20 of the most powerful photos of all time: from space to sports and tragedy

Here are the images that captured our world in a particular moment, but have equally stood the test of time

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Images have influence. They can change minds or strengthen convictions. They can shock, inspire, anger or amuse. But what makes them last? It’s hard to determine exactly what gives a photograph staying power, but these powerful images might offer a clue.

Here we have collated 20 images that are easily identifiable as some of the most powerful photographs of all time. These are ones that have spurred social change, captured history in the making and elevated their subjects to a globally recognised status.

Among our selection is the image of a seahorse carrying a cotton bud that provoked environmental concern, the image of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue for a camera man and Steve McCurry's photograph of Sharbat Gula, The Afghan Girl, which was featured on a 1985 cover of National Geographic. 

Click through the gallery above to see the full collection of powerful photographs.