10 Controversial Pictures

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8. Thomas Hoepker’s 9/11 Photo

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Thomas Hoepker is a German born photographer and member of Magnum Photos. On September 11, 2001, Hoepker was in New York when the World Trade Center was attacked. Hoepker captured hundreds of photos of the destruction, but one stands out. The photograph shows a collection of Americans relaxing and enjoying a conversation while the Twin Towers burn in the background. Hoepker did not publish the image for five years because he was concerned with the message. In 2006, the picture caused controversy in the American media. The New York Times published an article claiming the picture showed America’s failure to learn from the tragic day, or to change and reform as a nation.

“The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous (insensitive). They’re just American.” This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The people in the picture have responded to the media by saying that they were in “a profound state of shock and disbelief.” They have ridiculed Hoepker saying that he took the picture without permission and in a way that misrepresented their feelings. Whatever the case, the photo is established as one of the defining images of 9/11 and remains controversial in the eyes of many people.


7. Sochi Six

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At the end of World War II, the United States and Soviet Union captured a large collection of German secrets, including information on a German rocket program. The technology sparked the Space Race (1957-1975) between the United States and the Soviet Union. In each country, a select group of individuals were chosen as the first astronauts. In most cases, these people were kept secret from the public. A good example is the Russian born astronaut Grigori Nelyubov. Little is known about Nelyubov, but he was likely the third or fourth person to travel into space before his dismissal from the Soviet space program in April, 1963, for disorderly conduct. Following his dismissal, all information regarding Nelyubov’s life was stricken from the Soviet record.

Grigori Nelyubov’s image was removed from a collection of famous photographs, including the Sochi Six picture, which shows the top members of the original class of Soviet cosmonauts. This airbrushing has led to a large collection of conspiracy theories regarding lost cosmonauts and unreported space flight. In 1966, Nelyubov committed suicide. From 1961 to 1972, at least eight former Russian cosmonauts are known to have died. The Sochi Six picture was officially released in the 1970s and the deception was only discovered after Russian news managers lost track of which versions of the picture they had already published. The fakery has caused some to label the Soviet Union’s string of space triumphs over the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s as a series of falsifications. I have included the original Sochi Six photograph before Nelyubov was removed. He is the tallest man in the picture.

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