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Influential Photographs: Einstein's Tongue, 1951 by Arthur Sasse

Who would’ve thought that the genius who coined e=mc² will also be famous for his humor-filled photograph exposing his tongue? Why, in the first place, did he stick his tongue out during a pictorial?

image source: elitechoice.org

This funny photograph of the great physicist, Albert Einstein, was taken just after his 72nd birthday banquet when a group of photographers and reporters pressured him to smile for the cameras around him. Reluctant to give another smile to the raucous media, he stuck his tongue out instead and immediately turned his head away. Unexpectedly, photographer Arthur Sasse clicked his shutter in the right timing and little did he know, he was able to capture one of the most influential photographs in history.

Albert Einstein was, indeed, an amusing man. He liked the photo so much that he sent it as a greeting card to his close friends. Eventually, he and his tongue became so popular that it was widely reproduced in different products such as posters and stickers. It is not surprising, too, that this picture was auctioned for $72,300 – making it the most expensive Einstein photograph ever to be sold.

Because of this influential picture, it is easy to associate Albert Einstein with pop culture. To date, we still see this unusual portrait of Einstein in books, magazines, shirts, and all other sorts of printed propaganda. It is appealing and entertaining because it changed the way how people think about him, the serious scientist. It portrayed him as a lighthearted and partly absent-minded professor who is capable of being humorous – in addition to his frizzy hair, bushy mustache, and mismatched wardrobe.

Which other photographs do you think are influential? Post a hyperlink to the image in the comments – if you know it, please include the photographer’s name and the year the photo was taken.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by basterda


  1. panelomo


    nice one @basterda. another influential photograph is Steve McCurry's shot of The Afghan Girl - Sharbat Gula portrayed with a Nikon FM2 camera on Kodachrome color slide film.

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  2. fakingsleep


    There are so many but Ché Guevara (by Alberto Korda, 5th of March 1960) is probably one everybody knows.

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  3. basterda


    Thanks @panelomo! And @fakingsleep for suggesting other influential photos. Stay tuned for the next articles for this series. :)

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  4. steelapathy


    Other influential photos i would say were: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TrangBang.jpg & http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/06/10/pariscrying.jpg Both by Nick Ut. Great photographer
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  5. lageos


    The bicycle picture of Einstein should not be forgotten. Its also an amazing part of his cult!

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  6. basterda


    Hey thanks, @steelapathy!

    @lageos, Can you post the link of that photograph as a comment here? Thanks!

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  7. king-louie


    maybe the first surviving photography in history. taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 with a camera obscura. -

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano, 中文(繁體版), Spanish, Deutsch & Português.