In a year when the still image maintained its unparalleled power to inform, to shock and, at times, to delight, TIME’s portraits once again put a human face on many of 2013’s most relevant and gripping stories. As photographers traveled around the globe to illuminate the personalities of the year’s signature newsmakers, the regional, racial and ideological diversity of those depicted comprise a kind of meta-portrait of a world both deeply fractured and profoundly interconnected. Mark Seliger’s picture of Malala Yousafzai evinces an air of quiet, undeniable dignity; composer Philip Glass’ gaze in a marvelous, painterly portrait by Lucia Herrero is unsentimental and almost unnervingly direct; while the solitude suggested in Nadav Kander’s image of Charles, Prince of Wales, conveys intimacy and a kind of decorous warmth, rather than -- as the viewer might first infer -- the chill of isolation. Paola Kudacki was commissioned to photograph our Hollywood Best Performances package in early 2013, and Marco Grob and Peter Hapak, both TIME contract photographers, continued to prove their mastery of subject and light in numerous assignments throughout the year. These and the other portraits that make up this LightBox gallery remind us that, as powerful as the grand gesture might be, it is often the quiet, unfiltered gaze of a fellow human being that makes for the most intense, and the most revelatory, of all pictures.