The world is marking the centennial of one of history's towering figures. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born 100 years ago, on July 18, 1918, in a small village on the eastern cape of South Africa.

The man known as "Madiba" would go on to lead the struggle against Apartheid, before being sentenced to life in prison in 1964, on charges of treason and conspiracy. Mandela would wind up spending 27 years at Victor Verster Prison as his writings and the cause of black South Africans slowly began to spread around the world. Mandela's release on Feb. 11, 1990 was one of the great moments of the 20th century, paving the way for the end of Apartheid, national reconciliation and Mandela's election as South African president.

Mandela's Walk to Freedom — © Allan Tannenbaum / OneShot

The moment was captured most powerfully by New York-based photographer Allan Tannenbaum. A veteran war photographer who had covered earlier uprisings in South African townships, got the call from his Sygma agency to cover Mandela's release for TIME magazine.

Tannenbaum — who is otherwise best known for capturing the downtown New York City music scene in the late 1960s and 1970s — knew that following Mandela's release was a chance to witness history. Of course, he would hardly be the only photographer there; but with a quick eye, steady hand and a bit of luck, he walked away with the iconic shot.

See the OneShot video above for Tannenbaum's memory of that day.


OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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