Like to see 2014 in (100) pictures before it ends tonight?


How close are you willing to get?

That’s the question posed by the most potent photographs of 2014: How close? (Link below)

We founder in the shallows amid the constant nano-buzz of a modern culture. But with just one powerful still photograph — emphasis on still — you need to stop, stare, then drown in the image, tumble into its pure moment.

And so many of those moments in 2014 where the ink seemed to bleed, where the pixels seemed to pulse with extra force, focused on the millions of people seeking some kind of refuge — in places like Myanmar, Syria and South Sudan, in Ukraine, Istanbul and Caracas. There were those displaced by violence, and others who sought shelter by embracing the very violence itself. Then there were the people who sought relief from abusive husbands, disease and natural disasters, and the lucky few who could choose to lose themselves in the electronic dance music of Skrillex and his D.J. brothers and sisters.

But for most of the displaced, for those on the run, those who had to bear too many funerals, there was little choice. Not for the three women pinned down by a possible sniper in Kiev. As I look at them huddled behind a barricade of tires and trash all I can think about are the lies that form the bedrock of most wars — even those that are undeclared.

And the Nike-wearing young man in Caracas hurling a Molotov cocktail appears to have little choice, either, consumed as he is by flames and his rage.

In a year in which, again and again, it was made painfully clear that too many men still treat women as prey, as mere flesh-and-blood accessories, one of the most fierce and moving photos here is the portrait of a 16-year-old Syrian, Yasmeen, with her child. She fled her husband, who beat and bloodied her, and returned to her family. Her head covering almost seems to be a kind of asylum and maybe, even, a mask of shame.

Sometimes, there is simply no sanctuary.

Certainly not in Ferguson, Mo., which became the epicenter of United States racial politics and protest after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown. In a photo from a demonstration in Ferguson, the black man shown surrendering to three white, heavily armed members of the law surely understands that there is no safe haven for him. No refuge, either, in West Africa, where the Ebola epidemic overwhelmed the population. In one image here, 4-year-old Sweetie Sweetie sits in a bedroom she shares with another Ebola orphan — a bleak phrase that entered the lexicon this year — in Sierra Leone. It’s a photograph of endless depth as Sweetie Sweetie, perhaps, finds a small place of solace in her grief.

Then there are the health workers swaddled in protective clothing right before they enter a high-risk Ebola ward in Liberia. They stare at the viewer and seem to be asking:

How close are you willing to get?

— Dana Jennings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *