This year has brought new challenges, new adventures (even if they were spent at home), new things to be grateful for and a new outlook on the year ahead. In 2020, we’ve also seen incredible examples of unity and togetherness, despite so many of us being forced to remain apart. It’s also been a year of celebrating the small moments and grieving over the larger ones that impacted us most.
Now more than ever, it’s important to honor the power and impact of visual storytelling.
We asked our photo community to reflect on the past 12 months, look through their portfolios and tell their story of 2020 with just one photo.
What moments did you document this year? How did your photography change? What’s that one photo and one story that means a lot to you?
Check out some of these moments below and follow us on Instagram to see the rest of this year’s featured photos. If you’d like to get involved, use the hashtag #OnePhoto2020 when sharing your photos on Twitter and Instagram for a chance to be featured on our social channels.
Cover photo by Eric Sucar
“2020 has been a very tough and challenging for the photographers around the world including commercial, wedding, advertising, fashion, landscape, travel and documentary photographers.
As a travel and documentary photographer, there is no chance of creating new stories and travel images due to world travel restrictions by the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic almost destroyed all of my travel plans including photo tours in 2020. It’s been difficult to survive throughout the year. Luckily, I traveled in the earlier months of 2020 and have good images to share.
Looking back through my favorite images taken in 2020, I found this image which I’m most proud of among them. I have won two Grand Prizes with this powerful image ‘The Game of Jumps’ in The Whalebone Photo Contest and Spotlight Award 2020. I love this image because of the powerful moment and joyfulness of the novices who are just playful kids.
The photo was taken at the Hsinbyume pagoda which is a large pagoda located on the northern side of Mingun in the Sagaing Region in Myanmar, on the western bank of Irrawaddy River.”
“When we locked down in Texas during the first coronavirus wave in March and April, my hometown of Austin – also known as ‘Fit City’ – was in a bit of a bind. Gyms and other fitness studios were shuttered, and even our hike and bike trails and green belts were closed for a while.
With not a whole lot else to do, and looking for a way to keep myself sane and my work fresh during such a crazy time, I took to wandering around my neighborhood and documenting the way folks in it were finding innovative ways to keep in shape during the pandemic.”
“This was shot on the day that the memorial service for John Lewis happened in Atlanta. I was at the mural to do a portrait of someone in front of it for a story I was working on, having forgot that the memorial service was that day. Several people asked if I would mind photographing them as well, and that is how I ended up making this image. I understand that John Lewis is beloved the world over, but words cannot describe what he meant to the people of Atlanta.”
“To me this photo combines a premonition of 2020 life vortex and shows a very social moment in the year when it became nearly impossible to maintain the closest contact (including my husband who is still recovering from COVID), but also is a symbol of freedom we still had in January this year.”
The day the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners played on Mars.
“With sports pressing on through a pandemic, the Seattle Mariners played the San Francisco Giants while their surroundings burned. The smell of smoke permeated the air leading up to first pitch, as chunks of ash fell. As I was shooting, I thought that this tells the story of the 2020 baseball season, which was so much bigger than what happened on the field: a pandemic, empty stadiums, political unrest, racial injustices, demonstrations and players striking for their voices to be heard.”
“After weeks of separation due to travel circumstances related to COVID-19, and my impossibility to return from the end of the world as the world was shutting down and all countries were shutting down their borders, I was finally able to reunite with Pili, my 4-year-old daughter.
It was the beginning of a 14-day preventive quarantine in which we only saw each other through a glass window, including her Fifth birthday. The image was captured on March 25, 2020 and it ended up on the cover of the American Public Health Association.”
“On June 5, 2020, hundreds of University of Pennsylvania Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia doctors, nurses, and staff gathered on Franklin Field. They knelt silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds, in remembrance of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis by police officers, as well as countless others who have been victims of racism.
‘In terms of connections with each other, we were at a low point,’ Iboro Umana, an internal medicine resident at Penn said. ‘Moments like this when we come together takes on even more significance.’”
“My father died three weeks before his 102nd birthday. I was there, having driven straight through to his home in San Luis Obispo, California from my home in Portland, Oregon. It was a tough week. California was burning, and I drove home on highways #1 and #101 through flames consuming redwoods.
Just over the Oregon border, near Reedsport, I slowly rounded a bend where the air was thick with early morning fog, matching the despair in my soul. That’s when the sun slipped through the fog and filled the forest with HOPE! I stopped, lingering in the searchlight streams, taking pictures and wiping away tears.”
“Lacy Taylor, 29, left, and her mother, Debbie Taylor, 64, of Louisville, KY., lost their Mother and Grandmother, Keiko Neutz, 87, in the framed photo, due to COVID-19. With the help of the nursing staff at Norton Hospital they were able to be by her side virtually to say goodbye.
This to me sums up what has been and continues to be a difficult year for many Americans losing loved ones to COVID-19. Most people not being able to say goodbye or even be near the ones they love in their final moments has become the norm in 2020.
With over 250,000 Americans dead now, this virus continues to ravage families. I was honored to meet and photograph the Taylors in a moment of darkness for their family and hope that they are doing well and staying safe as numbers continue to climb across the US.”
“Lisboa Amantes – Lisbon Lovers. This was photographed on a train in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of February, shortly before the world as we knew it changed. Traveling was safe; public proximity was normal.”
“This year has been defined in so many ways by physical solitude, but also by our inherent interconnectedness, as we stayed apart from each other to keep each other safe, but also came together to renounce inequality and demand that our systems be overhauled to work better for everyone.
This year has also been about finding the bright spots in the darkest moments. I took this image on a frigid moonless night, and it reminds me that there is beauty in even the darkest times.”
“This image was captured while on assignment for Bloomberg News in Minnesota documenting the extreme effect that COVID-19 has had on the state of the economy in the Midwest – specifically looking at how urban and rural communities alike have been hit by one of the worst hunger crises in memory as Americans fighting hunger are projected to swell some 45% this year to more than 50 million.
While the issue of urban hunger is often, sadly, more publicized and more attended-to, this image specifically struck me for the horrible irony that hundreds of cars were lining up to collect free boxes of food staples (milk, apples, carrots, etc.) in Mankato, Minnesota for hours – as acres of corn, grains, and soybeans (pictured here) fill the surrounding landscape.
This image, to me, means that we have a long way to go in acknowledging the depths of rural poverty in our nation and the knock-on effects that has to society, made painfully clear through the current Coronavirus pandemic.”
“I believe I was the first photographer to document in the impact of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon. I had driven down the afternoon before to photograph but kept getting alarms on my phone to evacuate the area as the fire was moving fast. I was absolutely terrified. I had called a friend who was out of town to follow the fire on Google Maps to make sure I was not in any danger. Too apprehensive, I returned home, but returned the next morning.
By taking back roads I managed to get into what was left of the devastated community. I am proud that this image made its way into a number of news sources. I was shooting for AFP, Agencie French Press.”
“This was a march against police brutality at Indiana University in the wake of the murder of George Floyd back in June. My role as a photographer at the university is primarily marketing based, but I felt it was part of my duty to document this moment for history. I’m glad I went.
I’ve never seen a protest of this size during my time at the university. It might have been the largest in the 200 year history of the institution. I remember at the time feeling scared to be around people – and even out of my house – due to COVID-19. In hindsight it seems very quaint given where things have devolved to this year.
As a white person, I feel as though the murder of George Floyd was an awakening for me. I feel as though I’m better able to see things in a different perspective than I once did. I am better aware of my blindspots and know where I need to be better as a photographer and as a person in general. If nothing else good comes from 2020, I hope this racial reckoning is a lasting – and overdue – legacy.”