The world’s best photojournalists this year turned their lenses on glory and gore; on hope and despair; and more than in recent memory, on voters determined to enact change.
What’s changed since this time last year? Britain is leaving the European Union, and no one is quite sure what comes next. U.S. President Barack Obama is leaving the White House, clearing a path for Donald Trump. Refugees continue to flee war zones, risking life and limb for a future that is at best uncertain.
Some images here will bring a tear to your eye; a few will make you smile. You’ll see some that could double as fine art, if the circumstances under which they were made weren’t so tragic and life-changing. This selection, much like life in 2016, is a mixed bag.
I’ll close with the same disclaimer we ran last year: This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at the year, nor a judgment about which stories were most important (though many here certainly were). This is a curated selection of the 41 photographs that I felt had the most impact.
In the low-income neighborhood of Petare in Caracas, Venezuela, penitents and pilgrims gravitate toward a cross during the procession for the Passion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.
In a plenary session in Pristina, Kosovo, in February, lawmakers in the foreground raise hands to vote as opposition lawmakers throw tear gas and don gas masks. As Albin Kurti, the opposition leader, told POLITICO, “quiet protests lead nowhere.”
It’s difficult to imagine a more perfectly composed photograph made under more difficult circumstances. Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici was attending a photo exhibition in Istanbul the evening of December 19 when a man in a suit — now identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas — calmly drew a gun and shot Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Shouting “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!,” Altintas fatally shot Karlov in front of stunned onlookers before himself being shot by police. Ozbilici made this image, and dozens more, that is so sharp it almost looks staged. It isn’t — it is the result of a trained journalist recording the news. As he said, it was pure instinct. “This is what I was thinking: ‘I’m here. Even if I get hit and injured, or killed, I’m a journalist. I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos … But I wouldn’t have a proper answer if people later ask me: ‘Why didn’t you take pictures?’”
Just five months after terrorist attacks rocked Paris, it was Brussels’ turn. On the morning of March 22, two bombs ripped through Zaventem airport. Shortly thereafter (when some of us were frantically trying to make it to the office), a bomb went off in the Maalbeek Metro station in the European Quarter. This photo, shot by Georgian journalist Ketevan Kardava, was made with a phone after she was knocked to the floor by the blast at the airport.
Two days later, as news of the attacks rippled through Europe, three young refugees posed with signs at a makeshift camp along the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni.
Repositioning the globe to South America, and from one tragedy to another: As Brazil prepared for the Olympics, the Zika crisis deepened. Here, Jackeline, 26, holds up her four-month-old son Daniel, who was born with microcephaly.
The Olympic Games — despite growing concern over infrastructure, water quality and Zika, among other things — went off, largely without a hitch (unless you consider Ryan Lochte’s false robbery claim a hitch, as the U.S. Olympic Committee surely does.) Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won three gold medals to cap his international career. The frame above, by Reuters’ Kai Pfaffenbach, is strikingly similar to one by Getty Images’ Cameron Spencer, so much so that the two were often mistaken for each other. Though different (same method — a tenth-of-a-second difference in shutter speed), each shows two things clearly: that Bolt had no real competitor, and that he is a true showman, always aware of the lens.
Back in Europe, a refugee in a camp near Idomeni, Greece, takes a decidedly more lonesome path in the middle of these train tracks.
One image seen round the world last year was the heartbreaking photograph of a drowned Syrian boy, washed up on the Turkish shore. This year, the most iconic depiction of the refugee crisis was Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old loaded into the back of an ambulance in Aleppo. It was hard to look away: a small child, dropped into a large seat, covered in dust, bruises and a bit of blood. But no tears. He stared straight at the camera, seemingly in shock. And then he rubbed the side of his face, and the camera went elsewhere. Omran was released from hospital into his parents’ care a few hours later. Unfortunately, his 10-year-old brother Ali was not so lucky. He died from injuries sustained in the airstrike.
AFP photographer Aris Messinis spent days aboard a boat operated by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms in the Mediterranean Sea in October. He and the boat’s crew encountered dozens of boats and thousands of refugees. Some 12 nautical miles north of Libya, they came across a mass of migrants holding aloft a young child, as a beacon for rescuers.
As the crew urged migrants off the boat, Messinis came upon a truly horrific scene, which he recounted later for The New York Times in a piece called “Stepping over the dead.”
And back in Aleppo, it’s scenes like this that have driven so many to take risks like those shown above. Syrian men carrying babies made their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a September air strike in the rebel-held Salihin neighborhood.
And as images of families trying to escape Aleppo began making the rounds earlier this month, came this: Pro-government forces stopped to take a selfie in the courtyard of the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city.
The heaving masses, in this case, came together for good. Members of the “Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls” team press together to form a human tower in Tarragona, Spain.
It’s increasingly rare to find such a fresh voice in photography, so naturally able to capture a mood, a state of being. Enter Nico Young, a high school student in Santa Monica, California. As the story goes, Young’s photography teacher emailed some of his work to Kathy Ryan, director of photography for the New York Times Magazine and one of the foremost authorities on visual storytelling. A month later, he had his first assignment for the magazine: to document the life of a high schooler and those around him. The result — a remarkable photo essay that feels as much if not more like high school than actually walking through the halls — landed this photo of Young’s on the cover of the magazine.
As complete a body of work as “Inside Santa Monica High” is, what’s extraordinary is the depth of Young’s portfolio. Spend some time with “Fraternal Twins,” an insightful journey on which the photographer examines his relationship with a pair of twins — friends of his who run in different circles. Be sure to make it all the way to the end. Comparing Young’s thoughts on Dylan and Max from before the project started to his impressions at its conclusion shows that it’s not just his photographic eye that is wise beyond his years.
In Haiti, the calm before the storm created an image worthy of a gallery wall as clouds enveloped the tightly-packed houses of Port-au-Prince ahead of Hurricane Matthew. The Category 5 storm claimed more than 500 lives in Haiti before it swirled to the north.
Back in the United Kingdom, the disaster enveloping David Cameron in June came at the hands of Leave campaigners, as Great Britain voted for Brexit, dealing a losing hand to the prime minister. Here, it’s hard to take your eyes off the Cameron family as its patriarch announces his resignation the day after the vote. From left, we see daughters Nancy Gwen and Florence Rose Endellion, Cameron’s wife Samantha, and his son Arthur Elwen.
And then there was Donald Trump. Here, Secret Service agents await his arrival at the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland.
In July, the future looked so bright for Hillary Clinton. Here, in what Time Magazine called “The Happiest Photo of Hillary Clinton,” the former senator was indeed overjoyed at becoming the first female presidential candidate for a major party at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, is shown at left.
And before we dig deep into the U.S. presidential race, an image that gave all of America some hope, however briefly, that unity and good will might prevail, regardless of the election’s result. First Lady Michelle Obama embraces former President George W. Bush, as Bush’s wife and Obama’s husband look on at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Worth noting: This appearance came during peak campaigning in late September.)
And then there’s this guy. In a shocking upset to pollsters and politicos, Donald Trump pulled off a victory on Election Day. Regularly deriding the press in person and from his Twitter account, Trump’s influence is seen here in the face — and on the head and fingers — of a supporter at his victory party in Manhattan.
And here, then, is the current president and America’s president-elect, in the Oval Office. It’s difficult not to read into the expressions captured here. And that can perhaps be done in any number of ways. So we’ll just leave you with this one to interpret as you see fit.
Now, to the art world! A staff member examines one of the Turner Prize nominees at Tate Britain in September. The… installation… is titled “Project for a Door,” by the British artist Anthea Hamilton. It did not win the Turner Prize. But it did win our hearts. Or something.
Here is an image that has been a long time coming for many Cuban-Americans. (And Cubans. And Americans.) That’s Air Force One on approach to the Havana airport. An agreement brokered in late 2014, now referred to as the “Cuban thaw,” relaxes travel and banking restrictions and establishes an American embassy in Havana. In March, after this plane landed, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to step foot on Cuban soil in 88 years.
Back home, though, relations between African-Americans and police forces continued to be strained. On July 5, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed a 37-year-old black man named Alton Sterling. On July 6, Black Lives Matter demonstrators held a candlelight vigil in the city and on July 7 in Dallas (and in many cities across the country), a protest against police — peaceful up until that point — ended when one man ambushed police officers, killing five and wounding seven more. The next night, hundreds more demonstrations sprung up around the country, including in Phoenix, Arizona, where the image above was captured.
And if one photograph has come to symbolize that movement, it is this one by Jonathan Bachman of a single, peaceful protester standing her ground in Baton Rouge on July 9. As Donald R. Winslow, a former Reuters photo editor, said in a post examining the impact of the photograph: “The body language says it all. They are combatants. She is femininity. They are prepared for brutality. She embodies serenity.”
And even an image that captures brute force can, too, somehow reflect serenity. Here, the British diver Tom Daley makes impact with the water during the 10-meter semifinals in Rio de Janeiro. Though Daley and partner Dan Goodfellow won bronze in the synchronized 10-meter event, Daley failed to make it out of the semifinals of the solo competition, finishing 18th.
Turning to Asia, few world leaders have made as many headlines as Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial president of the Philippines. The former mayor of Davao City was elected on an anti-crime platform, which is to say he pledged to kill tens of thousands of criminals, with special attention paid to drug offenders. After taking his oath, he addressed a small crowd. “These sons of whores are destroying our children … If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” His crackdown is having a profound effect on the nation, as you’ll see here. Above, men jockey for sleeping positions in a jail built six decades ago to house 800 people. Its population has swelled to more than 3,800.
And this is a scene all too familiar to Filipinos — one so spectacualar in composition and lighting, it even looks cinematic. But this is real. Frederick Mafe, 48, and Arjay Lumbago, 23, were riding together on a motorbike when they were shot dead by another pair on a motorbike in Quezon City. Since Duterte took office, more than 2,000 people have been killed at the hands of the police.
In Manila, six-year-old Jimji cries out for “Papa!” as her father, Jimboy Bolasa, 25, is moved in preparation for burial. Bolasa was found murdered alongside his neighbor in October. It’s worth spending some time with Daniel Berehulak’s chilling body of work for the Times on this topic: “They are slaughtering us like animals.” Duterte has called the coverage “totally one-sided,” according to a follow-up from the Times, which of course stands by the work of its two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist on the ground there.
This is a place where there’s a little more room to spin completely out of control: the Gobi Desert, as part of the Silkway Rally, which took 130 competitors on a 10,734-kilometer journey from Moscow to Beijing.
Here, Paolo Pellegrin takes us inside an ISIL prison in Fallujah. The chain is for suspending prisoners during torture sessions.
This image may not be the most striking you’ll see here, at least initially. But give a read to photojournalist Bryan Denton’s harrowing account of watching car bomb after car bomb careen toward his unit’s convoy in Bartella — “ISIS Sent Four Car Bombs. The Last One Hit Me.” — and then re-examine.
Which is meant to camouflage the other? A young boy peeks through a cloth backdrop to try and get a glimpse of Donald Trump as he arrived backstage for a rally with sportsmen in Walterboro, South Carolina.
On a Friday night in July, the news alerts seemed to catch everyone off guard: A coup in Turkey? Indeed. Though it didn’t last long, and was ultimately unsuccessful, it claimed more than 300 lives. More than 2,100 were injured and the arrests following its conclusion numbered in the tens of thousands. In the image above, soldiers involved in the coup attempt surrender on the Bosphorous bridge in Istanbul.
In an image as stark and sudden as the coup itself, supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gather in Taksim Square as soldiers surround the Atatürk monument.
The ground shook in Italy in late August, and after the tremors stopped, the Lazio mountain village of Amatrice mostly disappeared. Here, a rescue worker walks through the rubble a week after the earthquake.
This is one of those photos that you can spend some time with. And in a year like this, it’s nice to see a look of pure joy on someone’s face — especially in Ukraine. What you’re seeing here is the rest period following “Pillow Battle 2016,” an organized pillow fight in downtown Kiev.
Over the summer, terrorism reared its destructive head back in France. As Bastille Day celebrations wrapped up in Nice, a white cargo truck barrelled down the road, mowing down hundreds of people (86 died) before the driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France, was stopped in a gun battle with authorities.
In October, the thousands of refugees camped out in Calais were informed they’d need to find a new home, however temporary. The thousands of people living in the “Jungle” were bussed out to 450 reception centers across the country and on the third day of its evacuation, tents and shacks were set ablaze, above.
Prince George may not have nailed international diplomacy (watch him rebuff Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt at a handshake here), but he certainly seems to have the royal-on-holiday wardrobe down pat.
And it seems appropriate to wind up a look back at this year with an image that seems to capture the mixed emotions of so many of the world’s citizens: worry, uncertainty, vulnerability … and a faint glimmer of hope.Disclaimer: All information, data and material contained, presented, or provided on EyeOpening.info is for educational purposes only. It is not to be construed or intended as providing medical or legal advice. Decisions you make about your family's healthcare are important and should be made in consultation with a competent medical professional. We are not physicians and do not claim to be. Any views expressed here-in are not necessarily those held by EyeOpening.info