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TIME Picks the Most Surprising Photos of 2012

Clint Eastwood’s appearance and speech to an empty chair at the GOP convention stupefied us, Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 24 miles above the Earth astounded us and Gabby Douglas’ Olympic performance thrilled us. But now that it’s on the wane, we can step back and report that, all in all, 2012 held relatively few major surprises. Perhaps one reason for the year’s ho-hum factor is that several long-anticipated events the Mars Curiosity rover landing; the London Olympics; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; the U.S. elections set a tone of predictability for a year that, in large part, failed to ignite.

Granted, there were some genuine scandals, which always raise eyebrows (if not the level of national discourse): the Petraeus affair, Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace and pictures of a naked royal prince gallivanting with friends in Vegas, of all places.

In front of the ubiquitous TV cameras, Angelina Jolie courted publicity at the Oscars, while Rihanna and Chris Brown shamelessly courted controversy everywhere. That it was all so baldly contrived hardly stopped the media from buying right into it.

A calculated, cautious and utterly uninspiring American presidential campaign contrasted with the hope and optimism of four years ago.The promise of the Arab Spring gave way to protests against the new government in Egypt, a deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and a bloody civil war in Syria that shows no signs of a resolution.

The surprises, when they did come, were brutal shocks rather than thrilling or uplifting wonders. The shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the movie theater rampage in Aurora, Colo., left us three parts numb and one part seething with a kind of violent despair.

We marked solemn anniversaries, like the 100th year since the sinking of the Titanic and the 50th since the death of Marilyn. linkwheel . proveedor factura electrnica . Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones kept rolling to mark their own 50th anniversary, but they did so with an utterly foreseeable bombast.

It was left to a Korean YouTube sensation riding an invisible horse to truly surprise and entertain us this year. But even then the novelty and fun rapidly wore thin, as Psy tributes from the likes of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Eaton school boys and countless others lay siege to the Internet.

And yet … in the face of what can really only be called a rather disappointing year, TIME presents a gallery of images from the past twelve months that did, despite everything, manage to surprise us: pictures that, we hope and trust, will in some small way redress the flaws of a year that, despite spectacles as wondrous as a man falling to earth from space and a Hollywood icon chatting with a chair, ultimately fell a little flat.

Winner of the T-shirt design contest

Yes we have a winner… and the T-shirt will be going into production by next week. The entire production will take about four weeks, that’s when I’ll be able to ship your T-shirt to your doorstep. For those that want to make sure to get a copy; I’ll be starting pre-sale as of tomorrow. Through PayPal you’ll be able to order and pay your limited edition T-shirt (100 copies). This time we have chosen a black Fruit of the Loom Heavy Pocket T-shirt. The front print will be on the pocket and the back print will be large. The sizes available will be from small all the way to XXL. Each size has a very limited amount of T’s.
The winning T-shirt, and thus the T-shirt that will be going into production, is designed by Kristiaan Passchier. (www.behance.net/SlinkyStyles/frame)

The other designs (of which two will be printed as A6 stickers and send to you with the T-shirt) are the following (in random order):

Number 2: Nicole Gelinas (www.nicolegelinas.net)
Number 3: Tóth Bence
Number 4: Francesco Gadaleta (www.gadaleta.org)
Number 5: Toth Cosmin

I’d like to thank all the participants for their designs and hope that you are as excited about the winning design as I am.
PS: New photographers are coming up in the near, near future.

T-Shirt design contest | Tattoo-style


What am I looking for?:
I’m looking for an original “tattoo-style” design that will be printed on black t-shirts in a limited edition of 100. It needs to have a reference to the number 500 but can include lot’s of other things from skulls to pretty flowers to vintage cameras. It needs to be “bad-ass”, original and creative! I’d like a fairly large design for the back of the t-shirt and a small one for the front (optional) that might be placed on a front pouch.

Are there restrictions?:
Yes, you are only allowed to use a maximum of 2 colors as we are printing at an expensive but high quality screen printer and still want the t-shirts to be affordable. You also have to be able to deliver the images (once chosen) in the correct vector format: either .eps, .ai or .cdr.

What will you get in return?:
You will get 2 t-shirts with your own design in the sizes you wish, a collection of photography / poster-art books including Backflashes: Graffity Tales by Ruedione and Emek …the thinking man’s poster artist…
Your name and website will be mentioned on this website, the facebook page and the certificates of authenticity that come with the t-shirts.
All designs submitted will be posted on facebook with your name and website on the 500 Photographers facebook page.

When is the deadline?:
We’re working fast, so the deadline for your examples is SATURDAY JUNE 2ND 2012.

E-MAIL YOUR DESIGN TO: [email protected] (mention “t-shirt design” in the subject box)

The Art of War: Honoring the Fallen for a Lifetime

America’s troops too often come home from war only to remain a step apart from the rest of the nation. The chasm between the military and civilian populations has never been greater. It’s simple math: Less than one percent of Americans now serve in the military, compared with 12 percent during World War II. So after a decade of unrelenting war, with some soldiers and Marines serving four or more combat tours, many Americans still don’t know a single soldier, sailor or airman.

Veterans will tell you that one of the most jarring experiences of their service is the sudden immersion back into a society seemingly unaware that there are any wars going on at all. While they fought, their country went about its business. So they must find their own ways to acknowledge their experiences. A common ritual is the commemorative tattoo. Troops honor fallen buddies, venerate their units, reiterate war mottos, engrave themselves with religious prose, or dream up art that reflects experiences they might not talk about.

Since 1992, Capitol Tattoo has been inking the bodies of returning soldiers in a storefront shop on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Md., just north of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the massive Army hospital that is in the process of closing. “They are our family,” says owner Al Herman, of the soldiers who come in for artwork, or just to hang out.

On one day this summer, Herman opened his door to photographer Peter Hapak. The veteran clients rolled up their sleeves, stripped off their shirts, and revealed their scars, hoping that the resulting images would help bridge the chasm of understanding.

Mark Benjamin is an investigative reporter based in Washington, and a contributer to TIME, as well as TIME.com’s military intelligence blog Battleland. You can follow him on Twitter at MarkMBenjamin

MORE: Read Mark Benjamin’s magazine story, “The Art of War,” from this week’s issue of TIME [available to subscribers here].