While hundreds of dedicated photographers contribute tens of thousands of pictures to the world’s news wires each and every day, only the most exceptional photojournalists manage to routinely make pictures that offer fresh perspectives on the events that define our era. Established photographers like David Guttenfelder and Jerome Delay with the Associated Press and Goran Tomasevic with Reuters, as well as less-familiar names like Ali Ali with EPA and Mohammed Al-Shaikh with Agence-France Presse, have time and again produced outstanding work over the past 12 months.
But throughout the year, one name has stood out from the rest: Associated Press photographer Muhammed Muheisen. At-once authoritative and distinctive, Muheisen’s photographs have become indispensable for news outlets the world over; in fact, throughout 2013, Muheisen earned distinction as the photographer whose work appeared most often in LightBox’s Pictures of the Week feature.
Inspired by a spirit of humanism and driven by an appreciation of the ensuring power of the visual narrative, Muheisen’s work consistently surprises. For these and for so many other admirable qualities in his work, we are proud to name Islamabad-based Muhammed Muheisen as TIME’s choice for the Wire Photographer of the Year.
TIME asked Muheisen to keep a video diary, adding sound and motion to his photographic record of his travels and his assignments:
The 31-year-old Jordanian national, whose work we featured on LightBox earlier in the year, was part of the AP team of photographers awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of the civil war in Syria — the second Pulitzer Muheisen has received since joining the AP at the age of 19. Now the AP’s Chief Photographer in Pakistan, Muheisen is responsible for daily coverage of news and features in the region.
In 2013, he brought his singular talents to the streets of South Africa to document the uncertainties sparked by Nelson Mandela’s ailing health. He continued, meanwhile, to produce enchanting images of daily life in and around Islamabad, where he has been based for the past three years.
Even before he begins covering the day’s news, Muheisen — a photographer who clearly lives for his work — turns his eyes to the streets, searching for the telling moment in the city awakening around him. He rises early to catch the morning light trickling through the dusty slums on the outskirts of the city. Or he heads to a local school to make pictures of children as they play, work and study.
“I love the quietness of this hour,” he tells TIME, adding that he seeks out “scenes that carry a message of life or joy. It is not only my project, but my passion.”
Although many of the children he photographs are refugees, living on the edge of conflict, Muheisen’s images often capture the innocent cheer and simplicity of his subject’s life, all while managing to evade the countless photographic cliches that such scenes so often present. Born in Jerusalem, Muheisen is no stranger to conflict himself, and his later experiences covering wars in Iraq and Syria have reinforced his commitment to illuminating the lives — and the struggles — of his subjects.
“All the children of the world share something in common, wherever they are from,” he says. “An image of boys and girls skipping rope: that could happen anywhere in the world. Children are powerless, and I always do my best to let my image be their voice, and let my picture carry their voice to the outside world.”
Viewers everywhere are richer for Muheisen’s compassion, his devotion to his craft and his unwavering, unblinking engagement with the lives and the issues around him.
TIME’s previous wire photographers of the year: