Photos of the Day

Two men in a pillory at the state prison of Bibb County, Georgia. 1937.

The Second Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937 and eventually became part of the Pacific theater of World War II. Not long after the war, with Japan advancing into China, retreating Chinese troops left a blockade across Shanghai’s Whampoo River. Japan announced they were going to bomb it on August 28, 1937, and news teams gathered to capture the event.The planes arrived at 4:00 PM. Most of the reporters had left after hearing that the raid was postponed, so only one cameraman was waiting. The bombers didn’t hit the Chinese defenses. They hit the city’s train station—which housed 1,800 civilians waiting for evacuation, mostly women and children. The Japanese aircrews had mistaken them for troops. In total, 1,500 died. The photographer, H.S. Wong, saw a man rescuing children from the tracks. The man placed the first young child on the platform edge before returning to help another—and that is the picture Wong took. The injured, helpless child sitting among such devastation went on to be seen by over 130 million people around the world within a month and a half. It was key in turning international opinion against the Japanese, and Wong had to be evacuated to Hong Kong under British protection when the Japanese put a price on his head.

Helmets at Dunkirk, 1940.

Gorilla in the Congo, 2007. Senkwekwe the silverback mountain gorilla weighed at least 500 pounds when his carcass was strapped to a makeshift stretcher, and it took more than a dozen men to hoist it into the air. Brent Stirton captured the scene while in ­Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ­Senkwekwe and several other gorillas were shot dead as a violent conflict engulfed the park, where half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas live. When Stirton photographed residents and park rangers respectfully carrying Senkwekwe out of the forest in 2007, the park was under siege by people illegally harvesting wood to be used in a charcoal industry that grew in the wake of the Rwandan genocide. In the photo, Senkwekwe looks huge but vaguely human, a reminder that conflict in Central Africa affects more than just the humans caught in its cross fire; it also touches the region’s environment and animal inhabitants. Three months after Stirton’s photograph was published in Newsweek, nine African countries—including Congo—signed a legally binding treaty to help protect the mountain gorillas in Virunga.

Conservation rangers at work in Virunga National Park.

Bedouin beggars and children, Tunis, Tunisia.

In 1839, a year after the first photo containing a human being was made, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius made the first ever portrait of a human being it is is believed to be the earliest existing American portrait photograph.

A sixteen-year old German soldier, Hans-Georg Henke, cries being captured by the US 9th Army in Germany on April 3, 1945. A sixteen-year old German anti aircraft soldier of the Hitler Youth, Hans-Georg Henke, taken prisoner in the state of Hessen, Germany. He was a member of the Luftwaffe anti-air squad who burst into tears as his world crumbled around him. His father died in 1938 but when his mother died in 1944 leaving the family destitute, Hans-Georg had to find work in order to support the family. At 15 years of age he joined the Luftwaffe. According to the story that Henke maintained throughout his life, he was based in Stettin with a battery of 88mm guns. As the Soviets advanced so the German forces were pushed back towards Rostock. It was here where the Soviets finally overran their unit, that these photographs were taken.

The alternative story is given by the American photojournalist John Florea. He alleges that he took these photographs in Hessen, in the village of Hüttenberg-Rechtenbach, which is just north of Frankfurt am Main. The area in which the photos of Hans-Georg were taken is incontrovertibly Hessen. A number of photos taken clearly show areas of the town which still exist today. Furthermore as these photos indicate, he was bearing boots when captured and not, as he alleged later, with rags on his feet. John Florea is adamant that Hans-Georg is not sobbing because his world had crumbled but rather due to combat shock after being overrun by the American forces. The sole motive for Henke dissembling on this issue must relate to the fact that after the war he elected to join the Communist Party and live in East Germany. The East German Communists regarded all those who had surrendered to the Americans as a potential third force. To cover his tracks, Henke changed the story from being overrun by Americans to being captured by the Russians. He went on to live a full life and died in 1997.

Smellovision (April Fool’s Day – 1965). BBC TV interviewed a professor from London University who had perfected a technology he called “smellovision.” It allowed viewers to smell aromas produced in the television studio in their homes. The professor explained that his machine broke scents down into their component molecules which could then be transmitted through the screen. The professor offered a demonstration by placing first some coffee beans and then onions into the smellovision machine. He asked viewers to report by noon whether they were able to smell anything, instructing them that “for best results stand six feet away from your set and sniff.” Viewers called in from across the country to confirm that they distinctly experienced these scents as if they were there in the studio with him. Some claimed the onions made their eyes water. The Smellovision experiment was repeated on June 12, 1977 by Bristol University psychology lecturer Michael O’Mahony, who was interested in exploring the effect of the power of suggestion on smell. O’Mahony told viewers of Reports Extra, a late-night news show that aired in the Manchester region, that a new technology called Ramen spectroscopy would allow the station to transmit smells over the airwaves. He told them he was going to transmit “a pleasant country smell, not manure” over their TV sets, and he asked people to report what they smelled. Within the next 24 hours the station received 172 responses. The highest number came from people who reported smelling hay or grass. Others reported their living rooms filling with the scent of flowers, lavender, apple blossom, fruits, potatoes, and even homemade bread. Two people complained that the transmission brought on a severe bout of hay fever.

Giacomo Casanova. Casanova Admitted To Rape And Abuse, Plus He Had Multiple Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Casanova’s name made it into the dictionary as a synonym for playboy, but he shouldn’t be anyone’s hero. The real Giacomo Casanova was born in 1725, and he nearly became a priest before he was expelled for sleeping with another student. After leaving the seminary, Casanova devoted himself to seducing women. “Cultivating whatever gave pleasure to my senses was always the chief business of my life,” Casanova wrote in his autobiography. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Casanova also admitted to forcing a peasant girl to have sex with him and beating a prostitute when she refused him—plus, he most likely spread gonorrhea and syphilis to his many partners.

1959: US GI wearing all the protective gear and tech available for a foot soldier.

Hoover Dam under construction, 1936.

The last public execution by guillotine, 1939. In the early morning of 17 June 1939, Eugène Weidmann became the last person to be publicly executed by guillotine. He had been convicted of multiple kidnappings and murders, including that of a young American socialite. Beginning with the botched kidnapping of an American tourist, the inspiring dancer Jean de Koven, Eugène Weidmann murdered two women and four men in the Paris area in 1937. His other victims included a woman lured by the false offer of a position as a governess; a chauffeur; a publicity agent; a real estate broker; and a man Weidmann had met as an inmate in a German prison. On the surface, his crimes seemed in most cases to have had a profit motive, but they generally brought him very small winnings. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1908, Weidmann early showed himself to be an incorrigible criminal. He had been sent to a juvenile detention facility and then served prison terms for theft and burglary in Canada and Germany prior to his arrival in Paris in 1937.

Preparing the guillotine (the spot was changed later). After a sensational and much-covered trial, Weidmann was sentenced to death. On the morning of June 17, 1939, Weidmann was taken out in front of the Prison Saint-Pierre, where a guillotine and a clamoring, whistling crowd awaited him. Among the attendees was future acting legend Christopher Lee, then 17 years old. Weidmann was placed into the guillotine, and France’s chief executioner Jules-Henri Desfourneaux let the blade fall without delay. Rather then react with solemn observance, the crowd behaved rowdily, using handkerchiefs to dab up Weidmann’s blood as souvenirs. Paris-Soir denounced the crowd as “disgusting”, “unruly”, “jostling, clamoring, whistling”. The unruly crowd delayed the execution beyond the usual twilight hour of dawn, enabling clear photographs and one short film to be taken. After the event the authorities finally came to believe that “far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds” the public execution “promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behavior”. The “hysterical behavior” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

Before and after the Battle of Passchendaele, 1917.

Pennsylvania Coal Company, 1910.

Fidel Castro Treated Women Like Take-Out Orders. Fidel Castro might not be the first name that comes to mind when you hear “suave playboy”—but the Cuban dictator supposedly slept with 35,000 women in his lifetime. For Castro, it was all about racking up the numbers, not about the women themselves. Castro sent out his guards to recruit beautiful women on the beaches of Havana to keep up with his appetite, as if he were ordering take-out. And he paired sex partners with his meals, aiming for a different “lunch” and “dinner” partner every day. As if that weren’t gross enough, Castro also admitted to sleeping with girls as young as 15, which is a crime in Cuba (and pretty much everywhere else).

12/10/1960. Tokyo, Japan. Otoya Yamaguchi, a right-wing student, assassinates Inejiro Asanuma, Socialist Party Chairman, during his speech at the Hibiya Hall in Tokyo.

Inuit people building an igloo in Fullerton Harbour, Canada in (October, 1903)

The Elephants Foot of the Chernobyl disaster. Photo was taken later after the radiation weakened. A monster was born in the Chernobyl disaster. Lurking in the depths of the reactor ruins, the monster is one of the most dangerous things in the world. In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, spending 300 seconds in its presence would bring certain death. Even today, it radiates heat and death, though its power has weakened. The Chernobyl disaster happened at 1:23 a.m. on April 26, 1986, when extremely hot nuclear fuel rods were lowered into cooling water, an immense amount of steam was created, which — because of the reactors’ design flaws — created more reactivity in the nuclear core of reactor number 4. The resultant power surge caused an immense explosion that detached the 1,000-ton plate covering the reactor core, releasing radiation into the atmosphere and cutting off the flow of coolant into the reactor. A few seconds later, a second explosion of even greater power than the first blew the reactor building apart and spewed burning graphite and other parts of the reactor core around the plant, starting a number of intense fires around the damaged reactor and reactor number 3, which was still operating at the time of the explosions. After the nuclear fires were finally controlled, workers scrambled to contain the invisible dangers of the failed Chernobyl core. The concrete beneath the reactor was steaming hot, and was breached by solidified lava and spectacular unknown crystalline forms termed “chernobylites”. With the help of a remote camera, an intensely radioactive mass was found in the basement of Unit 4, more than two meters wide and weighing hundreds of tons, which they called “the Elephant’s Foot” for its wrinkled appearance. The so called Elephant’s Foot is a solid mass made of melted nuclear fuel mixed with lots and lots of concrete, sand, and core sealing material that the fuel had melted through. 

When this photo was taken, 10 years after the disaster, the Elephant’s Foot was only emitting one-tenth of the radiation it once had. Still, merely 500 seconds of exposure would prove fatal.

Plane crashes into a home in Gloucester, 27th March 1963, killing both pilots.

Baluba warriors in the central Congo province of Kasai train for battle with homemade small arms on January 2, 1961. According to Horst Faas, the photographer, he was not made welcome and the Balubas were in deadly earnest.

Operation Barbarossa 1941.

German and US Medics Tend Wounded German POWs in St. Lo, Normandy, 1944.

Cabin of the only Douglas DC-1 built, 1933.

Soldiers boxing in a Union camp in Petersburg, Virginia, in April of 1865.

The Tiananmen Square protest in 1989.

French soldiers and their war dogs during WW1. The canines carried aid to the wounded, took messages between the lines and sniffed out enemy soldiers.They were also used for pulling machine guns and equipment.

Ellicott Square Building, the largest office building in the world at the time, Buffalo, New York, around 1900.

U.S. Marines help escort an elderly Japanese civilian away from the front lines during the Battle of Okinawa. June, 1945.

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