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Photographers Behind The World's Most Iconic Pictures Revealed

10/02/2015 14:33 | Updated 05 August 2015
You probably won't recognise a single person holding the photographs but you will undoubtedly know the images in their hands. These photographers are responsible for some, if not all of the most iconic and important photographs of all time. Whether it's reporting live news, covering sports events or capturing an artist or musician, these unknown faces can walk amongst the crowds knowing that they've been involved in some of the most important moments in history. The idea for Tim Mantoani's book 'Behind Photographs' first started back in 2006, he managed to acquire a 20×24 Polaroid camera and has since gone on to photograph many famous subjects using this extremely rare camera. The camera produces plates of 20 inches by 24 and the Polaroid unit itself weights an incredible 106kg.
  • Tim Mantoani
    Beijing 1989 - Jeff Widener was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his image of a lone man confronting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. A student of photography at Los Angeles’s Pierce College and Moorpark College, he studied photojournalism and began working for newspapers in 1978. He would then head to Belgium to be a staffer with United Press International covering solidarity riots in Poland. Over the years, Jeff has made images in over a hundred countries covering wars, social issues, and civil unrest. - Jeff Widener
  • Tim Mantoani
    South Africa, 11 Feb 1990 - I’d covered the unrest in South Africa in the 1980s, but could not get a visa to return until the imminent release of anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela from prison after 26 years. I just had to be there and waited for the triumphant moment with dozens of other photographers. His walk to freedom was very short, and the scene got very chaotic, but I was one of the only photojournalists to capture the event that changed history - Allen Tennenbaum
  • Tim Mantoani
    New York, September 11 2001 - No one knew such a beautiful warm day would serve as the back drop to one of the most painful and confusing events to the heart of mankind. This picture is one small part of such a huge event that ties the threads of thousands of stories and millions of people together. Written words will never convey the whole scope of the event, nor even summarize the sounds, the smells or even the voices that are frozen in my memory bank from that day. I did the best job I could in photographing 9/11 so that future generations would have an idea of the scope of what happened, to have the evidence of how innocence can so easily be snatched away in a razor’s edged moment of time. My hope is that in time the wounds and pain will heal and that wisdom and peace will prevail among the darkness of this event, so that humanity can move forward into a time of grace and understanding. — Lyle Owerko
  • Tim Mantoani
    June 8, 1972, Trang Bang Village - Nick Ut was just sixteen when he started shooting for the Associated Press. While in Vietnam documenting the war, Nick was wounded on three separate occasions. This image is often published cropped; Nick brought in the full-frame version. On the far right is a photographer, who happens to be David Burnett. Nick immediately put these children, who were severely burned, in the back of his car to drive to the hospital and demand that the doctors help them. Nick saved their lives and he and Kim Phuc are still in regular contact. “Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers... The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam war itself. The horror of the Vietnam war recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. ” – N.U.
  • Tim Mantoani
    June 5, 1968 — Bill Eppridge has covered many of the most important historical and cultural events of the latter half of the twentieth century. During 1966 and 1968, he spent much of his time on the campaign trail with Robert F. Kennedy, shooting for Life magazine. Bill was only a few feet away when shots rang out in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel and made this historic image of the senator laying on the floor. He only shot three frames; the third became an icon. After we finished making this portrait of Bill, I asked him to write the story behind his chilling image on the bottom of the Polaroid, he sat silent looking at he image for several minutes before he simply wrote the date, June 5, 1968. He then turned to me and said, “I think that says it all.” Before he left the studio, he took one last look at his image within his portrait and said, “The world would be a different place if this had never happened.” - Bill Eppridge
  • Tim Mantoani
    Peshawar, Pakistan 1984 - Steve McCurry is universally recognised as one of the finest image makers in the world. Best known for his “Afghan Girl” that first appeared on the cover of National Geographic, his work appears frequently in that magazine. In 2002, a National Geographic team traveled to Afghanistan to locate the woman in the photo. Several women came forward claiming to be the unknown subject of McCurry’s portrait. They finally located her in a remote region, and were able to confirm her identity by using biometric technology to match her iris patterns. She vividly remembered being photographed since it was the only time in her early life that she had a picture made of her. The first time she saw her famous photo was in January 2003, nearly twenty years after it was shot. When I was making this portrait of Steve he suggested that I adjust the framing slightly, then corrected himself saying, “It is your portrait, I shouldn’t be saying anything.” I replied, “Steve, you have taken arguably the most famous portrait in the world. If I can’t take advice from you, I’d be crazy.” - Steve McCurry
  • Tim Mantoani
    Jan, 1959 - My first image of Che Guevara in Habana I was 18 years old. Now a bit more. — Roberto Salas Roberto Salas is the son of Cuban photographer Osvaldo Salas. At the age of fifteen, Roberto left school to pursue a photography career. While Fidel Castro was visiting New York, Osvaldo was assigned to cover him. This experience would lead to Castro asking Osvaldo and Roberto to leave New York and return to Cuba to be the official photographers for the government and their newspaper, Revolución. Osvaldo and his son became two of Cuba’s most successful and important photographers. I first met Roberto in an art gallery in Old Havana. I introduced myself and he gave me his card. He told me to call him if I ever needed anything. A few years later, I called him about my project and he told me he would be in New York so we could connect for a portrait. Roberto told me that this photo was taken the first time he saw Che and Castro together. The only light was the match. Salas gave me this print. — Roberto Salas
  • Tim Mantoani
    New York, 1964 - While working for a newspaper, Harry Benson was all set to go to Africa when he got the call. He didn’t want to go shoot “a band”; he wanted to go to Africa. The Beatles were just starting to get some press and he was told, “You ARE going to Paris.” One evening at the George V Hotel, one of the band members mentioned a pillow fight they had had in the hotel room a few nights prior. However, there was another photographer in the room, so Harry didn’t say a thing. A couple of nights later, they were at the hotel late and Brian Epstein came in with a message to say they were #1 in American and that the Ed Sullivan Show wanted them to come to the U.S. That is when Harry asked about doing a pillow fight. Lennon said it was a very stupid idea and that was the end of the conversion, until he snuck away and moments later banged Paul in the back of the head with a pillow. .. “And that is how it all began.” - Harry Benson
  • Tim Mantoani
    Central Park, New York 1974 - The picture I am holding was snapped in 1974 just across the street from my apartment in New York’s Central Park. It has been 38 years since that event and sadly I have lost track of the participants. — Elliott Erwitt
  • Tim Mantoani
    Travis Air Force Base, California, 1973 —Colonel Robert Stirm’s (USAF) family bolts from the limo to greet him following his release from North Vietnam’s prisons! — Slava “Sal” Veder Slava “Sal” Veder is a Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer who made the image “Burst of Joy” on March 17, 1973. The photo of Colonel Robert Stirm being reunited with his family became symbolic of the end of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Stirm was a prisoner of war for more than five years, having suffered gunshot wounds, torture, illness, and starvation. Stirm’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Lorrie, is featured with her arms extended. After making the photo, Sal rushed to a makeshift darkroom located in the ladies’ bathroom on the base while his colleague Walt Zeboski processed the film. The image was sent over the news- service wires and published around the nation the following day. “We have this very nice picture of a very happy moment, but every time I look at it, I remember the families that weren’t reunited, and the ones that aren’t being reunited today—many, many families —and I think, I’m one of the lucky ones.” – Lorrie Stirm as quoted in Smithsonian, 2006
  • Tim Mantoani
    New York, 1974 - John Lennon asked me to come to his penthouse apt on the east side of New York to take pictures for the cover of his ‘Walls + Bridges’ album. After we took a series of portraits for the record cover we took some informal shots to use for publicity. I asked him if he still had the New York City t-shirt I had given him a year earlier and he went and put it on and we made this photo. Bob Gruen is known for his rock’n’roll photographs. Bob showed up at the 20×24 studio in Tribecca with his classic Lennon picture as a large canvas print. The Brooklyn Museum at the time was running an exhibit on music photography and this image was appearing all over New York to promote it. Bob told me that he gave one of his NYC ringer tee shirts to Lennon and in time it became John’s “look.” When people saw Bob after that, they accused him of having the “John Lennon” look.“Bob’s magical photos and brilliantly telling captions together present a kaleidoscope of John Lennon’s New York period. It is beautiful, clear, and truthful. I know. I was there.” – Yoko Ono
  • Tim Mantoani
    Los Angeles, 1986 - Shortly after Andy signed with Ford Models in NYC, he called me up and asked if L.A. Eyewear would be interested in him for one of their sunglasses ads. They loved the idea and I photographed him.The ad first appeared in AndyWarhol’s “Interview” Magazine. How fitting! — Greg Gorman Greg Gorman is known for his portrait work of celebrities and fine art nudes; he primarily works in black and white. He was led to pursue photography after he shot Jimi Hendrix in 1968. Greg is a kind and gentle man, who invited me to photograph him in his home studio in the Hollywood hills. He knew that Steve Schapiro was in town and got Steve to come over for a portrait as well. Greg is a connoisseur of wine and not only opened a few nice bottles after the shoot, he called his favorite steakhouse down the street and made a reservation for my assistant and me and sent a bottle with us as well.
  • Tim Mantoani
    Ali vs Liston, Lewiston, Maine, May 1965 - Neil Leifer is generally considered one of the greatest sports photographers in history. He has photographed seven Olympic Games for Time, and followed Muhammad Ali’s career from beginning to end. More than 170 of his pictures have been published on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In this image, another famous photographer, Herb Scharfman, can be seen seated directly across the ring from Leifer, visible between Ali’s legs. Leifer would later say, “Herbie Scharfman was one of the greats, but on that night, he was in the wrong seat.” When Neil speaks of this shot, he says that a picture like this could never happen again. Here there are no logos on the canvas or ring, and none in the background. Also, at the time people could smoke indoors, which accounts for the blue haze backlit with the strobes. In 1978 Leifer left sports for a wider range of assignments, and has landed 40 of his images on the cover of Time. “Sometimes the simplest pictures are the hardest to get.” – Neil Leifer
  • Tim Mantoani
    Princeton, 1947 - Albert had cut out the backs of his penny loafers and I told him that it would be fashionable some day, he laughed. — Ozzie Sweet Considered the one of the preeminent photographers of his generation, Ozzie Sweet's work revolutionized photography, from the manner in which magazine covers were created to the technology involved in creating them. Ozzie is a master of many genres, reaching the top of his profession in portraiture, sports photography, cover work, wildlife photography, calendar shoots, and commercial advertising. His subjects have included sports heroes Willie Mays, Jack Nicklaus, Rocky Marciano, Bobby Hull, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson; entertainers John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Ingrid Bergman; and President Eisenhower. Sweet’s work has resulted in nearly 1,800 magazine covers: Boy’s Life, Cosmopolitan, Ebony, Family Circle, Field & Stream, Look, Modern Photography, Newsweek, Playboy, Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Time, and TV Guide, among others. He was responsible for the bulk of Sport magazine’s covers between 1949 and the early 1960s. Sweet’s books include Legends of the Field, The Boys of Spring, Mickey Mantle: The Yankee Years, and several wildlife photography books. He was honored in 1991 as one of “Photography’s Grand Masters”
  • Tim Mantoani
    November, 1961 - Douglas Kirkland was hired as a staff shooter for Look magazine and became famous for his 1961 photos of Marilyn Monroe. Kirkland was only 24 at the time; she was 35, just one year prior to her death. The photo session was taken for Look’s 25th Anniversary cover. When discussing the shoot he recalls, “She had a few requirements.... if the shoot was to be in bed then the sheets had to be silk, Dom Perignon must be at the ready, and Frank Sinatra must be playing on the turntable.... She knew exactly what to do, her movements, her hands, her body were just perfect. She was the sexiest. Better than anyone else.” Douglas’ work goes beyond this single session. He continues to shoot celebrities to this day with Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Angelina Jolie, Dennis Hopper, Sophia Loren, and Barbara Streisand being a few of his notable subjects. - Douglas Kirkland
  • Tim Mantoani
    Seoul, 1988 - Brian Smith got his start in photography while in high school and attended the University of Missouri. While still a student, his first published photograph was in Life magazine. He would go on work at the Orange County Register and be a part of the staff that won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Olympic Games in 1984. His photograph of Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board was taken in Seoul at the 1988 Olympic Games; it won first prize in the Sports category for the World Press Photo award. Today, Brian is based in Miami and focuses on celebrity portraits for advertising, editorial, and book clients.
  • Tim Mantoani
    New York,1994 - Originally an inside opener for Rolling Stone cover story of Nirvana in con- junction with the release of “In Utero”, my first Polaroid (with Negative) was by far the most emotional and revealing of his spirit. Two months later Kurt died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. This photograph became the memorial RS cover.Mark Seliger was the chief photographer for Rolling Stone from 1992 to 2002. He has photographed hundreds of major celebrities and musicians, including Susan Sarandon, David Byrne, Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Tony Bennett , Drew Barrymore, Giorgio Armani, and Luciano Pavarotti. He currently is under contract with Conde Nast Publications and also produces images for top advertising campaigns. I was originally connected with Mark through Jim Marshall, who gave me his cell phone and told me to call him direct. Mark’s mom was with him at the shoot and I did a portrait of the two of them together on the 20×24. - Mark Seliger
  • Tim Mantoani
    Brook’s Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska. July 1988. - I pre-visualised this possibility (of an image like this) from watching documentary films about bears at Katmai and seeing a photograph in an Alaska Air Magazine of a group of bears here at the falls. At the time, I was on a flight to Anchorage working on a documentary film about Sandhill Cranes and had a week between shoots. I phoned the park headquarters from the airport in Anchorage and asked about getting a campsite. They said they were all full—except for one site, that was near the bear trail and nobody wanted it. I told them I would take it. I spent a week on a small platform above the falls trying to capture this image. I would go most days before sunrise and stay until dark. During that time I shot 35 rolls of film of pretty much just head + shoulders of bears + sock- eye salmon leaping the falls. Six weeks later I opened the yellow box to see this image. It was a nice surprise. I hadn’t known that I got it. Sincerely — ThomMangelsen
  • Tim Mantoani
    San Quentin Prison, 1969 - Jim Marshall is a legend in photography for both the good and the bad stories that surrounded him. He always had a Leica with him. Whether covering Woodstock, the Beatles’ last concert, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, or Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire, Jim was not just there, but recording epic and iconic images of each event. He was notorious for carrying a gun in his early years and on occasion using it. Jim was the first person I photographed for this project. We first met while we were both shooting the Indy 500. When he showed up at the studio in San Francisco for his portrait, he asked me what the image was for. I told him for a personal project. He took one look at the camera, told me I was “fucking crazy” and walked out to the set. We became good friends after that and by an act of fate, just weeks prior to his passing I received a package in the mail... an original print of the Johnny Cash image he held for his portrait. “Never touch my girl, my gun, or my camera” – J.M.
  • Tim Mantoani
    Democratic Republic of Congo, July, 2007 - This is Virunga, the first National Park in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Silverback Mountain Gorilla, along with 6 females, had been killed by a group trying to intimidate conservation rangers into being less proactive in their efforts against poaching and illegal charcoal making. There are only about 40 of these Silverbacks in the world, so the Rangers were devastated at the assassination. This procession went on for about 5kms, moving the 600 pound body over hills & through the forest. Mostly this was done in silence, very unusual for Africans at labor. The D.R.C. is the world’s worst war since WW II. 5.4 million dead since 1996. I covered that war for a long time but this pic is the first crossover image I made. I think it talks about conservation issue but it also talks about what happens when war reduces people to a survivalist mentality. On the one side amazingly courageous rangers, on the other, a militia group & corrupt businessmen ruthlessly exploiting the assets of the region with no view to the future. Over 120 of these rangers have died in the last 10 years doing this job; most make less than $10 a month. They’re heroes, there’s just no other word that seems appropriate to describe these incredible African men. — Brent Stirton

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