50 photo icons : the story behind the pictures

50photoicons(Photo credit: Taschen. The image above shows the front cover of the book which displays the title of the book, 50 photo icons: the story behind the pictures, and a copy of V-J Day in Times Square, a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, which shows a sailor kissing a woman in a white dress)


Billions of photographs are taken every day, to be saved, printed off, or sent instantly around the world via the internet. Photographic images are now an accepted addition to the art found in galleries and museums, at art fairs and auctions.

The saying states that “A picture tells a thousand words”. Spread over 300 pages, 50 photo icons presents the stories behind some of history’s most extraordinary photographs.

Introduced by Hans-Michael Koetzle, the book begins with the very first permanent images (Nicéphore Niépce’s 1827 eight-hour-exposure rooftop picture and Louis Daguerre’s famous 1839 street scene) and takes the reader up to the present day, via works by such respected photographers as August Sander, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Ut and Helmut Newton.

Subjects include important historical events such as Dresden at the end of the Second World War and shocking images of Vietnam after a napalm attack, to popular icons such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe’s last ever pose with Bert Stern.

Each chapter focuses on a single image which is described and analysed in detail, in aesthetic, historical and artistic contexts making this stunning book more than just a coffee table art book.

Further details of 50 photo icons can be found on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.