Aquil Akhter December 5th, 2009

35 Powerful Photos That Tell A Story

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Aquil Akhter

Aquil Akhter is a web graphic designer and has been working in...

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“A picture is worth a thousand words.” That is the motto of a photojournalist. It is their objective to produce direct, truthful and bold images that tell the stories for those who have no voice.

According to Mark M. Hancock, a professional photojournalist, “is a visual reporter of facts. The public places trust in its reporters to tell the truth. The same trust is extended to photojournalists as visual reporters.This responsibility is paramount to a photojournalist. At all times, we have many thousands of people seeing through our eyes and expecting to see the truth. Most people immediately understand an image.”

Photojournalists are doing really a great job over the world for humanity, they are working for peace, for human rights, for raising humanity problems and issues, for pointing out the people living below the bottom line of poverty, for raising awareness about educational and child labor issues and much more… Our today’s post is about Inspirational Documentary and Photojournalism Photos. In this post we showcase 35 powerful, touching and emotional photos that do not just display state of affairs, but also tell a story.

We express sincere appreciation of the hard work of all photojournalists who are working for humanity, sometimes risking their life for the sake of their duties and responsibilities. This article is a tribute to all of them and their accomplishments and works.

Photojournalism & Documentary Photos

Man mutilated Rwanda
World Press Photo of the Year: 1994 James Nachtwey, USA, Magnum Photos for Time. Rwanda, June 1994. Hutu man mutilated by the Hutu ‘Interahamwe’ militia, who suspected him of sympathizing with the Tutsi rebels. About the image Nachtwey says his specialty is dealing with ground level realities with a human dimension. He feels that people need photography to help them understand what’s going on in the world, and believes that pictures can have a great influence on shaping public opinion and mobilizing protest.


In this picture, Lurlena cries in the back of the family car after losing the contest for Carnival Princess at her school. She spent the day getting ready, with a new white dress and new shoes. The winner was decided based on whose parents bought the most tickets, and Lurlena’s family could only afford eight dollars worth.


Hard Work in Hong Kong




Sally Mann
This photo, titled Candy Cigarette, not just displays something, it tells a story. It is both emotional and beautiful. This is what the originality of black-and-white-photography is all about.


Tibetans believe, once in their life, a pilgrimage to Lhasa is of exalted purpose and moral significance. Therefore, we see people like this, especially in spring and autumn, on their journey of faith, sometimes thousands of miles long, kowtowing every few steps.


Arirang Mass Games
Even during the Arirang Mass Games in North Korea, the ultimate expression of the state ideology, an individual can still sometimes stand out from the crowd and break free of the collective. If only just for a moment. (Photo and caption by Brendyn Zachary)


Iguazu falls in Brazil
“On my second day visiting the astounding Iguazu falls on the Brazilian side I was forced to change to my telephoto lens as my wide angle had been damaged by the water vapour. In had rained solid for 10 days prior to my arrival and so the falls were at their most spectacular. Standing on the elevated viewing platform I was able to shoot this school group who stood transfixed, emphasizing the incredible size of the falls. (Photo and caption by Ian Kelsall)”


Malawian boy running after 4×4
“I took the photo while on my one-month stint in Malawi Africa where I mainly worked in orphan day-care centres, also visiting Mulanji Hospital. The photo was taken from the Mulanji Hospital four-wheel-drive ambulance, travelling on the extremely rough roads from village to village, visiting the sick who were unable to reach the hospital.” Photo taken by Cameron Herweynen.


Sewing Machine
A damaged sewing machine after the cyclone hit, Amtali, Patuakhali, Bangladesh 19 November 2007. EPA/ABIR ABDULLAH


Child takes shelter with his mother before the cyclone hit. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.


New Year’s Eve, St. Jacques, Perpignan, 2006
This picture of a five year-old gypsy boy was taken on New Year’s Eve 2006 in the gypsy community of St. Jacques, Perpignan, Southern France. For Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the men would gather in the Café in their best suits to drink and dance while their wives would prepare dinner at home. It is quite common in St. Jacques for little boys to smoke.


Riot in the city
Riot in Toulouse, France (March 25th, 2007) after the campaign of a politician.




Pain and Beauty


Bhopal Disaster
This photograph from December 4, 1984 shows victims who lost their sight in the Bhopal poison gas tragedy as they sit outside the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India.


From the series “Children of Black Dust”, Dhaka, Bangladesh
A woman holds her child, blackened by carbon dust. His nose bleeds due to infections caused by exposure to dust and pollution during play in the workshop in Korar Ghat by on the outskirts of Dhaka. Many women bring their children along so they can look after them while working.


New York City
USA. New York City. September 15, 2001. Signing a memorial in Union Square.


Hhaing The Yu
Hhaing The Yu, 29, holds his face in his hand as rain falls on the decimated remains of his home in the Swhe Pyi Tha township, near Myanmar’s capital of Yangon (Rangoon), on Sunday, May 11th, 2008. Cyclone Nargis struck southern Myanmar a week ago leaving millions homeless and has claimed up to 100,000 lives.




Sandra Gil
A long line of visitors forms in front of Sandra Gil outside the Krome Detention Center in Miami where her husband, Oscar Gonzalez, is being held. On the morning of November 8, Immigration and Customs Enforecment (ICE) officers arrested the family at their home. They detained Gonzalez and released Gil with her son, American born Joshua Gonzalez, 5, with orders to leave for Colombia within weeks, The family was denied asylum after seven years living and working legally in teh country.


Sitting alone on a little place surrounded by cars traffic. Self-isolation. Waiting for nothing. He talked to me for about an hour. Of a lost life. An ordinary life like mine, like many others. And now…


Tap-tap buses waiting to get full and depart for their regular route in the downtown of Port-au-Prince.


Swiss pilot Yves Rossy
Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, the world’s first man to fly with a jet-powered fixed-wing apparatus strapped to his back, flies during his first official demonstration, on May 14, 2008 above Bex, Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)


María A.C. (ernieland)




Gold Price
In Wall street, a man holds a placard of ” We Buy Gold”, as gold price has increased due to the current financial crisis or economic melt-down.
New York, Oct 13 2008.


Child Labor In Egypt


Construction worker, Soweto Township
Final construction at the Maponya mall in Piville township, Soweto. The 650 million Rand mall is one of the largest shopping centers in South Africa, and its opening is a sign of the commercial awakening of Soweto.


Child Labor. Bangladesh
Child labor is not a new issue in Bangladesh as children here remain one of the most vulnerable groups living under threats of hunger, illiteracy, displacement, exploitation, trafficking, physical and mental abuse. Although the issue of child labor has always been discussed, there is hardly any remarkable progress even in terms of mitigation. 17.5 percent of children aged 5-15 are engaged in economic activities. Many of these children are engaged in various hazardous occupations in factories.


Aftermath of Earthquake in Balakot, Pakistan. 2005
This image was taken about one month after the earthquake in Pakistan. People were still coming down from the mountains trying to find shelter and were suffering from trauma. Winter was on the way and the need for shelter was urgent. This father with his child had been collecting food. I spent ten days in Balakot documenting the situation after the quake. People were still digging for their family members.


Seen in Ludwigsburg, Germany


Huge Wave
Kerby Brown rides a huge wave in an undisclosed location southwest of Western Australia July 6, 2008, in this picture released November 7, 2008 by the Oakley-Surfing Life Big Wave Awards in Sydney. Picture taken July 6. (REUTERS/Andrew Buckley)


The Head of a Male Student
The head of a male student, still alive, trapped under the debris is pictured at the scene of the church school that collapsed on the outskirts of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, November 7, 2008. At least 30 people were killed when the three-story La Promesse school building collapsed while class was in session and some of the walls and debris crushed neighboring homes in the Nerettes community near Port-au-Prince. (REUTERS/Joseph Guyler Delva)


Starving Boy and Missionary
Wells felt indignant that the same publication that sat on his picture for five months without publishing it, while people were dying, entered it into a competition. He was embarrassed to win as he never entered the competition himself, and was against winning prizes with pictures of people starving to death. (World Press Photo of the Year: 1980 Mike Wells, United Kingdom. Karamoja district, Uganda, April 1980).


Afghan Girl
And of course the afghan girl, picture shot by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Sharbat Gula was one of the students in an informal school within the refugee camp; McCurry, rarely given the opportunity to photograph Afghan women, seized the opportunity and captured her image. She was approximately 12 years old at the time. She made it on the cover of National Geographic next year, and her identity was discovered in 1992.


Sichuan Earthquake
A man is crying while he flips through a family album he found in the rubbles of his old house.


Credits & Resources

Stockio offers a bunch of free stock photos for your creative projects.

Verve Photo – A New Breed of Documentary Photographers

Magnum Photos


World Press Photo

The Best of Photojournalism (BOP)

Jan Sochor Photography


Abir Abdullah

Chad Stevens

Shehzad Noorani

Rene Burri

Paul Fusco

Susan Meiselas




David Snyder

Danny Ghitis

Q. Sakamaki

Mat Moyer

Edward van Herk

Heather McClintock

Maciej Dakowicz was

GMB Akash

John Loomis

Lucia Nimcova

Pieter Ten Hoopen



Mads Nissen

Allianz Knowledge

San Francisco Sentinel

Keith Harris

Kevin Carter

Karl Schuler


Aquil Akhter

Aquil Akhter is a web graphic designer and has been working in this field for 8 years. He also runs the blog, which focuses on free web resources and inspiration for designers and developers.


  1. These are great examples of top grade photojournalism !! These photographers are really a “cut above” the rest !! Thanks Brukhar and Presidia Creative for sending me these !!

  2. Nice collection. Very powerful. The photo from Tibet (Lhasa) pilgrimage shows someone prostrating on the way to Lhasa (three or so steps, prostrate, repeat). The pilgrim isn’ t kowtowing to anything as the objective is to purify one’s mind and karma to come to a greater understanding of the ultimate nature of reality for the purpose of liberation from the cycle of birth-death.

    Again, this is awesome. Thanks for posting.

  3. I am at a loss of words, everytime I see this set of Pictures. These are not mere pictures, but stories. Pages of History captured in time..
    Kudos! to the Modern Photographer.

    God Bless those who suffered & continue to do so, even after the truth exposed to the world.


  4. This is the kind of post that makes one slow down from rapidly clicking links and just think about the world in which we live. Awesome collection – stopped me in my tracks!

  5. Very moving!

    I wanted to look further at Arirang Mass Games, but the link is incorrect. It points to the Indian Gas Leak photos.

  6. Normally I scroll through these list-posts pretty quick. But this one really made me think about the lives of other people who don’t have the same benefits. Really sad.
    But thanks a lot for this great article!

  7. These photos are beautiful and heart-wrenching. Thanks for providing a great glimpse into the many different worlds that share this same rock, and the humanity that links them all together.

  8. wow thank you very much for giving this opportunity to see such a good photographic jobs. i am really impressed ! some of them are sad pics but awakening too!
    Patricia Monge

  9. Wow, these images are so thought provoking and just amazing, starving boy and missionary is a wonderous shot, you could stare at it for hours wanting and inspiring you to help in any way you could. Thank goodness for the top class photojournalists that travel the world to portray what we can only imagine.

  10. stunning. I expected the Afgan girl photo, but the most heartbreaking surprising one for me was the little starving hand. That picture is worth a thousand prays, a thousand words of kindness, and a thousand cries for help. I sympathize with the photographers qualms against winning.

  11. The photos are very inspiring.
    Maybe it can allow people to see the big picture of life instead of looking at a narrow view.

  12. As one of the MTV generation I’m not usually moved by anything, but by the end of this list I could feel my eyes welling up. Photos like this make me realise how lucky I am to live in the UK and how much we moan about the silly little things in life when others around the world have far more problems.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. What such article…….
    incredible all this pictures really are deep, than anything you can read o a newspaper.

    I also remeber the image of the guy standing in front of the war thanks in Korea on 70’s I am not wrong.
    And the image of Armero, Colombia, 16 November 1985. Twelve-year-old Omayra Sanchez trapped
    in the debris caused by the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano. After sixty hours
    she eventually lost consciousness and died.

    1. I also remeber the image of the guy standing in front of the war thanks in Korea on 70’s I am not wrong.

      Are you talking about China? It’s Tiannamen Square I believe.

  14. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful, painful, cheerful and more, all at the same time. Puts a lot of things in perspective.

  15. How beautiful and very emotional and touching. I think it’s amazing that we can see a part of ourselves in some of these pictures if one just looks close enough.

  16. Great collection depicting strange stories. I was actually moved by so many of them, they made me shudder and unconsciously making me thankful for all the blessings we take for granted.

  17. Great collection; but hey, what story? I love this subject :) What are these photos telling you? Are there stories about the subjects (people within the frame)? Are there stories about the happening or environment? Are there stories or interpretation of the photographer on a subject or happening? Are there stories or interpretations of the viewer on a subject that photographer shows them or on a subject totally independent and special to the viewer?

    I love photography.. I think there is no single correct answer; and I think that is the strength of “story telling.” That is the strength of these photos.

  18. bangladesh is such a screwed up place, i think there are more tragic bangladeshi photos there than any other. nature sure has it in for old bangu

  19. It was hard to get beyond the first photo – Man mutilated Rwanda – which was so powerful. Actually, there are so many powerful photos here .. it reminded me of going to a gallery, and the temptation is to rush around and have 30 seconds with each painting. Actually, that first photo seemed to merit far more attention than that … think I’ll come back another time, repeatedly, to absorb the other photos. Thanks so much for sharing them.

  20. just an amazing collection…im speechless.. i think some of these pictures have left an indelible mark on me in one fleeting moment…

  21. Really awesome inspirational collection.

    This just made me realize once again how privileged we are to have what we have and to be alive.

    All that I can say is, “Dream as if you will live another Million Years, Live as if you will die tomorrow.”

    Jacques van Heerden

  22. Awesome and amazing collection of photograph. Explanation of these image really heart braking. These photographs telling us so many thing and we should realize. Truly unbelievable. Thanks for share one of the best post.

  23. i love the photographs and the meaning it is representing.
    i agree with the fact that images can be a sourceful way of attracting public attention and im pleased with the impact it has caused.
    although i find it disturbing i am pleased that we all have a chance to now make a difference.
    thank you

  24. I have goosebumps and my passion for photography has just increased x 1 million. A picture really does speak a thousand words, how wonderful is that.

  25. I apperceive i’m a little off topic, but i just capital to say i adulation the blueprint of your blog. i’m new to the blogegine platform, so any suggestions on accepting my blog analytic nice would be appreciated.

  26. The title is succeeded undoubtedly. Really these are the powerful images. It reflects the society clearly. The people who are living in oppression must need attention of the rich and kind hearted people.

  27. thanks for giving me an omniscient point of view of the world of the few large pictorial representation.

  28. short of words…………. pictures , catch the moment, in time and space .. a story unfolds. and each can build one of his own,. ……. a flow of memories, a journey into a world unique, full of emotions,…. compassion , care,……… and more……. @

  29. these pictures are just amazing they all have a story and some of them made me cry and i felt really bad for the starving people.

  30. I was expecting this to be another lame blog post with a lot of terribly uninspiring photographs taken 3 months ago. So glad it wasn’t. The story behind Mike Well’s image is very sad for many reasons. Thank you!

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