Tag Archives: Photo Essay

TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012

Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year — an astounding figure. More than ever before, thanks in part to cell phone technology, the world is engaged with photography and communicating through pictures.

Nonetheless, a great photograph will rise above all the others. The ten photographs we present here are the pictures that moved us most in 2012. They all deliver a strong emotional impact — whether they show a child mourning his father who was killed by a sniper in Syria (slide #3); a heartbreaking scene in a Gaza City morgue (slide #1); a haunting landscape of New Jersey coastline after Hurricane Sandy, a rollercoaster submerged under the tide (slide #2); or a rare glimpse of President Obama moments before he goes out on stage during a campaign rally (slide #9). We spoke to each of the photographers about their images, and their words provide the captions here.

Over the past several days, we’ve unveiled TIME’s Best Photojournalism and Best Portraits of the Year galleries on LightBox. And in the next three weeks, we will be rolling out even more end-of-year features: the Most Surprising Pictures of the Year; the Best Photo Books of the Year; the Top 10 Photographic Magazine Covers of the Year and other compelling galleries. We will also recognize TIME’s choice for the Best Wire Photographer of the Year. Senior photo editor Phil Bicker is curating many of these galleries with help from the photo team at TIME. His discerning eye has been responsible for the curation of TIME’s Pictures of the Week throughout the year, galleries that regularly present the best of the week’s images, with surprising and sometimes offbeat takes on the news.  We will round off the year on December 31 with our second-annual “365: Year in Pictures,” a comprehensive look at the strongest picture of every day of 2012.

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

TIME’s Best Portraits of 2012

A great portrait captures the very essence of its subject, and this year, TIME continued its long legacy of storytelling with a number of compelling photographs. Search Engine Optimization . linkwheel creation . 2012 saw newsmakers in several categories and countries, so we sent photographers around the world to capture them as they made their mark. In Turkey, Peter Hapak photographed several Syrian families who had sought refuge in the country after fleeing their homeland to escape the brutality of Assad’s regime; in Iowa, Martin Schoeller captured Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas as the young gymnast trained both in the gym and at home; and in Israel, Marco Grob photographed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in 2012, proved that his influence is not only large, but lasting. Their portraits and the rest in this gallery are visual testaments to the diverse and colorful personalities who made 2012 memorable; herewith, a look at TIME’s best commissioned portraits this year.

TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2012

If 2011 was a year of simple, powerful narratives of revolution and sweeping change 2012 was when things got a lot more complicated.

The aftermath of the Arab Springs upheavals saw uneasy transitions toward democracy. backlinks . The exhilaration of freedom dissolved in the face of new struggles and contests for power: in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, the streets are once again filled with protesters angry over the advent of religious radicalism, the return of authoritarianism and the unemployment and tough economic conditions that remain. In Syria, peaceful demonstrations in 2011 morphed into a bitter, bloody civil war that has claimed over 40,000 lives and rages on. Hostilities between Israel and its adversaries in the occupied territories were once more renewed as the peace process collapsed and the road map to a two-state solution looked to have been crumpled up and tossed away. And in the U.S., a seemingly endless, costly election cycle served only to restore the status quo: the re-elected President Obama faces many of the same challenges and obstacles he did before Nov. 6.

Throughout 2012, TIMEs unparalleled photojournalists were there. linkwheel . We stood within the tumult of Tahrir Square and shared moments of quiet with the worlds most powerful President. We documented both the ravages of war on Syrias blasted cities and the devastation nature wrought on our own backyard in the Northeast. At a time when so much hangs in the balance, bearing witness can be the most essential act and thats what we do.

Ishaan Tharoor

Reflections in a Pashtun Cinema

Photographer Omar Mullick has spent the last decade passing through the countries of Central Asia on assignment. Here, he reflects on his photographs of a Pashtun cinema in Karachi, a space he found defied the preconceived images of the region.

These photographs were created, if I am brutally honest, from a loss of faith. Not in my religion or way of life, but from my understanding in how the eye of documentary photography portrays the Muslim world.

I didn’t buy it: the blurred melancholy and humorless conviction with which we documented native, usually Muslim peoples. It did not resonate—not even slightly, and even if I registered good intention in the work, it never mitigated my feeling that there were a thousand ways of looking at people in the West and only one way of looking at other people on the brunt of war. They were often confined to one visual language, or, to extend the metaphor, one set of visual phrases: suffering, victimhood, violence and trauma. And in the effort to prompt outrage and underline how bad war was, their subjects were often confined to the ‘other’. More specifically, people never surfaced in photographs—only symbols of war. What resulted was the worst absence possible in a photograph of another person: empathy.

The resulting photographs were shot, I realize now, as a response to that.

They were taken in Karachi at a Pashtun cinema before I was scheduled for an embed in Afghanistan. Working on a project called Basetrack and a documentary film about a Pashtun runaway boy, the photos were snapped on my days off. This place was my retreat, just as it was the retreat for the subjects in my photographs. My work, I hoped, was a portrait of people as they collectively exhaled. And in that I also hoped they kept, modestly enough, the company of photographers that emphasized sympathy over a desire to continue the string of visual metaphor: Kuwayama’s doves at Mazar E Sharif, Balazs Gardi’s tender Afghan father holding his son or Ladefoged’s The Albanians.

Pashtuns are known by legend and myth as warmongers, kohl-eyed and unforgiving, even unconquerable patriarchs to the last man—the blood and muscle of the Taliban. Here, displaced and withdrawn from their beloved mountains and heaped en masse in Karachi’s urban sprawl, they came to this movie theater—feared by outsiders—to see films and hear songs in their native tongue. And I—with my personal stories of bloodlines running all the way to Kandahar and Waziristan—schoolboyishly wanted to lose myself in their fold.

Men huddled and laughed in the aisles, smoking hash in advance of the film, people who saved their pennies for stale popcorn or samosas to be had in the intermission. Also men who, left alone, sat in the front aisles waiting in anticipation for a Pashto song to come on and then rushed the screen to dance against the projection to the song, cheered on by all. Runaway boys, who had made their way from Afghanistan or Waziristan to Karachi to pick trash by day, now chose the afternoon after Friday prayers to see a film. They preferred the sound of cinema to the buzzing drones that soundtracked their nightmares. Then there were the drug dealers, the boys looking to pick up johns by the bathrooms and the bulk of men who swore to kill any pedophiles they found taking advantage of children. But mostly it was of people at rest, disarmed. They were having fun.

These were men and young boys at ease enjoying themselves. In that they mirrored the loose pop flash photos I took of friends back home. I photographed the cinema barely looking through the viewfinder, the camera lofted above the fray and through ongoing laughs and phrases in Pashto, asking them what Waziristan looked like and who had been to Kandahar. And then I would shoot more, telling stories about my grandmother and her pride at being Pashtun and my mother’s own deep reservoirs of will and piety—markers they would surely recognize. In this recognition I found the most personal visual language I could muster.

Shoot them like you would your friends at home, I told myself: free of abstraction, their dignity intact. Shoot a portrait they might recognize of themselves, something they might love, something that may make them smile. At least once, let’s do that.

Shoot them as if your loss of faith in photography were redeemable, as if an image might actually be a chalice for humanity and you were all going to pass around the cup.

Shoot them as if your faith were already back.


Omar Mullick is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. He was an embedded photographer in the Basetrack project out of Afghanistan in 2011. His work on Muslims in America titled Can’t Take It With You received a solo show in 2009 at Gallery FCB in Chelsea, N.Y., and his recent film These Birds Walk was selected for 25 new faces of Independent Cinema in 2012.



‘Americans’: Christopher Morris Captures a Nation Divided

My latest book, Americans, is the second in a series about America, even though I had no idea it would become a series when my first book, My America, was released in April 2006. That book examined Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s two terms as president. But in Americans, I’ve taken real pains to make sure there’s no political photography. There aren’t any portraits of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and no pictures of rally signs. Instead, I sought to make an anthropological study of America—not for this week, or for this past election cycle—but a body of work that future generations could look back on to get a sense of the country’s mood.

What I found, in the eight-year period during which these photographs were made, is an America severely divided. With two long-running wars and an economy slow to recover, there is a real sense that the country is in a depressed state. Traveling across America in several road trips, I found that the mood among citizens wasn’t upbeat or lively; people are really polarized in their political positions, yet everyone is concerned about the economy and what that means for the welfare of their families.

The book contains only a handful of formal portraits. The rest is reportage—pictures taken when people were alone, pensive in thought. I looked for these moments to convey this feeling of loss and depression that I felt across the nation.

Americans recently headed to the polls to elect their next president, and on Election Day eve, there wasn’t a clear frontrunner. In fact, many polls showed voters divided near evenly between Obama and Romney—a poignant indicator that despite the winner, Americans may very well continue to be divided.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII

Americans, published by Steidl, will be available in early December.

The Shark Trade of the Arabian Sea

Burly, weathered crewmen emerge from the holds of fishing dhows hoisting hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks onto the decks. Smaller specimens are tossed from boat to boat, while the true giants, like tiger and bull sharks, are manhandled by several men before reaching the dock. Armed with gigantic steel hooks, workers heave each shark across the harbor to a concrete slab, which serves as tonight’s auction block. The sharks are lined up in orderly rows with pectoral fins pointing skyward, reminding me of the regimented pattern of white crosses in a military cemetery. I count 98 sharks on the slab. And this is just one boat’s catch in a single night. After being auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sharks are loaded into freezer trucks. Within minutes, the next boat approaches, disgorging more sharks onto the slab. As darkness falls to dawn, I witness more than 1,000 shark carcasses auctioned in a single night.

Thomas Peschak photographing the loading of a giant hammerhead shark.

Thomas Peschak photographing the loading of a giant hammerhead shark.

Shark fin is the prized ingredient of shark fin soup, a luxurious dish sought after in the Far East. As a photographer, I have documented sharks and the shark fin trade for over a decade. However, Arabia was not on my radar as a major shark-fishing region. After scouring obscure fisheries reports, I discovered that the region had only recently become one of the top global suppliers of sharks.

The most prolific catches I saw were made off Oman. Every night, freezer trucks and their finned cargo left Arabian Sea ports and raced across the desert. Their destination was along the Arabian Gulf in the megacity of Dubai where nightly shark fin auctions are held. The city now ranks amongst the top five export hubs for shark fins destined for Hong Kong, the global epicenter of the fin trade.

Diving expeditions along the length and breadth of the Arabian Peninsula reveal evidence that shark fishing is ubiquitous, even in some marine reserves. Ghost gill nets (either lost or discarded) blanket coral reefs and rocky pinnacles. Gill nets are unselective by design; in addition to snaring sharks, they entrap everything from endangered sea turtles to whales. Gill nets are banned in most countries, but use in this region is epidemic and their impacts are blatant. Some fishermen voiced concern to me about the recent, dramatic decline in the number of sharks they catch. With the exception of a few anomalies where sharks thrive, my expeditions echo their fears as underwater shark encounters are few and far between.

Today, Arabia’s shark populations sit on the precipice of degradation. However, the region is home to some of the most committed marine conservationists. Because of their work, I have hope for the future of Arabia’s sharks. Can Arabia transform their reputation from being a top supplier of shark fins to a leader in global shark conservation? I like to think so.

Former marine biologist Thomas P. Peschak spends more than 300 days a year pursuing marine conservation photography and ocean reportage. He previously wrote about South Africa’s sardine run for LightBox. See more of his work here.

Happy 70th Birthday, Jimi Hendrix: Photos of an Incendiary Talent

If a musician’s greatness is measured by the breadth of his influence and how else should we gauge it? Jimi Hendrix’s legacy commends him as one of the most inspiring virtuosos who ever lived. Consider just a few of the acts who explicitly cite Hendrix as central to their sound, or who pay tribute by incorporating at least something of him into their work: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miles Davis (who, of course, influenced Hendrix, as well), ZZ Top, Stephen Stills, Public Enemy the list is as long as it is dizzying in its variety.

To put it even more simply: Who else can be heard, resoundingly, in the music of both Prince and Metallica? Funkadelic and Van Halen?

Perhaps the only aspect of Hendrix’s career more remarkable than its aesthetic clout is how awfully short it was. (A fact often obscured by the seemingly endless reissues of his work that have hit the market in the decades since his death.) After making a name overseas in the mid-1960s, he came to sudden and enduring prominence in the U.S. after his legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967; he died in London in September 1970, when he was just 27 years old. But for those 40 months, Jimi Hendrix was one of the few undisputedly indispensable pop-culture figures of the era. And as with so many huge stars who died young including other members of rock and roll’s “27 Club,” like Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, the Stone’s Brian Jones and more the brevity of his life has hardly made his place in the rock pantheon less secure.

On what would have been his 70th birthday (Hendrix was born in Seattle on Nov. 27, 1942), we pay tribute to the guitar wizard through photos made by another iconoclastic creative force, the rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall.

Image: Hendrix burns his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Hendrix burns his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

Known for his work capturing legends (Jagger, Richards, Dylan, Sly Stone, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Johnny Cash and countless others) onstage and in quieter, unguarded moments, Marshall who died in March 2010 photographed Hendrix from the moment he exploded, flaming guitar and all, into the public eye at Monterey through the heady, propulsive months and far-too-few years that followed.

The pictures in this gallery, meanwhile, are emblematic of Marshall at his very best a distillation of a long career spent chronicling the charismatic, chameleon-like and frequently unhinged heroes and heroines of rock.

Here is Hendrix at his most relaxed and winning (laughing with his friend and sometime bandmate, the great drummer Buddy Miles, for example, in slide 7); at his most incendiary (slide 11); and at his Sgt. Pepper-meets-Voodoo Chile grooviest (backstage with Brian Jones at Monterey, slide 14).

But whatever mood or persona Hendrix happens to be projecting at the moment, the overriding sense we get from Jim Marshall’s pictures is one of intimacy. Few photographers who have spent any amount of time with the notoriously volatile egomaniacs (not to mention often-drug-addled paranoiacs) who inhabit the rarefied realms of rock have managed to come away with work that was clearly made by someone who belonged. Marshall who was something of a celebrity himself by the mid-Sixties was not cowed by the outsized personalities who could fill entire stadiums not only with music, but with attitude.

(MORE: Jim Marshall’s Collection of Rock ‘n Roll Portraits)

It’s fruitless to ask what Hendrix might be doing now, at 70, had he not died of “drug-induced asphyxia” that is, if he hadn’t choked to death on his own vomit at 27, while he was still growing and exploring as an artist. Fruitless, and inevitable. After all, it’s only natural to wonder what a talent as protean as Hendrix’s would have achieved in the decades after he gave us “Crosstown Traffic,” “Hey Joe,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Bold as Love,” his transcendent “Star-Spangled Banner” and scores of other singular classics. article writing submission . Would he have composed soundtracks? Symphonies? Would he have dug ever deeper into his bluesy roots, finding simpler, more elemental ways to tell his own story? Would he and Neil Young spend half the year, every year, touring together, trading beautiful, terrifying riffs in front of overawed fans?

Happy birthday, Jimi, and rest in peace. We shall not see your like again.


Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com.


Generation of Orphans: South Africa’s Children of AIDS

One night in 2003, Agnes Dlamini woke to the sound of her infant grandson crying. His mother — Dlamini’s daughter-in-law — had died after a long illness. The baby was left on top of her emaciated body, sucking helplessly at his mother’s lifeless breast.

That tragedy, Dlamini now knows, is the result of South Africa’s failure to address the spread of HIV. But back then, she had no idea. At the time, the country’s President Thabo Mbeki was sympathetic to AIDS denialists. His Minister of Health was nicknamed Dr. Beetroot for championing the plant as a treatment for HIV/AIDS. Anti­retroviral drugs weren’t available until 2004 and were difficult to obtain for many years after that.

The legacy of that denial is 3.37 million South African children under 17 without one or both parents, according to a 2011 census. Most are orphans, and some 64% are in the care of grandmothers, who bear the responsibility of a second motherhood.

The age gap makes it challenging for grand­mothers to connect with these kids and warn them about HIV. “I don’t have the right words for it,” says Dlamini, 81. “My granddaughter laughs at me when I try.” High urban unemployment, poverty and crime add to the difficulty of their task. Still, many of the gogos, the Zulu word for grandmothers, say they are hopeful they can break the cycle that claimed their children’s lives.


Elles van Gelder and Jonathan Torgovnik are based in South Africa.