LIFE

27 Powerful Photo Stories That Captured Our Attention This Year

In 2016, photographers and curators used images to tell more than a few worthy stories.

31/12/2016 8:21 AM AEDT | Updated 31/12/2016 8:26 AM AEDT
Various Photographers

Another year over, a new one about to begin. What better time to remember the visual stories from 2016 that reminded us humanity is a beautiful, complicated mess?

From a ballet program in Kenya to the real-life mermaids of Korea, the fearless LGBTQ youth of Jamaica to a married couple dealing with depression in the U.S., the best subjects from this year were better captured in pictures than words. With that sentiment in mind, here are the photo projects we discovered, adored and shared this year:

1. These photos of the ballet program bringing strength to one of Africa’s biggest slums:

Fredrik Lerneryd
Fredrik Lerneryd spent a year and a half photographing ballet dancers in the Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi.

Read more here. 

 

2. This series that took us inside the last generation of Haenyo, Korea’s real-life mermaids:

Mijoo Kim
“These women divers are carrying on a Korean legacy and will be the last of their kind," photographer Mijoo Kim explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

3. The photographer who documented what students were wearing when they were sexually assaulted:

Kat Cambareri
Photographer Katherine Cambareri challenges the ease with which people resort to victim blaming.

Read more here.

 

4. The photographer who chronicled her husband’s depression through intimate portraits:

Maureen Drennan
“Where words failed us, the pictures filled in the blanks,” photographer Maureen Drennan explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

5. The nude photos that celebrated the fact that “big and beautiful” people have love stories, too:

Substantia Jones
“Fat femme” photographer Substantia Jones is the brilliant mind behind The Adipositivity Project.

Read more here.

 

6. The photographer who documented early motherhood in unflinching detail:

Anna Ogier-Bloomer
"I hope viewers see their own mother, or all mothers, in a new light," Anna Ogier-Bloomer explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

7. The aerial photos that captured just how differently the rich and poor live:

Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
Photographer Johnny Miller’s “Unequal Scenes” shows wealth discrepancy from above.

Read more here.

 

8. The historic photos that reminded us what the North’s fight for civil rights looked like 50 years ago:

CHARLES BRITTIN/Getty Research Institute.
A photo of civil rights advocates picketing next to the American Nazi Party put our country's current politics into sharp relief.

Read more here.

 

9. The breathtaking photos that captured Cuba’s legendary ballerinas dancing in the streets:

Daniela Fabelo & Daniela Cabrera #OZR_Dance || #🇨🇺💃|| #Cuba

A photo posted by Omar Z. Robles (@omarzrobles) on

Read more here.

 

10. Amaal Said’s portraits that shed beautiful light on women of color:

Amaal Said
Her Instagram account is a celebration of hijabs, lipstick, family and tradition.

Read more here.

 

11. The woman who photographed 500 naked men in an attempt to normalize the nude male body:

Abigail Ekue
“I want to show that like women, some men have body-image issues due to internalized societal ideals," Abigail Ekue explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

12. The series that explored how a 14-year-old sex worker became one of photography’s greatest muses:

Mary Ellen Mark
The love story of photographer Mary Ellen Mark and her muse, Tiny.

Read more here.

 

13. The photos that followed 12 couples over three decades in a unique study of aging:

Barbara Davatz
Since 1982, Barbara Davatz has documented the changing styles and relations of lovers, friends and siblings.

Read more here.

 

14. The raw photo project that asked people to take off their clothes and discuss self-love:

Anastasia Kuba
Photographer Anastasia Kuba has learned that although body positivity is important, beauty is much more complex.

Read more here.

 

15. The visual story of the fearless LGBTQ youth who live in Jamaica’s sewers:

Christo Geoghegan
Photographer Christo Geoghegan captures the beauty of the self-described Gully Queens.

Read more here.

 

16. The rare photos of Marilyn Monroe, taken by the man who fell in love with Norma Jeane Baker:

Andre de Dienes/Steven Kasher Gallery
In 1945, Andre de Dienes was the first professional photographer to  work with Monroe when she was known simply as Norma Jeane.

Read more here.

 

17. The series on poverty that, 30 years later, is as powerful as ever:

Eugene Richards
Eugene Richards' "Below the Line" shatters the cliché imagery associated with destitution, daring viewers to look away.

Read more here.

 

18. The photos that captured the beauty and grace of the world’s first Muslim hijabi ballerina:

Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images
Did we mention the fact that she's only 14 years old?

Read more here.

 

19. The daughter who spent seven years documenting her mother’s bipolar disorder in photos:

Melissa Spitz
“I hope that I show an honest record of my personal situation with a mentally ill, substance-abusing parent,” photographer Melissa Spitz explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

20. The project that let viewers watch as Detroit neighborhoods fell into ruin with Google Street View:

Alex Alsup
A few years ago, these were people's homes.

Read more here.

 

21. The photographer who depicted the ways hijab and niqab can empower, protect and emancipate:

Yumna Al-Arashi
"I wanted to show another side of wearing the hijab, one that portrays ninja-like qualities; power, grace, beauty," Yumna Al-Arashi explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

22. The never-before-published photos that revealed clues Bowie left before his death:

Steve Schapiro
How a 1974 image reappeared in Bowie's final music video.

Read more here.

 

23. The photos of Nydia Blas, who only makes images of women of color:

Nydia Blas
“I feel as though there is a need for women of color to make images of women of color where we can literally see ourselves," Nydia Blas explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

24. The series that took us inside “Africa’s Little Rome,” an eerie city where time stands still:

Aperture Gallery courtesy of the artist
Artist Eli Durst talks photographing a former fascist utopia.

Read more here.

 

25. The all-girls photo collective that celebrates womens’ bodies, unedited:

Ashley Armitage
“At first it might be shocking, but then through exposure it becomes normal," Ashley Armitage explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

26. The biracial artist who dared us to define her through performative self-portraits:

Shulamit Nazarian
"My experience as a person of color is different than others'. I have something to say," Shulamit Nazarian explained to HuffPost.

Read more here.

 

27. The trans/trans couple that collected intimate photos of their life together:

© Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst
Photos of Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst chronicle the small ways couples connect.

Read more here.

 

BONUS: Photos by HuffPost’s own Damon Dahlen, who explored the bedrooms of NYC’s emerging ballerinas:

Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
Take a peek at where dancers live across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey.

Read more here.

 

For even more of the most compelling photo stories from 2016, check out:

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