A photo of Abraham Lincoln looking “normal” was desperately needed in the 1860 presidential campaign, to dispel a narrative that he was grotesquely ugly. Photographer Matthew Brady came to the rescue, with an edited picture that Lincoln credited with securing him the presidency. After his assassination, an image of Lincoln in a heroic pose was desperately needed. None existed, so a portraitist simply slapped Lincoln’s face on somebody else’s portrait. It took a century before anybody noticed. Below are twenty five things about those and other iconic photos and images.
A Popular Photo of Stalin With a Little Girl, and its Dark Aftermath
Ardan Markizov toiled as an official in the remote Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in Siberia. A devoted communist, he named his daughter Engelsina after Friedrich Engels, and his son Vladlen, after Vladimir Lenin. In 1936, he traveled to Moscow as part of a Mongol delegation to meet Stalin, accompanied by his seven-year-old daughter, Engelsina “Gelya” Markizova. Gelya stole the show when she gave some flowers to the Soviet dictator. A pleased Stalin picked her up and placed her on the table. Photographers snapped pictures, and a photo of Gelya hugging Stalin became a sensation. The editor-in-chief of Pravda newspaper enthused: “God himself sent us this little Buryat girl. We’ll make her an icon of happy childhood“. The photo, nicknamed “Children’s Friend”, went viral. After the photo was published, the hotel lobby was filled with toys and other presents gifted to her.
When Gelya went back to Buryat, she was greeted like astronauts were later. A famous sculptor even created a monument to Stalin and Gelya. The fame did not save her family from the horrors of Stalinism, however. In 1937, her father was arrested by the NKVD amidst the Great Purge, accused of being a spy, Trotskyite, and subversive plotter. Gelya’s letters to Stalin begging for mercy did not help, and her father was executed in 1938. Her mother was also arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan, where she died, probably killed by the NKVD. Once a celebrity, Gelya was now shunned as the daughter of an “enemy of the people”. The images and sculptures of Stalin with the daughter of an enemy of the people were awkward. Too many to destroy, officials simply changed the girl’s name from Gelya Marizova to Mamlakat Nakhangova.