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My favourite ‘iconic’ photo is the one of Sean Connery as James Bond.

He’s wearing his customary tux and he’s flaunting a black luger, whilst all the while the tiniest of smiles playing across his lips.

It’s sat on my shelf right now and in that picture I see all the things I wanted to be growing up. It’s also got me thinking about what an image has to do in order to qualify as ‘iconic’.

Iconic photos, in my opinion, are the ones that stick with you.

For some they’re the pictures of heroes, others great landscapes or works of art.

One thing they all share is spontaneity.

And the fact they’ve aged well.

From Quarrymen to The Most Famous Band in the World

There’s a well-known picture of the Beatles taken in 1957, back when they were just a bunch of school kids in a skiffle band.

They were called the Quarrymen, and, were for all purposes, like everybody else.

Three years later they took over the world, and a photo of humble beginnings became immortal.

But iconic status and humble beginnings aren’t limited to the cinema and concert hall.

Google and World Domination

In the world of technology nothing comes bigger than Google. It’s changed the way we see things forever. It’s the bane of pub quizzes everywhere, and has the answers to (almost) everything.

Except in 1998 no one really knew what it was, apart from the people who actually worked there and a few in-the-know business forecasters.

It’s was a young company like any other, which essentially meant some men in a garage taking photos with their computer.

Today it has assets valued at over 75 billion dollars, and more than likely runs the world in secret.

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And then you have those events that are so well known they’re almost myth.

Wait to Die, Wait to Live, Wait for an Absolution

One of my favourite photos of truly historical significance is this one on the decks of the Titanic. It shows members of the crew kitted out in lifejackets, in front of a lifeboat no one ever thought would get used.

Image via public domain

The year was 1912. One hundred years later the story of the doomed liner still captures imaginations everywhere.

This is what makes a photo iconic. Not it’s current worth but what it looks like in hindsight, when everything has changed. No one except readers of Ian Fleming knew who James Bond was when Connery posed for that photo. Today he’s one of the best known and loved cinematic characters in history, and he’s sitting on my shelf.

In the world of photography, spontaneity is all. That is why you can never grasp it, and it rarely makes sense. That’s what keeps it interesting. A paradox, considering it freezes things in time.

So what are some of your favourite iconic images? Are they known worldwide or are they stored on your phone? Let us know.

Sam Beddall is an enthusiastic blogger who has a passion for visual and literary art and is a James Bond enthusiast. He writes for Cartridge Shop and also spends his time writing film and music reviews, as well as articles on fitness and wellbeing.