I once heard someone say that “a photograph can elicit a thousand tears quicker than any artistic medium known to man”. I subscribe to this thinking. A book may move you to tears, a movie may choke you up, a song may get you teary eyed and a painting might give you the sniffles, but a photograph has an instant emotional impact. It’s real. In many cases, it showcases something that was once tangible like a relative or place. The emotions conjured up by the realization that the person you are looking at in the picture is no longer with you or the memories that come  forth when you see pictures of a place you’ve been in your past are all showcased in a photograph. The fact that a single photo can erupt such powerful feelings is amazing.

Included in the emotional weight of a photograph is the art of the medium. A good photograph in undeniably beautiful, sometimes even in the most bitter ways. The world’s best photographers freeze time for us with chilling dramatics all with the click of the shutter. The best photographs aren’t necessarily the most difficult, but instead the most gracious.

MNBC has a great collection of 59 of the most powerful, beautiful, captivating photographs of the decade. Some are triumphant, some are shocking, and some are saddening but they are all worth seeing. Click on the photo to head to the slideshow.