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The Five Photographs That (You Didn’t Know) Changed Everything

Vintage Photos | February 17, 2017

You won't be able to see any of these photographs among lustrous coffee table book. Yet these images had an enormous effect on our world.

Take a look..

Anna Bertha’s left hand
photo 1

Upon developing the X-ray, it was shocking, and quite unbelievable.

Here it is: the 1896 image of Anna Bertha Ludwig Röntgen's left hand which clearly shows her bones, joints and soft tissue, including even her bulky wedding ring. Conrad Wilhelm Röntgen, her husband, was the person who took the X-ray.

This may have signalled the start of medical radiography, however, the public was greatly alarmed. An instrument that could actually see underneath the skin? How about the right to privacy? It’s not difficult to see why this picture caused some public turmoil like when the TSA body scanner was introduced in 2007.

Still, patients csme to admit that it was an improvement from the older way of doing things. After all, doctors could only see, up until the recent years, what was occurring in a person's body by cutting them open.

The Nebula in Orion
Photo 2
Captured by Henry Draper, the first pictures of a nebula was regarded as one of the greatest achievements of photography until today.

Photography had already been around for 40 years when this image was captured during 1880. Photographers were already on subjects like the moon, sun, stars, comets as well as some planets – yet not celestial nebulae, due to their light being very faint.An exposure time of 51 minutes was necessary to capture this image, but still, critics argued that drawings using pencils of the same nebula were even better than the photo.

Somehow, as the first photograph of its nature, this picture opened up numerous new lines of inquiry and controversy around the types of raw products that went into the creation of Earth and the solar system. Its existence raised queries like the size of the universe, including the origins of humanity itself.

The Dogon fields
photo 3
Marcel Griaule, a French ethnographer who was skilled in aerial photography in World War One, took this bird’s-eye-view image in the mid-1930s when he visited Dogon for the fourth time. Dogon was a group of secretive people who used to carve their homes on the sandstone Bandiagara cliffs of modern-day Mali.

Marveling at the beauty and conformity of the Dogon’s rituals, myths, and other ways of living, Griaule argued that the aerial view of the landscape could actually reveal secrets regarding its inhabitants' lives that could be useful to Westerners to build a happier society. It was apparent that the Dogon lived in such homes that reflected not just their landscape but also their family structures as well as their values.

This picture paved the way for a breed of Western architects, planners, including sociologists that would develop a new and more humanistic approach to the established environment.

The Broom cottages
photo 4
This picture of a row of cottages is not remarkable at first. So how come this marked the moment when documenting routine daily life became a pastime for all?

W. Jerome Harrison, the person behind this photo, was a Victorian polymath. He launched a grand scheme for documentation of the country's visual history, and hundreds of amateur photographers inspired by him, also took photos of buildings that they see as important – not due to its grandeur or fame, but for its conventional characteristic and the kind of life it represented at the time. Nowadays, libraries and museums are so full of these exhibits, forming the backbone of several local history collections.

Organisations like Wiki-buildings and English Heritage these days are documenting the visual history of structures on a much grander scale. However, the act of allowing ordinary individuals to define what really matters about the past actually began with Harrison – and altered the way in which the nation sees itself.

The Tichborne Claimant
photo 5
In the remote town of Wagga Wagga, Australia during 1866, a butcher sat for his photograph. After 3 years, the resulting image had Britain captivated. It would become essential to the longest legal battle during the 19th-century England, sparking arguments about evidence, the law, ethics and facial recognition that have been going on ever since.

The photo's subject was known to his neighbours as Tom Castro, but he was born with the name Arthur Orton. He was a native of London and emigrated to Australia to start a new life during 1852. After 10 years, he had posed for this photo in an attempt to verify his identity as Sir Roger Tichborne. He was an English aristocrat who had vanished off the coast of Brazil way back ten years. Perhaps the reason why he looks shrewd.

Incredibly, the picture convinced the missing man’s birth mother, Lady Tichborne. With her financial support, he was able to sail back to Europe. Around a year later, after the death of his so-called mother, he claimed the inheritance against the rest of the Tichborne family.

The legal trial that followed was the longest and among the most expensive in British legal history, with only Orton's photograph as a piece of impotant evidence. The picture itself raises questions of very huge importance: is photography a means of empowerment, or is it for surveillance and control? Can it be utilized to establish truth from fiction?

These questions remains until today – and they were introduced to us for the first time in a photograph of a slaughterman from Wagga Wagga.

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