Image of 2017: ten photographs that encapsulate the year
Over the year we’ve featured hundreds of photographers who have demonstrated the power of storytelling and the ways in which we use photography to communicate with each other. As well as the individual photographers, it’s the publications who publish them and the institutions and galleries who exhibit them that are making sure sure these stories are shared on as big a scale as possible.
This year has felt full of events that will go on to shape the world in years to come, so to get a sense of how some of these moments have been visualised, we’ve asked a handful of photographers, publications and institutions to share a photograph they have either taken or commissioned that encapsulates 2017.
Included in the line up is: UK-based landscape photographer Catherine Hyland; Instagram-famous Nguan; director of photography at The New York Times Magazine Kathy Ryan who shares Matthew Pillsbury’s work; Japanese street photographer Ryosuke Takamura; Amsterdam-based creative platform Foam; Yemeni-American creative Yumna Al-Arashi; renowned humanist photographer Giles Duley; Christoph Amend, editor of German publication ZEIT Magazin; photography duo The Bardos and Israeli photographer Tomer Ifrah.
This image is taken from a new series I am working on called Contemporary Pilgrims, which is an ongoing study of settlements across Asia.
If Mongolia is a country of nomads, then its capital Ulaanbaatar reflects that wandering nature perfectly. It started life in the 17th Century as a nomadic city of yurts; a Buddhist monastic centre that moved location as trade and circumstances demanded. It settled permanently at its present location in 1778 after changing location 28 times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. This ceremonial element is central to my working practice and depiction of the city as it is today.
Though now over 46% of Mongolia’s population live in Ulaanbaatar, its nomadic heritage is still apparent. The city has become settled by many former nomads, leading to overpopulation and pollution in the city due to a lack of housing and infrastructure.
Despite the draw of the city, hundreds of thousands of Mongolians continue to preserve their nomadic culture. These nomadic families still drive their herds across the vast steppes of what is the world’s most sparsely populated country after Greenland. But as the lure of urbanisation and the pressure to settle creeps into even the most remote corner of the country, the question is for how much longer this will remain the case.
2017 was a year of rapid change and transition for me, it was a year in which I spent a lot of time reflecting and conflicted between being respectful of the past and moving forward, so the ideas behind this image perfectly encapsulate that feeling of both progression and nostalgia. It was a year in which I used photography as a bridge to appreciation and understanding of the world and my place in it. I very much felt I was reflecting on the world as I had seen it and attempting to create new markers and signs visually. I was also with somebody very important to me at the time that I took it and so it reminds me of a moment which I look back on very fondly, an especially happy moment in my life.
Should art reflect the turbulence of its time, or should it serve as a safety belt? That’s a question I’ve struggled with this year. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that all artists can do is continue to engage with the world.
When I got to New York in May I’d been making photographs on a tripod for six months. I gleefully ditched it once I stepped onto the streets I know so well, and this was the first picture I took: an image of a boy in the crowd holding an umbrella so high that it seemed he was hoping to float away.
Kathy Ryan, director of photography, The New York Times Magazine
I nominate this photograph Matthew Pillsbury made on assignment for us of the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January 2017. This beautiful image gives us far more than the massive size and joyous energy of the crowd that day. Matthew’s artful eye transforms the bobbing sea of pink hats into an epic picture that is both a document and a work of art.
By the time we published it in The New York Times Magazine on 7 February, our readers had already been inundated with photographs of the march. But thanks to Matthew we were able to share with them a memorable photograph that was unlike anything else they had seen. We could never have anticipated how much it would come to represent one of the defining stories of 2017 – the empowerment of women.
This October an enormous typhoon passed through Japan. This typhoon was a record-breaking size, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Fortunately, my hometown, Fukui, was largely unaffected. However still many parts of Japan are healing from the uncountable wounds caused by the typhoon.
Fukui is often referred to as the “Dinosaur Kingdom”, as many fossils have been found there. This photograph is one of the dinosaur monuments that was damaged from the typhoon. This is from a project called Homework, which provides a snapshot into the lives and scenery of Fukui.
This image by Weronika Gęsicka was chosen as the cover image for the annual Talent Issue of Foam Magazine. Consequently it was also the campaign image of the Foam Talent exhibition that was presented at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam from September to November, featuring 20 outstanding, international, young and talented artists.
The annual Talent Call is an international search for exceptionally talented photographers under the age of 35. The submissions form an intriguing barometer of the state of contemporary photography. The final selection functions as a cross-section of an ever-evolving medium, revealing a series of growing trends and tendencies.
This was the first photograph I took in 2017. It was the morning of 1 January. I was staying on an abandoned tropical resort with a few friends, and was kind of having the anti-holiday holiday experience. The previous year was one of my more difficult years, from suffering a terrible depression that nearly killed me, to leaving America for good. I made the decision to make a change for myself, and this self-portrait solidified that for me.
I took it at sunrise, around 6:30am. I think this represents 2017 in full because my life has completely changed for the best since this moment, I feel like I’ve survived. The decision to make this self-portrait reflects the decision to take a new turn in my life.
“This fly is worse than Daesh (ISIS),” jokes Dawood Salim as he tries to brush a persistent fly away from his face with his heavily bandaged hand.
On 8 March 2017 Darwood, aged 12, had been tending sheep just outside Mosul when he stepped on a landmine. He lost both legs and his right hand.
“I didn’t know how brave he was,” his mother Nidal told me, “until this. They told me after the explosion he kept trying to stand, even though his legs were so injured.” By the time she got there, they had loaded him on to a tractor to get him to the nearest hospital. “He was telling me not to cry. ‘The more you cry’, he said, ‘the more I hurt’.”
What made Darwood’s injury more tragic was it came just days after his family had been freed from ISIS control. For over two years the family had lived in constant fear as they had sheltered Dawood’s uncle who was wanted by ISIS. They took a friend’s father and decapitated him in front of his family. "Just to send a message,” recalled Nidal. “This is who they are.”
They knew if his uncle had been discovered, this would have been his fate, and possibly the whole family’s. ISIS bribed children to inform, and so Dawood had been too scared to have anybody visit. Looking at her son, Nidal told me “he could tell you a book of stories.” A few days later, I asked her if she minded me photographing her son. Calmly and clearly she looked at me and said – “When a child is injured like this, the whole world should see.”
Christoph Amend, editor, ZEIT Magazin
Sometimes you see beauty in the most simple things. This year we dedicated our special issue on literature to clouds (the issue was guest-edited by writer Florian Illies, who adores clouds in arts and poems.) So we decided to run the cover with no headline, no text, simply enjoying the beauty of a single cloud up in the sky.
Like Chogyam Trungpa says: “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang onto, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.”
An IDF soldier praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel. This picture was photographed last summer, while working on a story for FT Weekend Magazine. I joined the writer Adam LeBor as he revisited Israel on the eve of its 70th birthday, on a journey through significant places in the history of Israel, as well as the different communities living in the country.
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About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.