The best photographs of 2021 – and the stories behind them | Photography

Funeral pyre in India

A funeral for Covid victims, Mumbai
Divyakant Solanki/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

23 April I used to be staying on the outskirts of Mumbai when information broke that there was a fire in one of the hospitals coping with Covid sufferers. I rushed over to seek out them shifting sufferers to different hospitals; they mentioned greater than 10 folks had died already in consequence.

The funeral was devastating. There have been 10 to 12 Covid victims laid out on the funeral pyre with their kinfolk gathered round, many of them in tears. Coping with the feelings of kinfolk and family members is the most troublesome half of protecting occasions as a photojournalist.

Civic staff, reminiscent of the man on this picture, had a vital function in funerals throughout Covid – they have been the solely folks allowed to subject final rites. Sadly, there wasn’t almost sufficient PPE for kinfolk to have the ability to enter the funeral floor or contact the our bodies of their lifeless members of the family.


This picture may be very near my coronary heart; I’ve seen so many lifeless our bodies over the previous yr, however it’s troublesome to seize the impression that has had on me, not to mention the individuals who have misplaced kinfolk. I believe seeing a person in PPE, sombrely strolling between funeral pyres, exhibits the human toll of the pandemic. As advised to Alex Mistlin

Migrants at sea

Tunisian folks anticipate assistance on a wood boat, Lampedusa, Italy
Santi Palacios/AP

25 July We have been crusing in worldwide waters simply south of the island of Lampedusa once we heard fishers calling by means of the radio, saying there was this small boat with 17 folks in it that was taking up water and determined for assist.

The most troublesome factor about working at sea is having to work round the rescue operation. The sea route connecting Libya to Italy is one of the deadliest migrant routes in the world. You might be in the center of nowhere, which might be very difficult, particularly at night time. However when you’re fortunate and have sufficient mild, or a full moon, you actually get the probability to indicate how lonely the crossings are.

I fear that it isn’t at all times obvious how excessive these conditions are. Individuals have already seen footage of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean; everybody is aware of that it is occurring. So, the purpose is to take footage that higher convey the depth of their experiences. AM

Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala

Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala, New York
Justin Lane/EPA

13 September I’ve been protecting the Met Gala for a quantity of years. It’s at all times a weird scene. Any crimson carpet is thrilling, however it’s such a bizarre combine of folks: businesspeople, music stars, film stars. There’s a frenetic high quality to the complete factor which means you may get two utterly random celebrities standing subsequent to one another.

This can be a humorous image, in some methods. To have any person present up on this outfit, completely lined in black – it exhibits how celeb is at a bizarre juncture. In fact, there are a lot of weird outfits at the Met Gala – there’s a lengthy procession of loopy outfits and celebrities attempting to one-up each other – however being lined in black was so completely different that it caught my consideration. One thing actually wacky, or actually attractive, is nearly extra mundane.

Kim Kardashian is at all times of nice curiosity to folks. It’s so a lot about what she has determined to do in that second. AM

A house covered in volcanic ash on La Palma, Spain

A home lined by ash on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain
Emilio Morenatti/AP

30 October The first time I went to La Palma to cowl the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, the exclusion zone was protected by police, which meant I wasn’t in a position to get shut sufficient. This was taken on my second journey. I noticed a home on the horizon that was utterly lined in ash. My first intention was simply to go there on foot, but it surely wasn’t potential, as a result of of the sizzling rocks and stones rolling down from the volcano. It may be actually impersonal utilizing a drone, however typically it’s the solely choice – the solely method of capturing the magnitude of the tragedy.

The volcano continued to emit huge quantities of magma and ash for greater than a month after the eruption. I noticed loads of homes lined utterly, however this one was the most visually affecting, as a result of the home is so remoted. It’s such a clear snapshot of the devastation the volcano brought on. The home remains to be standing, although. AM

A num pleading with police in Myanmar

A nun pleads with the police in Myitkyina, Myanmar
Myitkyina Information Journal/AFP/Getty Pictures

8 March Having been the de facto chief of Myanmar since successful a landslide election in November 2015 and assuming the function of state counsellor in April 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi was deposed in a army coup on 1 February. In the ensuing protests, lots of of folks – together with dozens of children – have been killed by the safety forces. This shot, by an unattributed photographer, exhibits a nun in the northern metropolis of Myitkyina remonstrating with cops amid the crackdown.

Funeral of a covid victim in Indonesia

An Indonesian burial group in Yogyakarta, Java
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Pictures

12 August In July and August, Indonesia was actually struggling to include its Covid outbreak. I had the thought of photographing a burial group to indicate how Covid protocols have been affecting each side of life in Indonesia. Yogyakarta was significantly badly hit by the Delta variant; you’d hear ambulance sirens all over the place you went and the burial groups have been at the frontline. It’s them who must cope with the scenario when folks go into hospital and don’t come out alive.

I used to be at a hospital when, at about 11pm, I acquired the name to placed on my hazmat go well with and head to the cemetery. Covid protocols meant that folks needed to be distant from their household of their ultimate moments. It was so unhappy seeing the households praying outdoors the cemeteries, realizing that their beloved one’s burial was being left to a group of strangers in hazmat fits. AM

Tom Daley knitting at the Olympics

Tom Daley knits earlier than the males’s 10m platform ultimate at the Olympics, Tokyo
Clive Rose/Getty Pictures

7 August I’ve been photographing Tom since Beijing 2008. He’s a pleasure to {photograph}.

This was simply earlier than his 10m Olympic ultimate. With the Covid protocols, there wasn’t sufficient time to return and chill in the Olympic village, so he simply discovered a quiet nook of the swimming pool, virtually below the diving board, and acquired his knitting equipment out.

Him not having his shirt on provides a pleasant contact, as a result of of the distinction between his masculinity – his washboard abs and athlete’s physique – and how relaxed he appears, knitting away. I simply thought it was a pleasant second, not essentially for now, however to look again on in 20 or 30 years’ time.

It was fairly a wierd Olympics, as a result of of Covid, however for an athlete to begin knitting in the center of an Olympic competitors was actually distinctive. It is rather a lot in step with who he’s, which is cool. Wanting again, folks in all probability keep in mind the complete knitting factor higher than him successful his medals. AM

Protestors storm the Capitol

A mob makes an attempt to breach the US Capitol, Washington DC
Victor J Blue/Bloomberg

6 January I had lined a collection of giant rallies in DC round Trump’s Cease the Steal marketing campaign. By 6 January, we have been all ready for violence round the metropolis, primarily from far proper or fascist teams, however anybody who says they knew what was going to occur is a liar.

Trump got here on stage to the adulation of the crowd, however after 10 or quarter-hour folks started peeling away and marching up Pennsylvania Avenue. Possibly they’d simply heard all of it earlier than, however I felt fairly strongly that I wanted to be at the entrance of that group.

This image was taken in direction of the finish of the riot, simply after they’d breached Congress. I had already been inside with the rioters and was very near the killing of Ashli Babbitt by a Capitol police officer.

The US Congress is a large constructing and there have been possibly 2,000 protesters attempting to breach a set of wood doorways and re-enter the constructing. Police items inside the constructing had run out of the chemical irritant they use for crowd management and had resorted to spraying hearth extinguishers out the doorways. That was when one protester stood at the entrance, spreading his arms in triumph, nearly as if to have a good time Trump’s victory in that second. AM

Police arrest a woman at a memorial site to Sarah Everard

Police detain a girl as folks collect after the kidnap and homicide of Sarah Everard, Clapham Widespread, London
Hannah McKay/Reuters

13 March Typically London can lack a group really feel – you don’t know your neighbours – so seeing so many individuals, significantly younger girls, come out for this lady whom none of them knew actually added to the sense of emotion on the day. There was loads of crying.

There was a small group of protesters addressing lots of of folks from the bandstand. Because it was nonetheless throughout Covid restrictions, the police ultimately arrived to finish the gathering, however many have been decided to proceed paying their respects. It went from a reflective, emotional scene to an indignant one. That was when the police and protesters clashed.

I used to be in the centre of the bandstand when the police started arresting protesters. There was a commotion and I don’t know how Patsy Stevenson got here to be pressured to the floor, however I’ve footage of her on the flooring, face down along with her palms behind her again.

Individuals have mentioned it appears like a portray – she appears so placing along with her pale pores and skin and crimson hair – but it surely was pitch black and I couldn’t use flash as a result of of the police hi-vis jackets. There may be all kinds of luck concerned in the parts coming collectively on this picture.

I believe the image of a lone feminine protester being restrained by faceless male cops helped to propel the story right into a speaking level; it turned a logo of anger. AM

Whale sharks in the Philippines

A fisher feeds whale sharks in Tan-Awan, the Philippines
Hannah Reyes Morales/The New York Instances/Eyevine

30 September I assumed it was actually fascinating to discover how lockdown measures have been affecting the relationship between Tan-Awan, a city in the Philippines, and a species in decline.

Dwelling in the Philippines, you typically witness the rigidity between wildlife conservation and native communities. Feeding the whale sharks has an impression on their diet and migration patterns, whereas the sharks have abrasions from swimming too near the boats. However the probability to swim with the world’s largest fish attracts vacationers to the city. These fishers wouldn’t be doing this if they’d extra promising financial alternatives, so I don’t consider in making villains of the group for this apply.

I used to be swimming with the digital camera, positioning it above and under the water and photographing as extensively as I might. To get the total shark, it’s a must to be fairly far-off, however not up to now that you simply sacrifice visibility. I discover underwater pictures difficult – the world is so completely different beneath the floor. It was vital to me to have the shark and the sea warden in the identical body, as this picture is de facto a couple of complicated interdependence. AM

Tourists at a volcano in Iceland

Vacationers watch a volcano erupt, Iceland
Arnar Kristjansson

9 April This was taken simply as the second crater began to type. Earlier in the day, I used to be caught in an enormous snowstorm and I used to be nervous there could be no strategy to seize it on movie. However I made a decision to attend round simply in case the snow cleared; you possibly can by no means belief the forecast in Iceland.

It was bizarre seeing folks standing so shut. It may be very harmful, primarily as a result of of the fuel, relatively than the lava – if the wind adjustments course, then folks can get violently ailing. There was a youngster taking TikTok movies of himself leaping fewer than 5 metres away. It was one of these pinch-yourself moments the place you seize one thing actually surreal.

The crater you possibly can see on this picture died inside a number of days, however some of the others shaped from this eruption lasted for months. The one right here is the most photogenic, nonetheless. I believe it’s actually fairly stunning. AM

The death of mountain gorilla Ndakasi

The final moments of an orphaned mountain gorilla, Virunga nationwide park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Brent Stirton/Getty Pictures

21 September I’ve labored with these gorillas for fairly a very long time. I used to be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007, doing a narrative on how a bunch of rangers had gone to South Africa for paramilitary coaching, to fight the varied militia teams that have been working in that park. Three days into that task, we heard {that a} group of severely endangered mountain gorillas had been killed. Since then, I’ve been returning to the park frequently.

In September, I used to be centered on documenting an operation to clear a bunch of militias out of the park. Whereas I used to be there, Ndakasi wasn’t doing effectively. I went to cowl a medical process they have been doing along with her. When she got here out of anaesthesia, her caregiver, Andre Bauma, and two vets labored to resuscitate her. After that, she was very weak and crawled on high of Andre. Each half of her was on high of him, the identical method a child would. It was very childlike. The park knew she was very sick, however hoped she would recuperate. Then issues took a flip.

It was very sombre. As soon as it was clear what was occurring, I shot these frames and left, as a result of it turned a really private second between her and Andre. She was the solely gorilla to outlive that bloodbath in 2007. She was a child and was discovered suckling her lifeless mom. It was very chilly and infants can die of publicity in a short time. On that day, Andre turned her caregiver. The story is he put her inside his shirt for heat and walked about 4 miles by means of a harmful space. There’s a sure cycle to how she died, being near him, being held by him once more. As advised to Emine Saner

A girl in her ruined home in Gaza

A lady in her destroyed dwelling, Gaza
Fatima Shbair/Getty Pictures

24 Might I used to be on task for Getty Pictures that day to cowl Gaza after the [Gaza-Israel] ceasefire settlement. I headed straight to Beit Hanoun – the neighbourhood had been hit whereas households have been of their properties.

I visited all the households there, heard their stories and went inside the destroyed homes, together with the dwelling of Raghad Naseer. Raghad accompanied me from one room to a different, carrying her teddy bear. I requested Raghad about her room and she took me to it.

She was quiet the complete time, with indicators of shock and unhappiness on her face. She stood in her room in full silence, considering what had occurred to the neighbourhood by means of the destroyed wall, as if she couldn’t understand it. Seeing Raghad on this state was very painful. On this image, she was expressing the emotions of all the residents of the neighbourhood. It sums up all the pieces that occurred.

I visited Raghad once more this month. She and her household needed to depart the neighbourhood and lease a small home far-off. Raghad and her siblings undergo psychologically from what occurred; they really feel very upset at shedding their dwelling and being separated from their neighbours. Taking this image made me suppose: my dwelling might have been like this at any second and I might have lived with the identical feeling. I take a look at the folks in Beit Hanoun and suppose how sturdy they’re. ES

Taliban fighters in Kabul

Taliban fighters at Hamid Karzai Worldwide airport recite night prayers, Kabul
Jim Huylebroek/The New York Instances/Eyevine

28 August This was taken a pair of weeks after the fall of Kabul. Outdoors the airport, it was full chaos; it felt like everybody in the nation was attempting to get in. Only a couple of days prior, the [Islamic State offshoot] ISKP assault had killed lots of.

These males are particular forces who’ve been deployed to safe the airport. It was very troublesome getting entry and, on my earlier makes an attempt, I had both been turned away or crushed. That day, I used to be decided to get in. When night time fell, I made my method inside, earlier than explaining to a bunch of Taliban fighters that I simply wanted a number of pictures of them inside the gate.

One man, the man you possibly can see main the prayers, began talking English; he mentioned I’d be capable of take some after prayers. I requested if I might take them throughout. Seeing the fighters praying with their fashionable army tools, uniforms and helmets appeared like an excellent encapsulation of how the Taliban had transitioned from a guerrilla pressure to a contemporary army operation.

This picture is vital to me personally, as a result of it vindicated my choice to remain by means of August. It was a big gamble, as a result of we knew issues could be unsure as soon as the Taliban took over, however I felt I needed to be there to doc the finish of the international struggle on terror as we all know it. AM

Drag queen Amanda Lepore

Revellers at Bushwig, a drag extravaganza, New York
Stephanie Keith/Reuters

12 September I attended the first Bushwig 10 years in the past and was greatly surprised; it was freer, extra avant garde, than something I had seen beforehand. Since then, it has turn out to be in all probability the largest drag pageant in the world, with lots of of performers over two days. It’s a must-do occasion in New York Metropolis queer nightlife.

That’s Amanda Lepore. She is kind of the character, extra icon than lady at this level. When she steps on the stage, everybody simply flips out – ladies, boys, straight, homosexual. She stands for all the pieces that’s vital about drag: embracing your self and having the means to be whoever you need to be. AM

A refugee is comforted in Spain

A refugee is comforted by a member of the Spanish Pink Cross, Ceuta, Spain
Bernat Armangue/AP

18 Might This was taken in Ceuta, one of two Spanish exclaves bordering Morocco on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. Provided that politically it’s in Europe, it’s a long-established route into the continent. On 17 and 18 Might, greater than 8,000 folks crossed over.

This man arrived along with his brother, who fell unconscious. He began freaking out, scared that his companion was dying. A member of the Pink Cross consoled him, saying all the pieces was going to be OK. It was only one of these moments; he had no selection however to break down, not solely as a result of of the traumatic scenario, but additionally, I think about, as a result of of the weight of all the pieces they’d been by means of in the previous couple of weeks.

Rather a lot of the time, arriving migrants don’t obtain the assist or consideration they want – it was so nice to seize a second of real connection between two human beings, impartial of their backgrounds or religions. AM

A horse being airlifted by Swiss army forces

A horse being airlifted by the Swiss army, Saignelégier
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

9 April I used to be advised the Swiss military veterinary service have been finishing up checks and there have been rumours that this might characteristic horses being airlifted by helicopter. I had no thought how that was going to work, however I suspected it’d make for a pleasant image.

The horses are tranquillised and have their face lined earlier than being hooked up to the helicopter. Their our bodies are wrapped, too, because it will get fairly chilly up there.

I couldn’t embody the helicopter in the shot, as the cable was too lengthy – nearly 30 metres – however I believe it offers the {photograph} a surreal air, simply seeing a horse suspended like that. It’s a very unusual picture. I believe it’s improved by not having the context of the helicopter.

The horses are carried over fairly lengthy distances, typically for greater than half an hour. What I actually like about this image is that you could see the motion of the horse – you possibly can nearly really feel it swinging in the wind. AM

Wildfires in Greece

Residents evacuate an island hit by wildfires, Evia, Greece
Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures

8 August As quickly as I reached the island of Evia, I might see the fires raging in the distance, rising above the sky and burning with this awe-inspiring depth. You may hear this terrifying crackling sound throughout the island; it was not like something I had ever skilled.

I noticed Panayiota Noumidi, 81, transferring awkwardly outdoors the home you possibly can see right here. She was clearly distressed, so I approached her. She mentioned she couldn’t discover her husband (they have been later reunited) and that she was fearful for her dwelling – they’d constructed it slowly over 20 years and it appeared like the flames have been heading straight in direction of it (it was not broken).

It was a chaotic day, however I attempted my best to seize the depth of the hearth, the desperation of folks in Evia and the lack of authorities assist for these in misery.

I knew immediately the image was an vital reflection of the scenario dealing with Greek folks. However I couldn’t think about it could go viral round the world. It has come to symbolise the local weather disaster, with the catastrophic harm brought on by the fires representing the harm that human exercise is doing to the planet. For me, it is rather particular to take a photograph that impacts so many individuals round the world. AM

Denmark's footballers shield Christian Eriksen

Denmark footballers type a human protect round their teammate Christian Eriksen at Euro 2020, Copenhagen
Friedemann Vogel/EPA

12 June This was taken roughly 4 or 5 minutes after Eriksen collapsed. At the second I took this, nobody knew if he was even alive.

I attempted to take care of distance all through. Uefa’s Covid guidelines prevented me from occurring to the pitch, however, regardless, I felt it was vital to not do something that may intervene with the medical group’s work.

I acquired loads of criticism for this image, for attempting to get a shot of somebody who was probably lifeless, however it’s my job. It’s actually vital to indicate the actuality of the scenario. Seeing the followers hoping and praying was so highly effective. Regardless of nationality or help, everybody simply needed Eriksen to be OK.

The faces of the gamers round Eriksen are unbelievable. They will clearly see how critical the scenario is and they’re extraordinarily distressed. Restarting somebody’s coronary heart is extremely troublesome; once you see it up shut, as I might, you realise how a lot each second issues. AM

Feeding seagulls in New Delhi

Individuals feed seagulls in the smog, Delhi
Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

18 November From the second I arrived in Delhi, my eyes burned from the thick smog. I wasn’t there for work; it was extra of a vacation, with my spouse, so I took the alternative to spend a number of days waking up early and getting out to take footage. After I got here again from the shoot, I went by means of all the footage and nearly didn’t hassle to file this one. However I requested my spouse: “Which image ought to I am going with?” and this one was her choice. The preliminary story was about the air pollution, however for me this image is all about the birds; they give the impression of being so dramatic in opposition to the smog-filled backdrop. AM

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