Saturday, December 20, 2008

One of My Favorite Things About the End of the Year

Presidential candidate Barrack Obama at a rally, in the rain.

I don't know about you, but I get into all the end-of-the-year countdowns, 10 Best lists, retrospectives and the many different ways we find to look back over the past 12 months, this year we just lived. Some of them are of course unnecessary--I don't need to watch a countdown of 40 Unforgettable Moments from Season 10 of The Bachelorette, for example--but there's a lot of quality stuff out there, too.

Probably my favorites each year are the photo collections. So many of the lists that come out, like book and film lists are so subjective and exclusionary, but Best Photo collections, the Year in Pictures, are hard to argue with, and are something that can be immediately appreciated. 

I always forget to anticipate them until they are released, but the best photography of the year often affects me on several levels. First, of course, the aesthetic. Photography is one of my favorite art forms, perhaps because I have some inkling of how hard it is to get a really wonderful picture--at least, if your subject matter is something other than small children, puppies or kittens. A professional news photographer may take 800 shots and find three or four that are worth publishing, if that many.

Another thing I love about these collections is the time capsule aspect--the visual record, beautifully told, of who we were at this moment in time. Seeing some of the highlights of the major news stories, in pictures, helps me reflect on how the world changed this year, or didn't, and what that might mean for the future.

Finally, because of the inclusive, international nature of these news photography collections, I am always astounded by how much I don't know about the past year and the world around us. Reading the photo captions, I learn about conflicts, spectacles, disasters, sports, natural wonders, and even whole cultures I did not know existed. It drives home the idea that my little life, sitting in my Arkansas home, typing on my laptop, following the Oscar season, cooking dinner, while it is 99 percent of what I experience, is only the tiniest fragment of life on this great, beautiful, painful and wondrously diverse planet. It's awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

Someday, I hope to be able to travel the world. It's one of my great hopes. Until then, I'm content to let brave and talented photographers show me what's out there.

Here is a link to a collection I found last night of 120 of the year's best photographs, separated into three parts. It takes a while to get through them and read the captions, but they are worth it. The editors acknowledge that these pictures are not necessarily THE definitive best, and that there are countless more that tell other also-worthy stories. I think they did a fine job. I know some of you won't be able to load so many photos on your computers, so I will post a few here, as well.

Full captions and dozens more great photographs are on the original site. Click on the pictures for bigger versions.

Good stuff.

This volcano erupted in Chile for the first time in thousands of years, attracting an electrical storm as it erupted, which apparently is a common phonomenon:

Students at a Chinese martial arts school:

A giant mechanical spider at a cultural festival in Liverpool, England. Freaky:

Diving Asian fella:
Massai warriors going into battle against warring tribes with bows and arrows. I thought at first they were hunting antelope, then realized they were hunting people:

This is an Important Physics Thing that may solve many mysteries of particle physics when it gets activated next year. I think it looks like a lion or sun emblem, something that would look pretty on my wall:

A mother learns her child was killed in a conflict between Georgia and Russia. Her husband tries to comfort her:

A real live Viking festival. I bet there is grog.

Children of a fallen police officer who died while investigating a bank robbery comfort each other at a funeral in I believe Pennsylvania.

Drummers at the Opening Ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing:

A view from the base camp on Mount Everest at night:

Rescuers try to save a donkey buried in rubble after an earthquake:

An indigenous Amazonian mother tries to keep police from forcing her family off their ancestral home. She did not succeed:

A whole lot of people going to a ski festival or competition:

Red balloons on the beach in Rio di Janeiro to bring attention to the thousands of poor who will be murdered there in the coming month. 

A swimmer, suspended in time:

I think this looks like a classic movie set, something very melodramatic, but it's actually a burned trailer park in California:

A child being lowered into a sapphire mine in Madagascar:

A U.S. Marine, dwarfed by the majesty of ancient ruins in Iraq:



Laura said...

Ooooooooo. *blink blink, smile*

Melissa said...

pretty pretty pictures.

You know the guy who took the Obama in the rain pictures is from Arkansas.


Anonymous said...

You are talented. That's an unbiased opinion.

yo mama

Anonymous said...

You are talented. That's an unbiased opinion.

yo mama