A photo can tell the story of an event to those who weren’t around to see it unfold. Thanks to the handiwork of professional photographers worldwide, we get to see the beauty of the other parts of the world frame by frame. However, the pictures we see don't always tell a good and heartwarming story.
If there’s one thing war photos tell us, it’s that humanity has been through some dark times. Those dark times are far from finished, as even now we face peril and bad news left and right. We aren’t always there to witness these stories unfold for ourselves, but with the help of professional photographers, we can see what’s really going on.
Sometimes, the photos we see don’t tell the full story by themselves and it takes a little research for us to know the backstory of a picture. If pictures tell a thousand words, then these pictures below tell only a little of what they know. From the Victorian Era through modern times, professional photographers have seen some pretty terrifying things. Here are 15 chilling things seen by professional photographers.
15 The Memories Of Chernobyl
Pripyat city in Ukraine was home to thousands of families. Most of the men in the city worked at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was a busy city but then tragedy struck on April 26, 1986. An explosion from inside the power plant caused a massive radiation leak from the plant's reactor. All residents were forced to abandon the city and now, because of the radiation, the city remains uninhabitable.
There are many professional photographers who choose to go the distance and go inside Pripyat to take a gander at the ghost city. The photos from the city of Pripyat are very chilling. Since the residents were forced to evacuate immediately, there was barely any time for them to pack up. What's left of Pripyat now is a barren land that looks like it could've been forgotten by humanity.
14 Ebola Outbreak
One nefarious viral outbreak in recent history is the Ebola Outbreak that ravaged through Liberia from 2014-15. The Ebola Outbreak took the lives of nearly 5,000 Liberians and with the country’s health facilities being in poor shape after a civil war in 2003, the country was struggling to survive and the effects of the virus can be seen left and right.
It’s hard to see exactly what occurred in Liberia then but with the help of a few people who braved the outbreak, our eyes were opened to what really was happening. There were countless photographers who braved the outbreak to give us photos like the one seen above. The harsh conditions in Liberia were unbearable to see but thanks to the photos, the relief effort for the victims were coming from all parts of the world.
13 Forensic Photography
Some people are capable of committing crimes so grisly, it's hard for us to see the crime scene without getting our stomachs turned. Regardless of how grisly some crime scenes are, it's the job of forensic photographers to document the scene in all of its sometimes gory details. Because of their line of work, some forensic photographers have seen the most chilling things we can't even imagine.
From torn limbs to inexplicable murders, many forensic photographers have seen it all. Those in this line of work who have investigated Mexican drug cartel crimes have seen the worst. The Mexican drug cartel is ruthless when it comes to crime and their common execution methods are beheadings. For forensic photographers in Mexico, seeing a severed head or two in a year is no longer something new.
12 The Boston Fire
Photographers are often some of the first at the scene of a major tragedy because it’s their job to show the world what is going on. In some cases, they get more than what they bargained for and witness some rather horrific scenes. Boston Herald’s Stanley Forman covered a Boston apartment fire on July 22, 1965, and he captured something more chilling than the fire itself.
During the fire, Forman was anticipating the rescue of 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her niece from a balcony in the apartment. However, before the rescue was made, the balcony collapsed and Bryant and her niece fell. Bryant died from the high fall but her niece survived after landing on her aunt. Both fell from five storeys high and Forman watched and shot the scene with his camera.
11 Luigi Tomellini's Lost Portfolio
Luigi Tomellini was a forensic photographer at the beginning of the 20th century, and needless to say, he has seen some chilling things throughout his career. His work helped the local police with investigations and he was clearly a professional in his line of work. However, his portfolio went missing upon his death and his work was nowhere to be found. It wasn't only until the 1980s that it was recovered.
Tomellini's suitcase was filled with plates when it was discovered and the plates were only developed in 2013. There were photos of crime scenes and evidence but perhaps the most chilling photos from the portfolio were those of actual victims. Tomellini's entire career was revealed to the public and his was a terrifying one at that.
10 The Attack On The World Trade Center
September 11, 2001, is one of America’s worst tragedies which resulted in the deaths of countless lives. The attack saw two airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers. There are various footages and photos of the attack taken from various angles but there are a few photos that stood out and it really showed the horrors of the attack.
This shot of the attack by Steve Ludlum bagged him the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. The shot was taken shortly after the second airplane hit the south tower. Then moments after this shot was taken, both towers collapsed. It surely was a chilling scene for all those who were there to witness the attack unfold right before their eyes. Photographers there even had to fight through the shock to do their jobs.
9 Victorian Era Post-Mortem Photographers
There came a point in history when taking photos of the dead while they're made to look alive was an actual thing. This practice was very common in the Victorian era and it's called as post-mortem photography. Photographers nowadays are lucky that the exact post-mortem photography from way back when is no longer popular today.
The subject's of post-mortem photographers are the recently deceased and the common practice is that the subjects are posed and dressed for the photographer to see. In some cases, the photographer was left alone in a room with the subject. It must've been chilling to photograph the dead in such close proximity but then again since it was a popular practice back then, the photographers could've been used to it.
8 Photos From North Korea
The average North Korean doesn't know much about the world outside the borders of their land. The people inside the country are lead by an oppressive government and the people are living in harsh conditions, to say the least. Getting inside North Korea is not as hard as getting out. The government takes a lot of measures to make sure that everything that goes in and out of the country's borders is controlled. For photographers inside the country, every step they take could be their last.
Photographers and journalist who get in the country are monitored by officers in their tour. Even the photos they take are controlled. While it's hard to get a grasp of how harsh the conditions are in North Korea, we can't help but wonder just what the photographers and journalists saw on their visit.
7 Assassination Attempt On Ronald Reagan
There’s a good reason why presidents are always surrounded by personal bodyguards and that’s because assassination attempts are always a possibility. There have been a few successful assassination attempts throughout history including John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, James Abram Garfield. There are more failed assassination attempts though.
While this may look like a regular photo of former US president Ronald Reagan raising his left arm, it’s actually a photo of him very shortly after a failed assassination attempt. Reagan was shot in his upper left body just outside Washington Hilton on March 30, 1980, by John Hinckley Jr. Reagan was immediately rushed to the hospital. Photographer Ron Edmonds took the photo and there were several images taken when he began capturing the scene. He took home a Pulitzer for the photos in 1982.
6 Earthquake In Haiti
Natural disasters can result in the loss of many lives and properties. Many photographers recount how chilling it is to go through areas ravaged by typhoons or hurricanes. In recent history, one of the most devastating natural disasters we've witnessed was the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake took the lives of 300,000 people and the damage done to Haiti was horrifying.
Haitians were only a few days into 2010 when the calamity struck. Photographers who were in the area immediately were quick to show the world how much Haiti needed all the help it could get. Many bodies were buried under the rubble and lives were both ruined and lost, seeing all of those firsthand could've been a horrible memory for the photographers.
5 Photos From The Holocaust
The Holocaust remains one of the lowest points of humanity as millions of Jews were murdered in concentration camps scattered across Europe. There are thousands of photos of concentration camps taken by their Nazi captures and the poor victims are forever embedded in history.
Wilhelm Brasse was forced to take photos of the frightened Holocaust victims after they had been through hunger, thirst, and torture. Brasse kept the photos with him which helped convict countless Nazi officers who were at Auschwitz. He had to live with the images of the scared victims throughout his life. His efforts to help convict the Nazis make him a hero through the eyes of many.
4 The End
Photographers don't always get the moments they want to be captured perfectly. It takes photographers several clicks before being satisfied with their photograph and in some cases, they manage to capture things that they didn't want to capture at all. As this Chinese photographer found out, chilling moments can be captured by a camera when it is least expected.
One photographer was trying to take a photo of the heavy fog at the Wuhan Yangtze River. According to the photographer, all he wanted was a shot of the bridge because the heavy fog made it look like the bridge disappeared into the air. In the background of this photo was a couple who jumped off of the bridge one after the other. It was a horrifying moment for the photographer as he really didn't expect anything like this to happen when he began taking photos.
3 Omayra Sánchez
The eruption of the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano in Colombia in 1985 took a ton of lives and destroyed homes. The governing body of Colombia was supposed to aid those in need and came under fire when the world learned that the relief efforts came in at a snail’s pace. One photo that remained as a strong reminder of the tragedy was that of Omayra Sánchez.
The last moments of the 13-year-old were captured by photojournalist Frank Fournier. Sánchez was pinned between the debris of her house that was destroyed by lahar. Aside from the debris, she was also chest-deep in water. She was left stranded and alone for at least three days before succumbing to her injuries. Fournier was called a ‘vulture’ for taking the photo but in his defense, aid for those affected poured in after the photo garnered worldwide attention.
2 Photos From The Vietnam War
War photos are often chilling, more so once the story behind it becomes known to us. The World Wars have a lot to offer in terms of chilling photos but the Vietnam War has horrifying stories to tell too. We all know the Saigon Execution photo. It was one of the defining pictures of the war. In it, we saw Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, firing his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop. This wasn't the only horror in the war though.
The near two-decade-long war resulted in over 4 million casualties from both sides; soldiers and civilians included. Despite the perils brought about by the war, there were a lot of photographers who fought through it to let the world see what was right in front of them. The pictures are harrowing but we're sure that they saw much worse.
1 Assassination Caught On Cam
Things were shaky even after the World War II ended and the countries involved in one of humanity’s darkest times were only beginning to rebuild. Japan was one of those countries only beginning to establish new methods to kickstart a thriving economy but not every Japanese citizen was fond of the idea of their country being hand in hand with the US.
This Pulitzer-prize winning photo from 1960 shows an assassination by 17-year old Otoya Yamaguchi on Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma. Yamaguchi fatally stabbed Asanuma with a foot-long sword after the leader finished delivering a speech. Yamaguchi was upset with Asanuma’s support of a US-Japan mutual defense treaty. Photographer Yasushi Nagao bagged the first Pulitzer prize by a non-American with this shot.