As we release our Year in Focus e-book highlighting the best photography from 2014, we look at some of the major anniversaries the world marked throughout 2014:
World War I
June 28th was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – the shot that would bring the world to war – a war, it was said, to end all wars. Some of the best known images of World War I – the silhouetted Australian soldiers crossing the Flanders mud; the line of blinded soldiers after a gas attack on the western front – still endure as the most recognizable images of any conflict, a necessary shorthand for a scale of suffering almost impossible to comprehend.
And photographer Peter Macdiarmid brought a new perspective to the historical files with a meticulously executed and haunting series of pictures merging history and the present day – reminded us again of our ever present pasts.
It was also 100 years since Ernest Shackleton setoff on a trans-Antarctic voyage – the last of a golden age of polar expeditions. Forced to abandon their ship to the ice, photographer Frank Hurley had to decide which precious glass plates he could carry on their gruelling journey back to safety and which to leave behind. Either way it was going to cost the history books. But what survived is a remarkable record and as compelling to look at now as it would have been a century ago.
In entertainment, screen goddesses Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot both turned 80. Ralph Lauren and The Wizard of Oz, 75. And in music, 50 years since the Beatles cracked America. Their debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show opening the flood gates for a British music invasion that just kept on coming.
Predicting world records can be a tricky business, as most of the press found out at the start of a wet and windy day in Oxford 60 years ago. Convinced the adverse weather conditions would foil any entry into the history books, most photographers packed up early. So it was down to Norman Potter, a Fleet Street apprentice, who stuck around trackside to capture Roger Bannister, gasping and triumphant crossing the tape in 3.59.4 seconds in the world’s first sub-4 minute mile. And Potter acquitted himself perfectly; with a single glass plate he made one of the most famous sports pictures of all time.
July 2nd, 1964 and Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in the presence of Martin Luther King – a landmark of American legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, sex or national origin. It was a watershed moment in the journey for equality. 50 years on and the U.S. is again cross-examining itself – its past and more importantly its future. The narrative has shifted since the 60’s, but the images from Selma, Washington and Watts still chime alongside those from Ferguson and the protests that followed. An uncomfortable reminder that 50 years can be both a long and very short time indeed.
The Berlin Wall
November 9th, 1989 was the night the Berlin Wall came down – the most potent symbol of the Cold War had been toppled. And however complex events were leading up to and after the Fall – overnight, Europe woke up a different place. 25 years on and photographer Tom Stoddart recalls the momentous scenes:
“I was in Berlin at the time on my instincts…..I took a taxi with the intention of crossing into the East at Checkpoint Charlie before the crossing point closed for the night. In the back of the cab, I was chatting with a young Irish reporter on his first foreign trip. The radio was on….and suddenly I saw the driver stiffen and sit bolt upright. He turned up the sound and I asked him what was happening. He said: ‘It’s amazing. They’re opening the crossing in an hour.’
“As people arrived in the west they were going on their knees and kissing the ground and waving their passports in the air, celebrating freedom…tears of joy running down their cheeks…..It was, just an incredible thing to witness and to photograph.”Download the free Year in Focus book on iBooks