No one person or one group owns photography. Photography is created and consumed by millions, if not billions of people everyday. By professionals, amateurs and everyone in between. Photos can be serious or silly. They can empower or be used as a weapon. Photographers are beaten, vilified, taken advantage of – and yet we continue to pick up the camera to make pictures. We can’t help ourselves. The stories and people behind each photo bring an even greater depth to the visual medium. For all these reasons, I love photography. This year, like those in the past (2012, 2013, 2014), I’ve come up with a few reasons to love photography. What are yours?
David Burnett covers the hometown
It is almost a truism of photographers to believe that they must travel to far flung locales to take a meaningful or important photo. David Burnett’s wife challenged him to think local in their small town of Newburgh, NY. Along with members of Photographers for Hope, an organization he helped found, Burnett spent several days covering the people, places and events that make every town interesting and unique. Patricia Goldschmid captured a lovely photo of a little boy opening the door for his sister on her quinceñera.
Yunghi Kim pays forward $10,000 to photographers
Skeptics emerged when Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced their intention to give away 99% of their wealth within their lifetime, so it’s no surprise that cynics found time to criticize Yunghi Kim when she announced ten $1000 grants for photographers. Using money she collected from copyright infringements, she encouraged members of a private Facebook group for freelance photographers to write a brief essay on how they might use the money. You can criticize her old school mentality, but Kim invested her own money into photographers at a time when hardly anyone else is.
Photographers become activists
“Don’t become a part of the story” is a long-held mantra for photojournalists. Yet, for some photographers, activism is the best way to combat the injustices they encounter. And for an even more select group, creating a foundation is the best way to leverage photography and a social cause. Photographer Nick Brandt worked with Kenyan conservationist Richard Bonham to create Big Life, which combats illegal poaching.
And Stephanie Sinclair created Too Young to Wed to combat child marriage following her long term work on the topic. “My goal is to end child marriage and protect girls’ rights using every skill I have – from telling these girls’ stories to providing for them on the ground when needed.”
This photographer just defended the First Amendment for you
The cauldron of American race relations boiled over again at the University of Missouri where graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike to protest the school’s insufficient response to racial incidents on campus. Well-intentioned students tried to block reporters from covering a self-proclaimed “safe space” and that’s when photographer Tim Tai tried to do his job on assignment for ESPN while giving out a free civics lesson. Despite being shoved and intimidated, Tai kept his cool, and captured the scene like a pro.
Model quits instagram
Tired of the inauthenticity of her social media success, model Essena O’Neill quit Instagram with a moving explanation of her objection to the promotion of a “dishonest and contrived” sense of beauty. We’ll “like” that.
Half & half
A couple separated by thousands of miles decided to use the photography collage as a way to create an interconnectedness that knows no boundaries. Artists Li Seok and Danbi Shin share common experiences within the different cultures of Seoul and New York City. This photo shows them gazing at one another from Washington Square Park (NYC) and the Triumphal Arch (Seoul) – same angle, same distance, same focal length, but 6800 miles away.
The New York Times finds new ways to show photography
The web gallery has been the de facto display mechanism for viewing photos online, but it can feel disconnected from the story it illustrates. The New York Times created two stellar mechanism to view photos in a completely different light. “The Wait” uses a massive horizontal scroll to display Hilary Swift’s collaged photos and contextual stories. Tomas Munita’s “A Walk Through Gaza” interactively walks the viewer through a war zone and gives a sense of place that the traditional essay does not.
Alan McFadyen waits for the perfect shot
Birders share an obsession that seems foreign to the average person. Similarly, it’s hard to understand what compelled Alan McFadyen to take 720,000 photos of a kingfisher to get the perfect shot, but we’re glad he did. Six years after his first attempt he captured the bird’s beak just piercing the surface of the water. When he’s not photographing, McFadyen rents wildlife photography hides, which means he might even show you how to get your own kingfisher photo.
It’s like My Super Sweet 16 for cats
They say that cats can affect human behavior, and perhaps this is what caused pet photographer Kira Stackhouse to celebrate her cat’s quinceñera. But it looks like the cat Ponette had a lovely time in her dress and tiara, and Stackhouse has the cute photos to prove it.
You can’t Trump this photo
The presidential election season is upon us, and Donald Trump is still leading the polls and generating an obsessive interest from his supporters. Tallahassee-based Mark Wallheiser attended a rally in Alabama and captured an amazing photo that caused Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly to tweet “Whoever took this photo should win a Pulitzer, a Peabody, an Emmy and a free trip to my heart.” We couldn’t agree more.
HONY raises $2m
Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton has been criticized for his photography, caption editing and questionable ethics, but it’s hard to criticize his humanitarian efforts. After raising $1m earlier in the year for a Brooklyn school, Stanton helped raise over $2m through an IndieGoGo campaign to help activist Syeda Ghulam Fatima end bonded labor in Pakistan. His efforts this year alone arguably make Stanton the most influential and important humanitarian photographer today.
Fainting bridesmaids and slipping photographers
Weddings are a microcosm of life. In one corner, a couple is falling in love, in another, a couple is falling out of love. And when the camera is there to capture it all, weddings can provide a photographic canvas like no other. Sean Cook captured a humorous photo of a fainting bridesmaid in a glorious, late afternoon light (she was ok).
An illuminating look at endangered animals on the Empire State Building
Trying to figure out a way to draw a lot of attention to the plight of endangered species? Louis Psihoyos and Travis Threlkel used 40 projectors to cast some of Joel Sartore’s images on the side of the Empire State Building. Empire State Realty Trust Chairman and CEO Anthony E. Malkin told The New York Times, “The concept of incorporating art into the urban fabric and making a social statement is wonderful.”
Bad Photo Contract? Shake it Off!
Taylor Swift came under fire from photographers for onerous contract demands during her 1989 Tour including forcibly removing images from a camera. The NPPA’s Mickey Osterreicher said, “After taking time to hear our concerns regarding her world tour photography guidelines agreement, the news and professional associations and Taylor’s team are pleased to have been able to work together for a revised agreement that is fair to everyone involved.”
The weather never looked so good
Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite doubles the resolution of previous satellites while tripling the number of photos – one every ten minutes – of the entire planet every day. The result is a spectacular high resolution view of The Blue Marble.
Laurent Cipriani gets sidelined at the Tour de France
“Peak action” is the usual definition of a great sports photo, but Laurent Cipriani begs to differ. Instead of focusing on the competitors, Cipriani turned his camera at the spectators and captured a quirky world where a disaffected teen stands next to her parents and snorkel-clad brother in the Alps.
Forget the dog house, put them in a photo booth
The Human Society of Utah bolstered its adoption efforts by setting up a photo booth for some of the animals in its care. Photographer Guinnevere Shuster figured the photo booth approach would better show off a dog’s personality, and the results speak for themselves. 93% of the animals have found new homes.
You might wanna have someone take a look at that
Instagram might be great to share your food and travel photos, but when you’re a doctor you need something more specialized. The Figure 1 app is Instagram for doctors created by critical care physician Joshua Landy, and has become something of a crowdsourcing mechanism for doctors to solicit each other’s expertise.
My iPhone photos don’t look like ads
If there’s one thing Apple understands, it’s photography. In fact they built a whole ad campaign around the picture taking capabilities of the iPhone. But not every iPhone photo is a masterpiece as evidenced by a Tumblr parody account titled “Also Shot on an iPhone” which features more of the images you might find on my iPhone.
Software engineer turns oldNYC into something new
What good are old photos if you can’t easily find them. Software engineer Dan Vanderkam mashed up data from 40,000 photos from the New York Public Library to create an interactive (and fun!) website called oldNYC to peruse a trove of photos from old New York.
Gabriela Hermans’ “The Kids”
The best stories are the most personal. Photographer Gabriela Herman struggled with her mother’s coming out in high school, and tried to hide the truth from her classmates and friends. A decade later, she turned her camera on the children of LGBT parents in a moving series entitled “The Kids.” Beautiful photos paired with stories of struggle and acceptance in one of the year’s most poignant essays.
Can a single photo change the direction of a humanitarian crisis?
Nilufer Demir’s photo of the body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down in the sand caused shockwaves around the world, and hit home for many parents. Sadly, the game of politics and fear mongering have done little to solve the plight of Syrian refugees.
Baseball cards of photographers
Why should athletes and Star Wars characters have all the fun? In the 1970s, San Francisco Art Institute graduate student Mike Mandel photographed over 100 photographers (including Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, and William Eggleston) and turned them into baseball cards complete with authentic gum from the Topps trading card company. The collector’s items have been newly reissued in a set called “Good 70s.”
Meta data to the rescue?
EXIF meta data usually takes a back seat to the image it describes. But in the case of Robert Stolarik, meta data proved crucial in the conviction of NYPD officer Michael Ackermann, who falsified a police report claiming that Stolarik had repeatedly discharged a flash in his face while covering the arrest of a teenage girl. The EXIF data told a different story, and in fact, Stolarik’s camera didn’t have a flash at all.
Raphael Corman’s tragic photos of an opium addicted village
On the border between India and Burma sits Longwa, a village that has been caught in the opium trade for nearly three quarters of a century. The former headhunting Konyac people are caught in a death spiral of opium addiction where men smoke from dawn to dusk, and women are the only thing holding the fragile social fabric together. Raphael Corman spent three weeks documenting the slow motion crash.
Politicians with man buns
@FigDrewton started it by posting a composited photo of Donald Trump in a man bun. The viral success inspired the DesignCrowd website to hold a contest to photoshop world leaders with the oft-mocked man bun. We think Joe Biden should consider anncran8’s styling suggestion.
A city of 8.4 million witnessed a beauty of a sunset in late November. In the minute of fleeting light, camera phones captured the spectacular, and social media helped converge photography and culture. In a city with a myriad of distractions, New Yorkers showed an appreciation for the simplicity of nature.
— Gary Hershorn (@GaryHershorn) November 22, 2015
Caleb Cain Marcus charts the Ganges
The Ganges is to India as the Mississippi is to America, except so much more. The spiritual lifeblood of much of the country covers over 1,500 miles through the northern part of the country and was a source of fascination for photographer Caleb Cain Marcus who spent much of 2013 documenting life on the river. The resulting tome, entitled “Goddess,” features photos reminiscent of Massimo Vitali’s Italy with an airiness that echoes the mystic qualities of the river.
Florian Pagano’s church ceilings
While on his honeymoon in Rome, Florian Pagano pointed his camera up to the ceilings of various churches. Using HDR, he captured a level of detail and clarity rarely seen in the darkened spaces of medieval architecture like this fabulous photo of Chiesa del Gesù.
“Why do gingers have to be put down so much?” asks Mikey Kittrell on an infamous 2010 YouTube video. But in 2015, redheads are having a moment – at least judging by the number of incredible photo series we’re seeing.
Kieran Dodds took to the studio to capture perfectly lit portraits in a series called “Gingers.”
And using only nature light and a manual focus lens, Alexandra Bochkareva captured mesmerizing portraits of redheads and freckled girls.
Ricoh saves photos
What if increasing shareholder value wasn’t the sole mantra of a company’s mission? In the wake of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami, Ricoh created the “Save the Memories” campaign to find, restore, digitize and ultimately return 90,000 photos to residents.
A Stormtrooper’s Day Off
With another trilogy of Star Wars movies on the horizon, you can bet that stormtroopers are pretty busy. But in their off-time, they’re just like us, or so we’re led to believe in Jorge Pérez Higuera’s series The Other Side.
Sigma stays independent
If the rumors are true, lens manufacturer Sigma rebuffed overtures from Canon to purchase the company. At a time when corporate mergers destroy competition and innovation – usually at the expense of consumers – we were glad to see Sigma stick to its guns while continuing to produce some of the world’s best lenses.
Mariela Sancari’s Moises
Time magazine asked 35 photo experts for their recommendation of Book of the Year, and one book kept coming to the forefront. Mariela Sancari’s Moises explores the photographer’s curiosity surrounding her father’s death. As publisher Erik Kessel told Time, “To find closure, Mariela placed a classified ad featuring an old portrait of her father. She asked men of her dad’s age to study the image and contact her should they see a resemblance. Despite the unusual nature of the request, she got the help she needed.” The unusual book design peels open like an onion revealing layers of complexity and nuance.
It’s all in the hands
Sure, the face is expressive, but hands tell an equally interesting story of a person’s life. Christopher Griffith photographed the hands of shoe shiners – artfully lit and with a level of detail that reveals every skin ridge and every bit of grime.
Steven Lippman’s Photos Make Me Want to Exercise
On assignment for Women’s Health magazine, Steve Lippman traveled to Hawaii to photograph a fitness model in and out of the water with a sun-soaked, color saturated look that could coax the laziest of couch potatoes.
Times are a changin for portrayals of women
First, Playboy announced that they would no longer feature nude women in their magazine. Then echoing the work of Steve McCurry, Annie Leibovitz photographed the Pirelli calendar using fully-clad (except for Amy Schumer who missed the memo), accomplished professionals (instead of models).
Since the decline of film, Leica has become less of a tool for the hardcore photojournalist and more of a shelf curiosity for the rich. Case in point, the Lenny Kravitz “Correspondent” edition camera with intentionally aged, patina brass detail. But without warning, Leica introduced an incredible full-frame compact that has received rave reviews from photographers who have endured back-order lines of months to get their hands on the 28mm f/1.7 beauty of a camera.
And then there was Light
Speaking of cameras, Light.co decided to reinvent the camera using 16 lenses and a ton of computational processing because software is the future of photography. No one has actually reviewed the camera yet, so who knows whether the reality will meet the dream, but we’re glad to see people aggressively pushing camera technology forward.
Yes, you are seeing double
Dylan Coulter is well-known for his stroboscopic, multiple exposure technique, which he typically uses to capture the grace and skill of athletes. But Entertainment Weekly had different ideas and commissioned him to capture the cast of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The photos that grace the collectible covers added a feeling of dynamism that a single exposure could not.
Peter Hapak took a different approach when compositing photos for Variety. By mixing the scale of his subjects, Hapak created multiple areas of visual interest.
Devin Allen captures his neighborhood (and a TIME cover)
During the infancy of protests in Baltimore surrounding the homicide of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, resident Devin Allen took to the streets armed with only a camera and an Instagram account. Not content to only show click-bait style images of destruction, Allen captured a nuanced portrait of a city struggling with fractured race relations and a mistrust of the police. As he told Time Lightbox, “My city kind of has a bad rap, but I thought if we can come together peacefully, it [would] be epic for this city, and it was my goal to capture that.”
A dog dressed as a man was featured in the NYT
When illustrating men’s fashion, it’s typical to use, well, men. This was not the case for The New York Times’ Men’s Style section. In featuring Summer looks, the Times hired David Fung and Yena Kim, the owners of Bodhi, the Menswear Dog – one of many pets who have attained viral fame. But who can complain, Bodhi looks dapper and has less attitude than the typical model.
As if you needed more proof that Instagram was a “thing,” Getty created three $10,000 grants for photographers. But the purpose of the contest isn’t slapping on the Earlybird filter to a food photo. The competition is specifically to document stories “from underrepresented communities around the world.”
Photography empowers the disenfranchised
What could be more uplifting than to use photography for social good – empowering the powerless and disenfranchised. Advertising copyright Brandon Crockett approached photographer Sandro Miller with an idea to pair a portrait of a halfway house resident with a poem they had written (Crockett volunteers his time to teach a poetry class there). “Finding Freedom” is the book the resulted from the project. Miller told the Huffington Post, “Several times I was moved to tears as in front of my camera sat a person, with heart, feelings and an undeniable need for understanding. I wanted to save them, hold them and listen to them. Instead they saved me with their words of life, broken dreams, new dreams, uplifting dreams and dreams of a new beginning.”
Shehab Uddin went to Dhaka, Bangladesh to photograph different families in impoverished areas, and had them help select images that would be displayed in their neighborhoods. He went so far as to live with three families to more fully immerse himself and tell an accurate story. As the Times reported “Mr. Uddin believes that Western media and nongovernmental organizations too often wrongly portray impoverished people as monolithic. That approach may evoke sympathy and open wallets. But he said they also need more: social support and education.”
Nachtwey receives lifetime achievement
Famed documentary and war photographer, James Nachtwey, received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. In ending his acceptance speech, Nachtwey stated, “So, I want to take this moment to thank all of you…for knowing that every story does not have to sell something, there’s also a time to give.”