TIME Picks the Best Viral Photos of 2017

1 minute read

When you look back at 2017, it’s the photos that dutifully fed the internet by dominating social feeds that defined the year. And the year’s most notable viral photos are as varied as they are telling, documenting political movements, crises, and as always, joke material.

Congratulations to whoever even remembers what Trump discussed with leaders in Saudi Arabia, but everyone saw the picture with the orb. Sure Beyoncé released new music in 2017, but her most inescapable material was her record-busting pregnancy announcement photo. Each snapshot above chronicles – in vivid illustration – the moments that spread across the internet. Whether they were thoughtfully staged or unpredictable, there’s human emotion over them all.

Before you look toward 2018, revisit the images in LightBox’s best viral photos of 2017.

Attendees line the Mall as they watch ceremonies to swear in Donald Trump on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington.
Few photos launch a months long investigation. This one did. From the moment the National Parks department trolled Trump on crowd size in January, the White House's brash assertions of questionable truth about the January 20th inauguration's crowd size became endless fodder for jokes. So unforgettable was this debacle that former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer actually rolled onstage at the Emmys in September, and the internet brought it full circle when when they roasted Trump on crowd size again again after December's Christmas tree lighting.Lucas Jackson—Getty Images
Beyoncé poses for her pregnancy announcement which became the most liked photo of 2017 on Instagram.Beyoncé.com
Kellyanne Conway (L) checks her phone after taking a photo as President Donald Trump and leaders of historically black universities and colleges pose for a group photo in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 27, 2017 in Washington, DC.
In February, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was photographed kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office to snap a shot of the President’s listening session with a group of leaders from historically black universities. Her casual pose —which some took issue with — was quickly catapulted to memedom, with takes both silly and surprisingly artistic. Saturday Night Live even used it as a running joke throughout an episode. In response, Conway said she wished people focused on the meeting instead. Tall order Conway. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, and his wife Louise Linton, hold up a sheet of new $1 bills, the first currency notes bearing his and U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza's signatures, in Washington on Nov. 15.
When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton stopped by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, they were photographed checking out $1 bills. The wire photos of the pair holding a sheet of dollars - the first currency notes bearing his and U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza's signatures - just made the parody too easy. It predictably and instantly became a flash point for online fun and comedian Andy Richter's joking tweet about it got 14,000 likes.AP/REX/Shutterstock
A man smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom, listening to music, in Aleppo's formerly rebel-held neighborhood of al-Shaar on March 9, 2017.
The typical photo depicting the people surviving war it was not. People widely circulated this haunting March photo of Abu Omar, 70, and his pipe as he listened to his record player from his seat on his broken bed amid the rubble in Aleppo where he insisted on staying. As for the portrait's spread, the photographer Joseph Eid will tell you “this picture touches the soul of the human being.”Joseph Eid—AFP/Getty Images
APTOPIX Canada Tornado Mower
Cecilia Wessels took the image of her husband Theunis Wessels mowing his lawn as a tornado swirled menacingly in the background. She did it to show her parents in South Africa, and said that the twister wasn't as close it appears. That didn't stop the full-on social media firestorm after she shared it on Facebook. Cecilia Wessels—The Canadian Press/AP
US President Trump in Saudi Arabia
In May, President Trump touching a glowing volleyball glass orb at a summit in Saudi Arabia lit up the whole internet with its reflective glow. He was inaugurating the new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Trump’s critics – who saw a villainous pop culture vibe - took it from there, comparing it lots of other groups that encircled an object that glowed. On Google, searches for "Trump orb" spiked immediately, and it caught the whole word's attention. Case in point: Prime Minsters from Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland recreated the ubiquitous image, tweeting "who orb'd it better?" Bandar Algaloud—Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Residents of La Vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson, Texas were trapped due to severe flooding from Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 27.
Going viral can actually help. Take for example this photo of an elderly woman legs vanished in the waist high as the flood waters overwhelmed a La Vita Bella Nursing Home in Dickinson Texas due to Hurricane Harvey in August. The owners of the living center posted it to Twitter asking for help. Rescue teams answered with air lifts. It was one of the many ways people harnessed the power of social media after disaster hit this year.Trudy Lampson
Daryl Hudeck, Connie Aiden Pham
An action shot of Houston Police simply showed SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck doing his job: he was carrying Catherine Pham and her 13-month old son Aiden after rescuing them from their home surrounded by the floodwaters in Hurricane Harvey in August. But once one man used the photo in service of his argument: men are the ultimate protecters, the image paired with the controversial stance launched a widely circulated debate about gender dynamics.David J. Phillip—AP
United States Russia
Suffice it to say that a photo of President Donald Trump and Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. hit wires at an odd time. Less than a day after Trump fired FBI director James B. Comey Trump's campaign's ties to Russian officials. American journalists were barred from attending, but one photographer from TASS a Russian owned news agency got the photo of a lifetime. Social media users did not hold back on the quips about the weirdly timed encounter.Russian Foreign Ministry/AP
Protesters gather at O'Hare airport after travelers held
A smiley shot of a young girl in a hijab and a little boy in a kippah peacefully protesting President Donald Trump‘s immigration order made headlines and was reteweeted 13,000 times across the internet as people celebrated. Sitting on the shoulders of their fathers: Meryem Yildirim, 7, and Adin Bendat-Appell, 9 carried the signs: "Love Love Love" and "Hate Has No Home Here" at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill. Captured at a decisive moment by the Chicago Tribune’s Nucci DiNuzzo, people praised the universality of its message. Nuccio DiNuzzo—Chicago Tribune/TNS/Getty Images
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits on a boat during a kite surfing outing with British businessman Richard Branson during his holiday on Branson's Moskito island in the British Virgin Islands
President Barack Obama's unbridled joy while kitesurfing the azur waves of British businessman Richard Branson's Moskito island in the Virgin Islands quickly went viral as people used it to communicate what they considered the precise moment Obama realized he was officially out of office with captions like "America, new phone who dis?."Jack Brockway—Virgin/Reuters

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