According to a recent, rigorously semi-scientific study conducted by a London hotel, the Eiffel Tower is the world’s top tourist attraction . . . on Instagram. More than 975,000 pictures have been uploaded to the photo-sharing site using the tower’s name as a hashtag. (Times Square and London’s Big Ben were a rather distant second and third.) All of which is strikingly relevant in light of the fact that, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s opening in 1889, LIFE.com asked Instagram users to submit their own favorite personal photos of the tower, via #EiffelTowerLIFE.
After sorting through, and thoroughly enjoying, hundreds of pictures submitted by Instagram users all over the globe, LIFE.com presents the photo that, to our eyes, best captures the spirit of the Eiffel Tower and the grand, graceful monument’s indefinable place in the Parisian landscape — as well as a few excellent Honorable Mentions.
THE WINNER (See gallery above)
Luís Barreira, a teacher and visual artist in Lisbon, Portugal
Many of the #EiffelTowerLIFE photos were lovely. Many of them felt romantic. Many of them were clearly taken by people who adore both Paris and the city’s most powerful emblem. But Luís Barreira’s picture of a skateboarder in mid-flight — with the Eiffel Tower beautiful and ghost-like in the background — celebrates the famous landmark in a way that feels utterly contemporary. It’s a wonderful photograph, filled with energy and perfectly poised — with the skateboarder’s arms outspread, like wings, and every element drawing the eye up, up, to the distant tip of the great tower itself. Simply put, it’s the picture we liked best.
Follow Luis on Instagram @ lcbphotos
HONORABLE MENTIONS (See gallery above)
Pascaline Jay, a native of Montpelier, France, who now lives and teaches in Oslo, Norway
One of the very few photographs submitted, and by far the best, that provides a sense of what it’s like to really experience the Eiffel Tower, rather than merely gaze upon it.
Follow Pascaline on Instagram @ paqui2fr
Claire Guigal, an art director and graphic designer in Paris
Countless photographs have been made of the Eiffel Tower in dreary weather, and no wonder: something about glimpsing the great, familiar structure through mist, snow or fog adds to its air of romance. This dreamlike picture does that, as well, while also harking back to the very earliest portraits of the Tower — especially those taken when it was being built so many years ago.
Follow Claire on Instagram @ claireguigal
Martin Kodera, an airline flight dispatcher in Prague, Czech Republic
This is one of those photos that makes you smile, because it’s so unexpected. Then you find that you’re still looking at it, finding new details in it, long after a merely amusing photo would have grown stale. Structurally, it’s as simple as it is strong, while bringing a wholly fresh perspective to one of the globe’s most familiar landmarks.
Follow Martin on Instagram @ dj_cody
Congratulations to Luis, Pascaline, Claire and Martin. And to the hundreds of Instagram users everywhere who submitted pictures — our very sincere thanks for taking part, and for sharing your photos.