TIME the backstory

Photos of the Year That Almost Got Away: Behind and Beyond 365

Senior Photo Editor Phil Bicker takes a look behind the scenes at the editing choices behind 365: The Year in Pictures, our massive look at the past year in photos.

Over the past weeks, LightBox has published its selection of year-end galleries, a retrospective photographic survey of the year that was: the 10 best photos of the year, the best of TIME’s commissioned portraits and photojournalism, the best photobooks, the year’s most surprising photos, the year in déjà vu and 365 (a photo per day in 2013). The selections, made with contributions from the entire TIME photography department, form a solid yearbook for 2013.

For 365: The Year in Pictures, we set a number of rules to guide our selections: the most rigid being that images needed to be taken on the day they represent in the gallery. In compiling these year-end features, it always proves difficult to strike a balance: between form and content, between images with news value and those with aesthetic merit, and between photos of joy and those of sorrow. These variables are particularly difficult to bring into harmony when editing a cohesive gallery of 365 images; the sheer quantity of visually-diverse content created over the past year is, at best, extremely challenging to organize coherently.


Finding the right image for each day of the year is unpredictable: there are days of abundant riches, where it’s difficult to select a single shot, and days where finding an adequate images is akin to a fruitless search for the needle in a haystack. It’s also complicated because images need to be of a certain type; often, more subtle images are overlooked in favor of direct images conveying a simple message. Photos shot as part of longer-term stories often fall to the wayside, although their merit is unquestioned.

The final 365 gallery acknowledges the work of hundreds of photographers. A vast majority of these are documentary or photojournalistic images and come from the major news services. But smaller agencies, independent photographers and work specifically commissioned for TIME over the the past 12 months is also represented. The final edit includes photos from established photographers like TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev, the AP’s David Guttenfelder and Jerome Delay, alongside emerging photographers like Mosa’ab Elshamy and EPA’s Ali Ali; the latter of whom had the greatest number of photographs used throughout our year-end galleries.

We note one exception to our rules for 365: an amazing portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings. Although the image, created from photos obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, wasn’t taken on the day it represents, we made an exception because of the complications stemming from the transmission of data from a satellite millions of miles from Earth.

Even after going through tens of thousands of printouts and hundreds of digital and paper contact sheets, there is still a nagging sense that a significant or important image has been omitted — or worse yet, missed completely. And so it goes: there are images that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it into our galleries. Here, Senior Photo Editor Phil Bicker looks back on some of the photos that got away, giving a brief explanation for their omission and value.

SYRIA, ALEPPO. Relatives of a wounded civilian by regime forces air strike brought balloons in his hospital room. ALESSIO ROMENZI
Alessio Romenzi
White House handout photo of U.S. President Barack Obama shooting clay targets at Camp David
Pete Souza—White House
Zheng Zhang—HotSpot /Landov
Protest against the Jewish settlement of Shelo
Alaa Badarneh—EPA
Mali Fighting
Jerome Delay—AP
Two dresses belonging to Fareba and Nabila Gul.
Bryan Denton—The New York Times/Redux
Two dresses belonging to Fareba and Nabila Gul.
O. Laban-Mattie—UNHCR/AFP/Getty Images
Istanbul: Police Storm Gezi Park
Jodi Hilton—Nur Photo/Sipa USA
Women walk on a windy day outside Kabul
Mohammad Ismail—Reuters
Song Xuxia receives treatment at a hospital after an earthquake hit Minxian county
Wang Yixuan—Reuters
vatican city. nov 9th 2013.Paul VI Hall, at 10:45
Pope Francis' audience with U.N.I.T.A.L.S.I. for the 110th anniversary of its foundation
Francesco Zizola—NOOR for TIME
Carl De Souza—AFP/Getty Images
APTOPIX Bangladesh US Trade
Suman Paul—AP
April 25, 2013. Two victims amid the rubble of a garment factory building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Death toll hits 30 after Nairobi shopping mall attack
Kabir Dhanji—EPA
A woman and children hide inside Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 21, 2013.
Belonging - Old Dhaka
Munem Wasif—Agence VU

Think we totally missed something? Let us know what you liked seeing and what you would have added in the comments below.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

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