I’ve decided I really, really like photos.
Part of this might be because I just bought a really cool new camera and have digital imaging on the mind. But despite my passion for words and my staunch belief that some things can only be expressed through the written word, I am constantly reminded of the power just one photograph can have. So when I saw a 2010 in Photos compilation on the Boston Globe’s website, boston.com, I just had to respond.
This three-part series captured 120 of the best photos from 2010. I contacted Alan Taylor, the web developer for boston.com and creator of the Big Picture blog, to ask him how these 120 made the cut. He said some of the photos had been featured earlier this year on the photo blog, while others had been cited as top 2010 images by Reuters, AFP or AP.
“Basically if a photograph was really good — exceptionally evocative, or beautiful or moving or arresting — or if it was very representative of a big or important news story, the photo was considered,” Taylor added. “It’s very subjective, and I try to balance my choices between aesthetics and journalism. It’s so rare to have a photo that is both very newsworthy and gorgeous.”
I picked just a few of the photos that caught my attention most to display here. I reordered them so they were in chronological order. I did not take any of them, and I don’t own any of them. I kept all of the original captions and attributions, although if you see a parenthetical addition, I put that there for clarity’s sake. All of the photos can be found at the original post — parts 1, 2 and 3.
The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 12, 2010 was worldwide news for months, but despite the constant updates and statistics, it’s photos like this one that really brought the devastation the people of Haiti experienced to life in a personal way. Reading or hearing that hundreds of people died is powerful in its own way, but seeing a photo like this that actually captures the pain a young man is experiencing, and the pain it is causing his mother, touches those of us who are thousands of miles away in a more intimate way.
This photo, taken in Port-au-Prince on the same day, starkly contrasts with the previous one and offers a sense of hope. Despite the devastation, the thousands of people who were killed and injured and the rebuilding that needed to take place in the lives of those who remained, life went on. Few things could illustrate that as well as this photo of a newborn born less than a week after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake.
Contrast can be a powerful thing. The contrast between colors, differently-sized items or situations can make each one more powerfully delineated. The photographer who took this photo doubtless understood the power of contrast and took full advantage of it with this image of a tiny child seated just inches away from Marines carrying powerful weapons. Although we have grown used to seeing photos of soldiers each day, seeing a child in this unlikely setting makes us stop and think.
I don’t really have anything to say about this. It’s just adorable.
I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw this photo, but for some reason, the caption surprised me. I can’t imagine ever walking around in this garb for any reason, but this was a good reminder that for the rest of my life, I will read about, hear about and meet people who I may not understand. I’m headed to Spain this week, and Seville is on my list of possible destinations. If I happen to meet someone there dressed this way, I’ll plan on saying hello and asking his story.
This photo stood out to me because of its dramatic effect. There’s not much of a background. There’s no color. You can’t even see a face. Still, this black-and-white outline of a child, one who is obviously very young, obviously crying and too exhausted or hungry to even swat away the bugs swarming him, provides a stark reality check regarding the situation in which he finds himself. The photographer didn’t need color, didn’t need a face or a smile to make his point; this shockingly simple outline was enough.
This photo is just crazy. We’re used to seeing rescue boats with wet, frightened people to go along with stories about floods (this is one powerful example), but this photo is different and it makes us look twice. The simple fact that even a horse needs a boat to be transported to safety demonstrates the seriousness of the situation, and the minor shock value of the photo definitely would have made me read the story.
The April oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the biggest stories in 2010, and its effects made front pages for months after. Americans saw photos of the burning rig, of people struggling to help with cleanup, of thousands of birds drenched in oil. Despite the action in many of the photos published after this event, this image, simple in comparison, is still effective. Everyone knows oil and water don’t mix. My reaction when I saw this was, “That’s now how water is supposed to look.” This simple, close-up photo of the oil-filled water tells its own story.
My first reaction to seeing this photo was, “Oh my gosh, seriously? Photogs are vultures.” While that may have been a bit strong, this photo did incite a momentary pang of pity for Tony Hayward. I’m glad that at least one photographer jumped off the bandwagon to get this angle and capture the shutter-snapping frenzy, because it gave me pause. I constantly hear admonishments to be dogged when chasing a story, and I’m sure it’s no different for the people capturing the images to accompany the story. I can’t really fault these photojournalists for their mass attack, but I will say that I hope I’m never on Hayward’s end of a big story; staring down all those lenses has to be intimidating.
I would modestly place myself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum spanning I’d-skydive-off-anything-gutsy to shaking-in-my-boots-in-an-elevator-wimpy, but despite any claims of bravery I might offer, if there were clouds like these in the sky, I probably wouldn’t be outside. Still, even with the threat of “heavy rain, wind, hail and isolated tornadoes,” this farmer is still outside doing his thing. My grandfather was a farmer, and seeing a photo like this made me proud to be descended from someone who would place way higher on that spectrum than I do.
I remember the protests that ensued when photos were released of hundreds of flag-covered coffins carrying American soldiers who had died overseas. Those photos were incredibly jarring, but this photo, of two people who didn’t know each other but had both loved a young man killed in Afghanistan, touched me as well.
This photo just makes me happy. I don’t know this boy’s story. I don’t know if he’s poor, if he has family or if he had a place to go at the end of this day. Still, he took the time to dance on his way through this rainfall, and right now, I can’t think of anything cooler.
The other day, I stumbled upon this quote: “If you saw a man drowning and you could either save him or photograph the event, what kind of film would you use?” It’s funny enough on an average day, I guess, but in this case, the saying actually came through. I don’t know how far away this photographer was. I don’t know if he could swim. I don’t know if he thought the two firefighters in the water had the situation in hand. But I wonder if he watched this man drown. I wonder if, later, he asked himself what would have happened if he had dropped his camera and jumped in. In truth, I have no way of knowing that he didn’t try to help. At any rate, I can only imagine how difficult situations like this, and especially their aftermath, have to be.
This is a situation similar to the previous one, but it appears the outcome for the people involved was positive, so instead of despairing, I marvel at the fact this image was captured at all. One second later, the plane would have hit the ground and the pilot would have been out of the frame. Obviously the crash wasn’t planned, and photos like this make me wonder how often a photographer has the opportunity — and the reflexes — to capture a split-second, freak incident such as this one.
Another of 2010′s biggest stories, this one with a happy ending, the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days had readers and viewers waiting breathlessly for weeks on end. I can only imagine the effect this simple, crude message, received after days with no communication, had on the miners’ friends and family.
This is another photo that struck me because of the contrast it presents. The combination of a soldier carrying a weapon and a child with a proportionally small gun, along with the added effect of the barbed wire, carries a good deal of shock value.
Despite the obvious sadness of this scene, the first thing that struck me when I looked at this photo were the cameras around this person’s neck. My first thought was, “What’s going on? The photographer isn’t supposed to be crying.” The caption completed the story, though, and I realized these were journalists mourning the loss of one of their own. It’s so common to see photographs of grieving people at funerals, but seeing the photographer as the one grieving rather than the one photographing the event was striking for me. This was a good reminder of the danger facing many journalists who put themselves in less-than-ideal situations in order to tell a story or capture an image.
Many of these photos stood out to me because of their shock value, and this one is no different. Even more shocking than the fact that these Palestinian kids, none of whom can be more than ten, are participating in the sort of protest that would cause them to throw rocks at Israeli cars is the callous carelessness with which the driver is hitting two of them with his car. This photo also makes me ask, as do many, at the reflex that caused this photographer to take this photo rather than trying to shove the children out of the way of the oncoming vehicle.
This is such an emotional photo. I can’t imagine being kept away from family for more than 50 years, and then having only three days to catch up in person before we were forced to separate again. The photographer captured a truly poignant moment that would have strengthened any story.
The Wikileaks scandal, like many scandals, was particularly interesting to journalists this year, not just because of its scandalous-ness but because it dealt with freedom of speech. As noted politician Ron Paul said after the release of classified war documents and cables, “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble.” This quote perfectly describes the conflict faced by newspeople (or, I don’t know, maybe it was just me who was struggling) during this time that brought Julian Assange into the national spotlight.
I remember first seeing stories about this around Thanksgiving time. People were complaining that, during this time in which they were supposed to be giving thanks, they were being near-molested in airports. I’m not sure yet how I feel about these “enhanced” searches or their effectiveness, but in several days, I’ll be going on my first international flight and will very likely be subjected to my own search. After that time, maybe I’ll have more to say.
Students at Ohio University are familiar with tuition increases, as are students at every other public university in Ohio after the recent lifting of a state-wide tuition freeze. Now, I won’t ignore the differences in our situations — these English students who were protesting were facing a change that would triple their tuition fees. Still, I wonder at the fact that police in riot gear were needed to combat the reaction of these students to their tuition increase, while the only reaction anyone ever really saw at OU was a few letters to the editor or passing remarks made across campus. I don’t think students are completely uncaring, and I hate to be one of those clichés who ask what students today are coming to, but, really, what are we coming to? (Also, check out the guy with the upside-down shield).
This photo just makes me laugh, especially since the dumb thing has teeth on its tongue and is banana-sized.
Although I’m very vocal about my dislike for sports, I did write a post earlier conceding the point that, once in a while, athletics can be useful. In that case, I was commending a program that combines soccer with media training among adolescents in South Africa. This photo reminded me of that — plus, it’s just a great photo.
So, these are my picks. Is there one that stands above the rest? Did I miss any really good ones? I may make it my goal to create a compilation like this myself once 2011 draws to a close, but until then, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on The Big Picture.