CT&D #42. Greatest Historical Images

What is the most historical image (other than from National Geographic) you can think of? 

One of the most iconic historical images that I quickly thought of is the famous first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, specifically Tenzing Norgay’s final steps on the summit where he holds his ax bearing the flags of his and his partner’s nations (Nepal and the U.K.), plus the United Nations, to be planted at the mountain’s top. This image is very empowering and depicts a strong message, both literally and figuratively: to get to the top, one must work very hard and diligently to get there.

The image itself really captures the surreal scene; the photograph was taken at 11:30 AM, where enough daylight had shined on the summit and its surroundings. Since the photo was taken at its height (portrait), rather than its width (landscape), one could see the complete contrast between the very light bottom (the snow and surrounding mountainous range), followed by the light blue sky (both taking up a little less than 50% of the photo) before fading into very dark navy blue at the top of the photo. Seeing this drastic color change when comparing the bottom and top halves of the photo, one can really be fascinated with the extreme height of this climb, that of which is associated with the extreme challenge but extreme awe of what the sky looks like from that high up.

The image also does a good job by capturing the feeling of the moment from that fateful day. In the photo, Norgay is seen putting one foot after the other, ready to plant his ax onto the summit. While doing so, he looks at the ground as if to evoke the feeling, “This is it. History has been made.” The fact that this scene was taken from a vintage Kodak Retina, its Kodachrome color brings out the “age” of that time, as well as the “softness,” and the “elegance” of the photo not really seen nowadays with crystal-clear digital photos (that evoke that post-modern, digital but still picturesque feeling of today).

Overall, due to the physical and emotional properties of the photo, I really hold this historical image with high reverence. Similarly, people can find the image of Neil Armstrong’s first moonwalk to be just as historical and empowering; to me, they provide the same message and are among the greatest pieces of photographic imagery of all time.

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