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Behind the Scenes of TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year Issue

4 minute read
Edward Felsenthal is the Executive Chairman and former Editor-in-Chief of TIME.

On the cover of TIME, the year ended as it began. In January, our cover featured Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader and famous dissident, who warned, in a profile by TIME senior correspondent Simon Shuster, against appeasing Vladimir Putin: “Time and again the West falls into Putin’s elementary traps,” Navalny said. “It just takes my breath away.”

This time there was no appeasement, as TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year Volodymyr Zelensky, who appears on the final cover of the year, persuaded the West that freedom was at stake not just in Ukraine but across the world. “If they devour us, the sun in your sky will get dimmer,” Zelensky told Simon during a remarkable interview on a private train journey in November. Simon has spent much of the year reporting from the presidential compound in Kyiv. His time with Zelensky for this project offers an unprecedentedly intimate window into the President’s thinking.

Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk, who has been covering the country for TIME since 2014Efrem Lukatsky

Both covers are the work of artist Neil Jamieson, under the guidance of TIME creative director D.W. Pine. The Person of the Year cover incorporates images of Ukrainians and others who represent the spirit of Ukraine that swept the world as thousands stepped in to help. We tell some of those heroic stories in this issue in a piece by TIME’s Karl Vick and Yasmeen Serhan. The issue also includes images by Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk, who has worked with TIME, and with Simon, since 2014. He has been covering the war with the eye of a seasoned photojournalist and the heart of a native, and he shares extraordinary photos of Zelensky in settings no journalist has previously seen.

Person of the Year has always been an occasion to step back and think about the year through the lens of the people who helped shape it. For 2022, we broadened the forms of influence we recognize, adding Icon of the Year, Innovators of the Year, and Breakthrough Artist of the Year while continuing our tradition of choosing an Athlete of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, and Heroes of the Year.

Blackpink poses for photographer Petra Collins in L.A. on Nov. 18TIME

The new recognitions have been an opportunity to see leadership from different vantage points. And each offers the exciting challenge of telling that story in a unique way. Sometimes that means constructing an elaborate set with a faux forest and vintage station wagon, as we did for the artist Petra Collins’ shoot of our Entertainer of the Year, Blackpink. It can mean the spectacular photograph of Michelle Yeoh, our first Icon of the Year, in a sequined gown from the final collection of the late designer—and TIME100 alum—Virgil Abloh. For baseball superstar Aaron Judge, the key prop on the set for his Athlete of the Year shoot was a pile of Dubble Bubble gum. Despite being weeks away from becoming one of the highest-paid players in baseball history, the New York Yankees slugger gamely blew bubbles for photographer Martin Schoeller. “I think my parents are happy that I’m on my own bill now and they don’t take me to the dentist anymore,” Judge told TIME’s Sean Gregory of his habit of chewing lots of the stuff during games.

Aaron Judge shows TIME how to hit a homer, on set Nov. 2TIME
Bubble gum used during Judge’s shoot with photographer Martin SchoellerTIME

One of the most challenging covers was for our Heroes of the Year. Among the many freedoms that the Islamic Republic of Iran has eroded is freedom of the press, and journalists have an increasingly hard time reporting in the country. We turned to Forough Alaei, a gifted Iranian photographer, to make portraits of the courageous women who are part of the growing movement for, as they put it, “woman, life, freedom.” That story is accompanied by a heartbreaking interview by TIME contributing editor Angelina Jolie with Roya Piraei, whose mother was killed in the protests.

Roya Piraei, whose mother was killed in the protests in Iran, in conversation with Angelina JolieTIME

The images in the package were overseen by director of photography Katherine Pomerantz and senior photo editor Dilys Ng, along with Kara Milstein and Sangsuk Sylvia Kang. The issue was designed by digital design director Victor Williams, and the digital site was overseen by assistant managing editor Elizabeth Murray and supported by Audrey Clark. For the seventh year, the entire project was led by executive editor Ben Goldberger. “Influence is not the exclusive domain of the powerful,” Ben notes. “I’m proud that this year’s choices show that it can take many different forms.”

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