The Most Iconic Propaganda Posters Of All Time
13th June 2017
Some of the most famous and memorable moments in history have been documented in the form of banners and propaganda posters. Whether it aims to sum up the mood of the people, push individual political campaigns or to call for change and reform, these images shout louder than any politician or activist possibly could.
Although the majority of these propaganda posters may now be plastered onto T-shirts of hipsters, these images once cited the darkest and most significant moments of the last hundred years. Whether the poster is documenting the mandate of a madman or providing hope to a generation seeking change, these examples have stood the test of time and perfectly capture the atmosphere of their era.
So, where to begin?
We Can Do It
The only place to start is in World War 2. Adolf Hitler and his master of public opinion, Joseph Goebbels, were the poster boys for wartime propaganda and highlighted the effectiveness of signs and banners. But it is their enemies of the time, The United States of America, that provided us with one of the most memorable pieces of great war art.
With the men taking to the front lines, the US government called upon the women back home to do their bit in the fight against the Third Reich. Designed by artist J. Howard Miller, the pin-up girl represents the strength and resolve that women were asked to display while a fight over Europe ensued. The legacy of this propaganda poster is still prevalent, having been used in by regional campaigners to help elect the likes of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.
Your Country Needs You
While on the topic of World Wars, the United Kingdom debatably provided the inspiration for the Nazi’s use of propaganda in the Great War’s sequel following the success of the Lord Kitchener poster. Urging men to enlist, the power and influence of the poster marched millions of people to recruitment offices to help win the war. Like the Miller poster mentioned before, this poster was copied by the US and the Soviet Union; a testament to the most iconic propaganda poster of the first World War.
Fast forward to the 60’s and to the Cuban revolution. A controversial marxist spearheads a movement to overthrow the corrupt government and replace it with the equally controversial Fidel Castro. The Argentine Che Guevara remains a cult figure, largely for his dogmatic approach and the dedication to his beliefs, and the passion of his commitment and desire for change radiates from this infamous headshot.
Translating to ‘heroic guerrilla fighter’, this photo taken by Alberto Korda, was subsequently turned into a poster symbolic of freedom and a universal fight against totalitarianism. In the words of Korda, the photo represents ‘absolute implacability’, and no matter how many doubters Guevara may have had, the relevance and importance of Guevara can never be disputed.
Arguably the most significant and influential President of all time, Barack Obama was a symbol of hope for the poor and the young.
As the first black President of the United States, Obama was a walking symbol of progression for racial inequality and cultural oppression, and his legalisation of gay marriage towards the end of his 8-year tenure was the keystone of his work in cultural acceptance in a historically bigoted nation.
Although initially designed as one of the propaganda posters for his campaign in 2008, this poster remains an emblem for Obama’s legacy and the work he did which helped drag America out of the dark ages of homophobia and racial intolerance. In the current political landscape, the world may look towards this poster for inspiration in an unnerving and troubling time.
Obama was the face of progression, yet his successor is seen by his critics as the face of regression and the founder of this unnerving and troubling time. With an apparent gripe towards all the work Obama fought for, Trump’s anti-Obama manifesto culminated in the most controversial election of all time.
A blatant reference to the iconic ‘Hope’ banner, as one of the most satirical propaganda posters, this image translates the attitude of the majority of young Americans towards their newly elected commander in chief. Having faced severe criticism from the outset of his reign, this poster captures the general feeling surrounding President Trump; a complete contrast to the hope Obama brought America in 2008.