David Guttenfelder Wins NYT ‘Year in Pictures’ Bakeoff

For the past decade, the hardworking staff has been the Shutterbug Boswell of New York Times photographers, annually tallying who shot what in the paper’s Year in Pictures Special Section.

This year’s section is especially fraught, given the violence and wanton destruction that characterized 2022, as Times editor Dana Jennings addresses in his introduction to the website version of The Year in Pictures 2022.

As I immersed myself in these dozens of photos from the past year, I kept thinking about what happened to my Aunt Shirley and her family more than 30 years ago. I was a senior in college when she and three of her children were murdered by an arsonist who set fire to their tenement in Haverhill, Mass. What I recall most intensely from that dark week is one of Shirley’s younger sisters seething in front of the television cameras from Boston, keening with tears of rage and grief, craving revenge.

Over and over, as I looked at these photographs, I saw the same fury and misery that had stricken Aunt Shirley’s sister, her feral lust to get even.

I saw it in Aleppo and Nairobi, in Boston and Tehran. I saw it after typhoons and tornadoes, in refugee camps and in the rubble of collapsed buildings. But I learned as I looked that it’s better to see the living shackled to the rack of their unspeakable emotions than to watch those who are entombed in blank stoicism.

Also, these photos make the reader more human amid the infinite bombast of our electronic infotainment. The mind-numbing media avalanche threatens to make war, terrorism and catastrophe banal, to turn the maimed and the dead into mere meat, as abstract as Lady Gaga’s gown of raw beef. What many of the pictures here do, though, is turn the shallow creeks of the general into the profound deeps of the particular — shocking us awake.

Let’s start this year’s tally with a shoutout to Daniel Berehulak, whose devastating photo of “twisted metal and other debris [that] lined a village road after a column of destroyed Russian military vehicles was cleared away” provided the section’s double-truck wrapper.

Berehulak was one of several Times photographers who scored a Year in Pictures hat trick. Another was the stalwart Lynsey Addario, who captured more heart-rending tragedy in Ukraine with this photo of “a mother and her two children [who] lay dead as Ukranian soldiers tried in vain to save a man.”

Finbarr O’Reilly contributed this touching photograph of “Hlib Kihitov mourning his twin brother, Ehor Kihitov, who was killed along with nearly two dozen other soldiers in an artillery strike in Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region.”

As Dana Jennings noted in his introduction, “the year . . . wasn’t all blood and guts, and these photos reflect that, too: ballgames were played, marriages made, Shakespeare performed . . . ”

And Olympic hopes dashed, as Chang W. Lee captured in this photo of Shaun White, “a three-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, after completing his final run on the men’s halfpipe. He missed out on a medal.”

It’s David Guttenfelder, though, who scored the most photos – five, if you’re keeping score at home – in the Times year-end review. His wartime photographs run the gamut from wistful to hopeful.

The former: “Maksim Syroizhko, a Ukrainian soldier with his girlfriend, Yana Matavapaeva. The couple said they had not seen each other since the war began.”

The latter: “Misha, 27, who lost his legs in battle, worked out in a hospital gym as he awaited prosthetic limbs. Fellow patients called him Acrobat.”

The Times Year in Pictures 2022 is a truly amazing assemblage of images capturing a world rich with drama, emotion, and human resilience. It’s also a testament to journalistic vision, skill, and courage, well worth every minute of your attention.

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