20 iconic images that have defined the past decade

Cincinnati Zoo/Reuters/Elsa/Getty ImagesThe 2010s saw heartbreaking and triumphant moments. These images capture some of the most defining moments.
  • It’s been a decade of heartbreaking news, controversy, triumphs, and, of course,memes.
  • A lot has happened these past 10 years, and sharing photos that capture these moments has never been easier.
  • These iconic photos help define the past decade. Some were powerful because they represented milestones, a tragedy, or a movement. Others were just plain entertaining.
  • But one way or another, each of these images sparked conversation.
  • Warning: This list includes photos that some people may find disturbing.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


Remember “the dress”? It stumped the internet in 2015 when some people saw the dress as black and blue and others saw it as white and gold. The scientific explanation? It depends on your eyes.

YouTube/ASAP Science‘The dress.’

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Cincinnati zookeepers shot and killed Harambe the gorilla in 2016 after a toddler got into his enclosure, and Harambe became a meme. The incident sparked heated debates over whether his death could’ve been prevented, and the internet’s dark humour.

Cincinnati Zoo/ReutersHarambe at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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This monkey, named Naruto, snapped a selfie in 2011 using photographer David Slater’s camera. Who owned the copyright for the image was disputed for the next six years. It was eventually decided that Slater owned the copyright.

Wikimedia CommonsOne of the selfies taken in 2011 by Naruto, a monkey who picked up photographer David Slater’s camera.

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The only other selfie on the list is “the Oscar selfie.” It broke Twitter records in 2014 and was the first photo to be retweeted more than 2 million times. It temporarily crashed Twitter.

Ellen DeGeneres/APEllen DeGeneres posted the Oscar selfie on Twitter.

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Before that, this was the most retweeted photo. It was posted by President Barack Obama after the 2012 election with the words “four more years.”

BarackObama via TwitterMichelle and Barack Obama.

Source: Twitter


Also in 2012, internet users memed this photo of McKayla Maroney from the summer Olympics. The picture was taken after she got second place, and it went viral because of the “not impressed face.”

AP Photo/Julie JacobsonMckayla Maroney placed second in the 2012 summer Olympics.

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In 2015 this “hot” mugshot went viral on Facebook. The man, Jeremy Meeks, became known as “sexy mugshot guy.” When he got out of jail, he became a model.

Stockton Police DepartmentJeremy Meeks’ mugshot went viral on Facebook.

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The “distracted boyfriend” meme was a stock photo also taken in 2015, but it didn’t go viral till 2017.

Antonio Guillem/ShutterstockThe ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme original stock photo.

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Banksy shocked the world in 2018 after his “Girl with Balloon” artwork shredded itself seconds after being sold. Now titled “Love in the Bin,” it is believed to be the first piece of art created during a live auction.

Pierre Koukjian via APA Banksy artwork self-destructing after being sold at auction for $US1.4 million.

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In 2019, the US Women’s National Team won the World Cup, and star player Megan Rapinoe’s victory pose went viral.

Elsa/Getty ImagesMegan Rapinoe after scoring a goal.

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Other photos also went viral because they captured an important moment in history, like this one. “The Situation Room” was taken in 2010 during the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound.

Photographer: Pete Souza (via Twitter/Obama)The ‘Situation Room’ picture was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza.

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This photo of the 2017 inauguration crowd sparked a lot of controversy around crowd size. It circled the internet on Inauguration Day and the days following.

Reuters/Lucas JacksonAttendees at the inauguration ceremonies to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US.

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Some of the defining photos from the past 10 years were deeply tragic. This photo shows Alan Kurdi, a Syrian child who drowned while fleeing war in his country in 2015.

ReutersAfter this photo of Alan Kurdi went viral, fundraising for refugees boosted.

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This photo shows a Syrian child hit by an airstrike 2016.

Mahmud Rslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesThe 5-year-old Syrian child Omran Daqneesh.

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From the US, this image shows the moment police led children from Sandy Hook Elementary during a mass shooting in 2012.

AP Photo/Newton Bee/Shannon HicksA police officer leads children from Sandy Hook Elementary.

Source: Time


The next year, this photo of a victim at the Boston Marathon bombing sent shockwaves around the world.

Charles Krupa/APA victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.

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Some photos represent movements. This image of Christine Ford being sworn in before testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 is a representation of the #MeToo movement that swept the nation in 2018.

Jim Bourg/ReutersChristine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying.

Source: Time


In 2019, Greta Thunberg became the face of climate-change activism. A lot of photos of her have gained popularity, but this side-by-side comparison led to a conspiracy theory that Thunberg is a time traveller.

Eric A. Hegg Photography/University of WashingtonThe 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and a photo from 1898 that resembles her.

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Some photos are iconic because they were scientific milestones, like this one, called “Blue Marble 2012.” It’s considered to be the highest-quality image of Earth.

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In 2019, scientists took the first picture of a supermassive black hole, something that had previously been deemed impossible to photograph.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration/Maunakea Observatories via APThe first photograph of a supermassive black hole.

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