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World's Greatest Photo: A Fetus at 18 Weeks?

The UK newspaper The Guardian recently ran a story exploring the greatest photo of the 20th century. Can you guess which photo became their top pick? Perhaps something from sports or politics? No, The Guardian chose a stunning photo from a 1965 edition of Life magazine.

A Swedish photojournalist named Linnart Nilsson told the editors of Life his plans to capture the beginnings of human existence while visiting New York in 1954. The editor's at Life expressed skepticism about the project. But a decade later he returned with the first photographs, shot in both color and black and white--an unprecedented feat that fused photography and biological study. They were published in Life as an iconic photo essay, entitled Drama of Life Before Birth. Nilsson also published the pictures in A Child Is Born, intended as a guide for mothers to be. It is one of the top-selling illustrated books of all time, having been translated into 20 languages.

The photos created controversy. Some people wanted to deny the obvious--that the fetus looked utterly human. The article tried to remain neutral, but here's how the author summarized the controversy: “The images caused a stir in Paris and it’s easy to see why: their quiet beauty has a powerful emotional pull.” A gallery owner said, “Nilsson wanted to make the invisible visible--and show us the astonishing journey we all make, one that unites all humans. He wanted to give us an opportunity to look inside ourselves, to discover pictures that define us as humankind.”

Check out the link to see the stunning photos.

Source: Charlotte Jansen, “Foetus 18 Weeks: the greatest photograph of the 20th century?” The Guardian (11-18-19)

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