The World’s Most Powerful Images

1963 — Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc sets himself ablaze in protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (Malcolm W. Browne)

World Press Photo, a non-profit organization dedicated to generating “public interest in and appreciation for the work of photographers,” has held a contest every year since 1955 to highlight the best images created by photojournalists that year. Think of a single image capturing any of the biggest (mostly horrific) events of the last 55+ years, and chances are that image won the World Press Photo contest. Chances also are that you know about that photo (at least in part) because of that contest.

The fine folks at Buzzfeed have published on one page every winning photo from 1955 to 2011. (Yes, the same folks who gave rise to the new Beyoncé meme . . . I’ll wait while you go check that out . . . go on, you know you want to . . .OK, now where were we . . .)

Scrolling through all these images in one place is a bit overwhelming. I found it interesting how the passage of time makes it easier to discount the horrific act being photographed, as if the past has a monopoly on evil. Scrolling past images of more recent events was a powerful reminder of how life (and death) marches on, and how grateful I am that there are very brave people who have chosen to document these things for all the world to see. And thanks to World Press Photo for making these images visible well beyond the news cycle in which they originally appeared.

Go check out the images now. If it’s too much, there will always be the Beyoncé photos to brighten your day.

It’s shocking how little of this image is Photoshopped!