace movement. There are several other pictures also documenting this atrocious time in history.

16. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing A Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon


Eddie Adams took this picture on 1 February 1968.It shows the execution of a man in cold blood. While it soon became part of the anti-war propaganda, there is much debate about its background.

17. American Soldiers Embracing Their Children


While such pictures are touted as heartwarming, some people severely bash the people featured in them. Many say that these images are symbolic of a double standard; while gunning down innocent civilian and children in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same soldiers come back to nurture their own offspring.

18. The Black Power Salute


African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos demonstrated the Black Power Salute during the 1968 Olympic Games. This led to the expulsion of both players from the event. Obviously, this image is a symbol of black representation and oppression, especially in the “Black Lives Matter” movement today.

19. Abu Ghuraib Prison In Iraq


The Abu Ghuraib prison was taken over by American administration after the attack on Ira in 2001. Several images from this place show the brutal and inhuman treatment of the prisoners. The humiliations and cruelty go beyond any human or military law. These images have hence given rise to several protests and demands for the shutting down of Abu Ghuraib.

20. Staring Death In The Face


The image features a mentally unstable Indian youth, who accidentally fell into the white tiger enclosure at the New Delhi Zoo. The tiger and man stared at each other for a good quarter of an hour before onlookers threw stones at the tiger. This angered it, causing it to kill the man. There was no tranquilizer dart gun available in the zoo. This glaring disregard caused the controversy surrounding the image.

Wrapping Up…

There is no doubt that pictures are a powerful tool. Some of the images above have led to new laws, legislations, and awareness. They also show the myriad of human experiences all over the world, as well as shocking their viewers into becoming a little more decent and understanding.

Author: Priscilla Ellie

Priscilla Ellie is a Digital Artist, Blogger, and Social Media Marketer. In her blogs, she frequently publishes articles on digital marketing world, social media marketing practices, and online technologies.

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