Either we are talking about loss or the joy to survive, ordinary people react in extraordinary ways when they face life’s biggest challenges. Expect an emotional roller-coaster and don’t be ashamed to release those salty drops from your eyes.
Our lives seem dominated by routine and the mundane. However, from time to time, an inspired photographer is there to capture something able to trigger our most intimate and powerful emotions.
The following 15 heartbreaking photos will help you reconsider your position on life in general by enlarging your perspective. Everyone eventually faces problems and difficulties, but when you put them next to this, they become easier to handle.
1. Refugee Crisis
via India Times
It is impossible to keep your heart cold when you hear the story of millions of Syrian refugees who are crossing the Balkans in the hope of finding a better life in Western Europe.
Walking was by far the fastest and the cheapest way to get your family to the German or Austrian border, and rail tracks provided the shortest distance.
It is obvious that these kids here are unable to enjoy the sights. Hunger, the discomfort of walking hundreds of miles day after day, can only add up the uncertainty of their fate.
Europe is currently divided at a political level between those that support the refugee quotas and those who reject the idea altogether.
Photos like this can only enforce the concept that everyone deserves a better life and that the Syrian conflict is ours to handle.
This picture might not seem as much, but it can work as a manifesto for the hunger crisis unfolding on the African continent.
Taken in 1993 by photojournalist Kevin Carter, it received the Pulitzer Prize. However, some prominent voices claimed that the shot is unethical and that the photographer should have taken concrete measures to offer the sick child some degree of relief.
We gave this heartbreaking photo the title “Hunger,” because we see it fit to describe the current socio-economic situation in Africa. The civilized world is watching from far away and without reacting the drama millions of people go through each day.
Hunger, disease, and poverty are dominant traits of the Black continent, as foreign companies and governments only have their immediate gains in mind.
Our next photo can warm even frozen hearts.
Being handicapped can strip away from your life all that is pleasant and enjoyable. However, this crowd here took the extra step. Not only they respected the handicap-reserved parking spots, but they also offered this young man the concert of his life.
We don’t know what band played, but the atmosphere seems electric. Carried by many, the weight of the few seems easy. The photo illustrates how our society should function.
The poor and the disabled are offered the chance for a normal life and equality prevails. One great idea catches fire as all individuals reveal the best in them.
4. True Loyalty
This photo can relate somehow with the recent events that are taking America by storm.
Police officers should be seen as the extension of the law, serving the citizens, and doing their best to enforce the good. Jason Ellis was a police officer from Kentucky who died during a mission.
Seeing his devastated family next to his coffin would have been a cliché photo. But seeing his canine partner, named Figo, broke everyone’s heart. Dogs are known for their incredible loyalty, and it seems they are unable to understand that death can take their masters away sooner than normal.
Seeing this last homage brought by a dog can make you wonder if we are truly superior at all chapters. Dogs might not have feelings like we do, but their loyalty is certainly unbreakable.
5. The Tragedy of War
This photo here was probably taken in Arlington National Cemetery (Virginia), the traditional resting place of war-time heroes.
From what we can decipher, this woman lost a brother or a husband who served in the U.S. Army.
This photo is heartbreaking because it shows us another face of mourning. Most likely, the woman is not crying but just wants to spend some more time next to the buried remains.
The perfect geometry of the cemetery promotes the idea that we are all equals in the face of death and that there is no way to escape destiny. Of course, we can argue about unnecessary wars fought in foreign lands and about allusive victories that serve no purpose.
6. Last Homage
Instrumental music is the perfect background for drama and tragedy, and for this poor kid here it was too much.
The shot was taken during the funeral of a music teacher. His most prominent student decided that the best way to honor his memory is to perform their best.
You can call life in many ways. Unfair is the most widely used adjective, and it comes to show that there might be a big discrepancy between what we want and want happens.
7. I Wish I Had a Mother
Not all children have the chance to enjoy the presence of their parents. This heartbreaking photo shows the immense trauma this young girl is going through after the loss of her mother.
Kids usually use chalk to draw on the pavement the things that make their childhood brighter and more colorful. For this young girl, responsibilities and worries are about to hijack her attention and drain her soul.
We live in a world what provides to little comfort and safety for those who are not lucky enough to have a family.
8. Nothing Left
Hurricanes are events which occur with regularity in the warm waters of Gulf of Mexico.
In some years, the damage left behind is simply heartbreaking. This photo shows a father and son seeking comfort after they survive a deadly hurricane that swept through southern Alabama in 2011.
It is evident that communities are simply leveled to the ground when winds reaching speeds of up to 350 km/h sweep across. Trees, electricity pole, cars, and even entire homes, all of them are smashed, toppled, and turned to a complete mess.
For someone looking at the photo without having the information we gave you, the devastated community can also be considered the scene of war.
9. Missing Home
via Rehab Junkies
Most animals held in captivity miss the natural habitat.
This zoo keepers thought that painting something that resembles their home might bring in some comfort. Although the animals seem interested by the nice graphic, they are not fooled.
This photographer had his work made easy. Inside the small cages they are held for our awe and amusement, these animals are captivated by anything out of the ordinary. The sudden splash of color offered for at least a couple of days a break from the routine and mental trauma.
As heartbreaking as they are, this photo still shows the sweet side of life in the zoo. In order to melt your heart, we would need to show more disturbing images, in which animals are dissected in face of the public, or in which they have to deal with fear and anxiety.
We can only hope that we will learn someday that the right place for animals is not inside cages.
This photo might seem like just an innocent child play, but the story behind it is heartbreaking.
Not many decades ago, racial segregation was still a harsh reality in America and around the world.
Dorothy Counts, the girl being bullied by her classmates, was one of the first black students to be admitted to an all-white school. It happened in September 1957, at Harry Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Four days of intense harassment were enough for Dorothy to withdraw from the school, after being ignored by teachers and having her car smashed. However, this act of courage echoed across the society of the time, enforcing the cry for genuine equality and emancipation.
11. Destroying Nature
via Any News
This next photo might seem like the result of graphic manipulation, but it’s not.
Our economic activities are generating an incredible amount of waste and pollution that affects the entire planet.
This photo was probably taken days after an oil spoil changed to worse a natural heaven. The small bird seems shocked by her inability to clean her feathers. Unable to fly, and having already ingested the toxic substances, this poor creature looks hopeless.
The shot is heartbreaking not because we see a dying soul, but because we are put face to face with an uncomfortable truth. We are the ones responsible, yet the temptation to pursuit other interests is always stronger than the sense of duty.
12. Shell Shock
via Time to Break
At first glance, this photo appears to be a moment of peace and happiness lived on the front.
However, appearances can be deceiving. According to the story, the man had just survived a bombardment of his position, and he is experiencing what it is called “shell shock.”
The man looked death in the eyes and was left with a permanent mental trauma. The glow in his sight is unnatural, and we don’t have to see the horrors of war to imagine what he went through and how close he came to death.
Tens of millions died in wars that marked the past century, and chances are the shot took us in Normandy, at the time of the Allied Counteroffensive.
13. Dyeing Together
Collapsed buildings often leave no chance of survival for those trapped inside.
Lacking water and food, most survivors emerge after a maximum of seven days. As it is visible, it was not the case for this couple that was caught under the rubble of a collapsed structure in Bangladesh.
It must be horrific to die next to the one you love, being unable to save him/her. As heartbreaking as it seems, this scene is rather common in areas with an intense seismic activity.
Homes become coffins when the Earth trembles and when people construct poor structures.
14. Lunch on a Beam
This heartbreaking scene is probably the most famous of them all.
Called “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” the shot was taken in 1932, during the construction of the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
11 workers are eating lunch and enjoying each other’s company more than 250 meters above the New York City streets. For those who worked years in a row in such exposed positions, this is part of the routine.
Although the photo has a huge emotional charge, there are some claims that the composition is not authentic, and that everything was staged to promote the opening of the new building. Like us, New-Yorkers from the 1930s where eager to have their emotions put to the test by heartbreaking and impressive photos.
15. Triumph of Life
via Rehab Junkys
Believe it or not, this shot was taken in 1987, a time when medical technology was not as advanced at it is today.
The surgeon depicted seems far from being happy after a successful operation that lasted 23 hours.
His experience was probably kicking in, telling him that the first days are crucial for the patient evolution after a heart transplant. In the background, and exhausted nurse can be seen taking a moment of rest.
We labeled this photo “Triumph of Life” in appreciation for the work of surgeons that save lives. Even National Geographic chose this to be the picture of the year.