On In Travel & Photography

15 Of The Most Controversial Photos Ever

We all love looking at photographs, don't we? They are like a portal to the past which lets us look at the exact moment it was taken. Once a photograph is taken, there's no changing it. There's always the old cliche' stating a picture is worth a thousand words and we don't need to explain why. But some pictures can spark debate too. It could be either the object, the subject or some other factor which can spark debate or some or the other form of outrage. So today we at WittyFeed would like to look back at 15 such photos which sparked controversy. 

Elián González

When six years old, Elián González was the subject of an intense custodial battle between the United States and Cuba. His father who was a Cuban won the appeal and this photo is captured the exact moment when he was taken away.

The power of a flower.

This photo is from Vietnam where the National Committee was protesting against the military, calling for an end of the war. One particular protestor was inserting flowers into barrels as a peace symbol.

Prisoner Abuse.

This photo shows the plight of a prisoner who is being subjected to abuse in the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq. There were far worse atrocities committed inside the prison than the one photographed here.

The shot soldier.

Although there are some doubts about the authenticity of this photo, this photo was taken in the Spanish civil war, moments, after the soldier portrayed above, was shot.

Orange sweater.

This self-portrait of the photographer Cindy Sherman was sold for 3.5 million dollars in 2011. Cindy was known for conceptual portraits but this photo showcases her in somewhat vulnerable position and hence it fetched such a price.

Soviet uprising.

This photo depicts a Soviet soldier hoisting the flag over Berlin during the final stages of World War II. Eventually, the truth was spilled that the photograph was staged.


This controversial photograph depicts Sophia Lauren catching a peek at Jayne Mansfield's cleavage. It was said that Jayne used to wear extra revealing clothes to attract media.

Black Power.

At the 1968 Olympics, sprinters, John Carlos and Peter Norman held up a black power salute on the podium.

Tiananmen Square. 

In China's 1989 democracy movement, one man channeled all his courage and valor to stand in front of a platoon of tanks arriving in order to break protests. This is one of the most courageous acts in history.

Salvador Dali.

Dear cat lovers, please look away! The photo depicts wet cats airborne but we must tell you that they weren't airborne by choice. They were thrown and water was splashed on them. This photograph took numerous attempts to execute. 


An explosion of historical proportions as the world never saw the mass devastation of such kind. This photograph was captured moments after the bomb was dropped.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was arrested once because she refused to give her seat away. This very photograph was taken a year after her arrest where she's seen sitting at the same iconic spot on the bus which landed her in trouble.

Street execution. 

This surreal photo was taken by an American photographer who caught a Vietnamese fighter being executed on the streets by a police member.

The dying bear

This photo was snapped by a photographer showcasing the sad state of polar bears thanks to climate change. This bear is thinner than usual and looks quite weak. The main controversy, however, was whether the polar bear was in such a state because of melting ice caps or age?

Happy selfie.

You thought happy selfies have no place on this list? Think again. Although it's an amazing picture, it sparked a controversial debate as to who is the rightful owner of the photo, the cameraman who allowed the monkey to play with his camera or the monkey himself? Did you like the content? Make sure to like, comment and share.