TIME Photos of 2011

Yuri Kozyrev. Ras Lanuf, Libya

With photography, it’s always a moment. You get it, or you miss it. This was on the front lines near Ras Lanuf, Libya. It was near an oil refinery factory that was important for both sides—both the rebels and government. I took this picture on March 11, when Gaddafi’s military could still fly, and they were flying around, dropping bombs on the rebels. It was really scary for everybody on the front lines—suddenly, you could hear the plane coming and the bombs hitting their targets. These men were the shabab, young people who weren’t professional fighters and didn’t have weapons or training. They’re not rebels, but eager to be on the front lines. They’re jumping because they heard the planes coming, so they’re running around trying to find any place to hide, which is hard because everything is flat and exposed. You can see from the picture that none of them have any weapons—they were scared—and it was just an incredible experience to be there.

Adam Ferguson. Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

I was patrolling with Charlie Company, 2-28 Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade 5 km from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when we were ambushed. The Captain had just made the call to head back to base when bullets seared the still tree leaves around us. Sergeant Daniel Quintana was shot in the first minute of fighting and as the fighting intensified, then waned, the Army Medics worked tirelessly to stabilize him, but it was a losing battle. This was the first time Charlie Company had seen a one their own injured since being recently deployed to Afghanistan, and it felt like it. Soldiers on the periphery of where the Medics worked on Quintana had wired excited stares focused on the surrounding tree lines that provided cover for their enemy. Closer to the Medics soldiers crouched stunned, some cried, others talked to Quintana hoping to stimulate a fading life. Specialist Michael Miller, age 23 from Melbourne, Florida, sat at the feet of Sergeant Quintana, silent, with a glassy haunted stare. I saw Specialist Miller through the drama and crouched my way around to him. I tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned and gazed into my lens I not only saw an image from Afghanistan, but an image that could have been made in Vietnam. His expression wreaked of the same senselessness and confusion, the same futility of a life lost under equivocal circumstances.

James Nachtwey. Kesennuma, Japan.

The house was not destroyed; it was gutted, left like a ravaged beast in a water hole, its entrails exposed. The banal construction materials we all take for granted – insulation, ductwork, posts and beams, became emblems of dread, brutally revealing the fragility of our existence in the face of nature. Below the surface of the river the roof of a car slowly materialized, like a phantom tomb. Four days after a tsunami violently obliterated the north east coast of Japan, the silence and the calm were eerie. Fires from broken gas lines were still burning. The earth and sky were merged, and the floating house appeared as a mirage, taunting one’s sense of reality. How might the world end? During the Cold War, with the threat of nuclear annihilation, we feared it might end in fire. With the melting of the glaciers, the floods in Asia and two major tsunamis in the first decade of the current millennium, perhaps we’ve had a preview of an apocalypse by water.

Chris Hondros. Misrata, Libya

To bring visual order to a chaotic scene. Chris Hondros excelled at this, especially in conflict zones. His composition of the rebel leaning forward, striding up the stairs, the machine gun firmly in his grasp. The fire smoldering on the stairs. There is purpose in this rebel soldier as there was in Chris that day. This is a moment that exists but for a brief millisecond and Chris, like the very best of photographers, had the ability to capture that fleeting instance and make a picture that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Chris was killed by a mortar round later that same day and I will never be able to tell him how much I admired the picture he made that morning in Misrata.

Dominic Nahr. Mogadishu, Somalia

I have never watched children die in front of me before. Watching their last breath as their chest slowly and with long pauses slightly expand and then deflate again. Until, it suddenly stops. The children who arrived at the Banadir hospital in Mogadishu were in bad shape, but they were the lucky ones. Some of them who made it to the hospital early enough managed to pull through, even with limited medical supplies and overworked, unpaid, and tired nurses. However, for most, it was a place they came to die. Almost all the children I photographed on the second floor in the children’s wing ended up dying. With some I did not even have a chance to know their names or ages. I would return to the room a couple of hours later and the bed the child was lying in before was either empty, or full again with a new child and mother.

Pedro Pardo. Acapulco, Mexico

In this picture, we see the relatives of a person who was kidnapped at dawn from a disco in Acapulco and later killed by being thrown from a bridge in the town of La Cima at the entrance of this tourist destination. As a conflict photographer in the war of the drug cartels, I have learned how to be like a doctor when I look at a violent scene, separating my emotions and observing the deed in an objective way in order to come up with a good image that can inform without being morbid or sensational.

Stefanie Gordon. Shuttle launch

The photo was an unexpected hit that I took from almost 35,000 ft. over Florida, flying from New York City to Palm Beach with—of all things my—iPhone 3GS, and tweeted it out upon landing. I didn’t realize the impact of the photo or the rounds it was making in social media until a few hours later when I looked at my Twitter mentions and all the personal messages I was receiving on Facebook. Next thing I knew, I was being interviewed by media outlets from all over the world, and my photo was on almost every evening news program. I am still in search for that perfect job that many thought would be offered to me after the photo caught fire

Yuri Kozyrev. Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt.

It was my first day in Cairo. I was lucky to find the right place to stay at the hotel, which was facing Tahrir Square—it was my first impression of it. From the balcony, I saw the overcrowded space—thousands and thousands of people—and some of them were helping a man who had lost consciousness. I never had a chance to see what happened with him, but I’m pretty sure that people who were around helped him. That was the atmosphere on the ground; people really took care of each other even if they had different views about Egypt, about Cairo, about revolution. If you could see the picture in detail, you would see more than just young revolutionaries. You see old people, you see really religious people. Everyone was together, and that day was very, very special.


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