The world may move faster, and the images it produces faster still. But what remains in the mind is the single frame.
The frame may hold an image that compels close study: the puff of dust from the instant a bullet strikes the granite cladding of a U.S. Courthouse in Dallas, above the hunched form of a uniformed guard fleeing the gunman, half a block away in combat gear and closing fast. The frame might contain what you wish you could unsee: the view down to the drowned bodies of the father and daughter on the bank of the Rio Grande.
It could be, in the fingertips of the U.S. President touching the back of the First Lady’s hand, a Rorschach test. It could show, in a year defined in many parts of the world by protests, a band of youths in Hong Kong framed by a puzzle wall of steel barricades; flames attacking the face of a Chilean policewoman in riot gear; or a pair of coffins laid in a Bolivian street otherwise empty but for an armored vehicle.
A single image can be a symbol — a National Park vandalized during the government shutdown. A single image can be information — the fickleness of a tornado, in the scar left across a green Ohio field by a traveling roof. The truth is, 193 years after the first known permanent photograph was made, a single image can be any number of things. In our annual unranked selection, we’re going with 100.
Warning: Some of the following images are graphic in nature and might be disturbing to some viewers.