Greta Thunberg arrives in Madrid for the last U.N. climate summit before a crucial deadline in 2020. Dec. 23 issue.
Evgenia Arbugaeva for TIME

TIME's Best Photojournalism of 2019

December 24, 2019 12:28 PM EST

It was in the second decade of the 21st Century that the camera completed its big move — from around the neck of a person who had set out to take pictures, to the pocket of almost anyone, taking a picture of just about anything. Married to social media, the camera phone can place more still images before a person in a single day than might have been seen in a whole year just a generation ago. And yet the power of the journalistic photograph, and truth it holds, is undiminished. Throughout 2019, photographers commissioned by TIME produced pictures that captured reality as it is still best understood.

In northern Iraq, Newsha Tavakolian photographed youths who were kidnapped and later indoctrinated into ISIS. What had become of them? What had they become? In Utah, Peter van Agtmael embedded with Jennie Taylor and her seven children almost a year after her husband and their father, Brent Taylor, was killed while deployed in Afghanistan. During the summer, Matthieu Paley traveled to one of the hottest cities on earth—Jacobabad, Pakistan, where temperatures reached 124 degrees. In December, Evgenia Arbugaeva followed Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as she arrived back in Europe for a summit in Spain. Arbugaeva’s image of Thunberg, about to step off a train in Madrid, felt both intimate and new take on one of the most recognizable faces in the world at the moment.

In Philadelphia, Sasha Arutyunova shadowed waitresses at the Broad Street Diner who rely on tips to make ends meet. In Barcelona, Luca Locatelli stood atop the Sagrada Familia as architects and construction workers assemble yet more towers. In Paris, Patrick Zachmann trained his lens on the ruins of Notre Dame following the April blaze that destroyed the cathedral’s roof. In September, elsewhere in the city, Christopher Anderson captured a private moment between French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, toward the end of a day of work. For months in Washington, D.C., Gabriella Demczuk followed the drumbeat toward Donald Trump’s impeachment.

No matter what the new year may bring, we enter it better off — and better informed — for having seen these pictures.

Alima Modu Babayo holds her baby for the first time, seconds after giving birth in the State Specialist Hospital in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on Oct. 13, 2018. Feb. 18 issue.
Lynsey Addario for Time
Gus Bullen drags hay that will feed sheep on Dunmore Property near Pilliga in December 2018. March 4 issue.
Adam Ferguson for TIME
Rubber tappers work on government-protected land, which provides a bulwark against deforestation. But one rubber tapper, Marcelo Firmiano da Silva, photographed with two sons on Feb. 16, says 18 of his colleagues have been killed since 2002. Sept. 23 issue.
Sebastián Liste—NOOR for TIME
Sen. Cory Booker greets supporters in Cedar Rapids before the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event on June 9. July 29 issue.
Danny Wilcox Frazier—VII for TIME
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens an exhibit on the Israel Defense Forces, a driver behind the nation’s booming tech sector, in Jerusalem on June 25. July 22 issue.
Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
The entry fees of roughly 4 million visitors to the Sagrada Familia each year help provide the money needed to finish construction. On March 18, visitors walk through the nave. July 8 issue.
Luca Locatelli for TIME
Insulation from a home was scattered in the trees after a tornado passed through the area, killing 23 people and destroying homes, in Beauregard, Ala., on March 4.
Bryan Anselm—Redux for TIME
Octopuses raised in captivity, like this one photographed on Aug. 6, could save their wild relatives from overfishing. Sept. 2 issue.
Jake Naughton for TIME
Volodymyr Zelensky, center, watches from the wings as his colleagues perform during a televised comedy sketch show in Kiev on March 13. Zelensky was later elected to the presidency.
Anastasia Taylor-Lind for TIME
NASA’S rockets are constructed at the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building in Florida. July 29 issue.
Christopher Payne for TIME
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks to supporters in the rain at a rally in Washington Square Park in New York City on May 14.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
Kurdish fighters guard the new border between Kurdistan Regional Government-controlled territory and areas under the control of the Iraqi army near the town of Bashiqa, liberated from ISIS in 2016 by Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Nov. 25 issue.
Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME
Hayli's mother, Claudia, right, and her grandmother Suyapa at their home in Honduras. March 18 issue.
Verónica G. Cárdenas for TIME and The Texas Tribune
Shadows on an American flag at a town hall with then-Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sept. 19.
September Dawn Bottoms for TIME
Kurt Volker, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, leaves the Capitol after delivering hours of testimony in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3.
Gabriella Demczuk for TIME
In the kitchen at the Broad Street Diner in Philadelphia, waitress Christina Munce keeps her daughter’s photo next to her pad for taking orders. Sept. 2 issue.
Sasha Arutyunova for TIME
Nuhat Abdul Hamid, 9, from the Syrian Kurdish town of Darbasiyah, aboard a bus transporting refugees to the Bardarash camp in Iraq on Nov. 1. Nov. 25 issue.
Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) enter the studio where they will speak to reporters on next steps involving the impeachment inquiry at a press conference in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2.
Gabriella Demczuk for TIME
Tom and Sue Wright of Oak Ridge, Tenn., who have been portraying Abe and Mary Lincoln for 10 years, get dressed in the pre-dawn hours in Dawsonville, Ga., on April 13.
Benjamin Norman for TIME
Caroline Taylor at her grandmother's house in North Ogden, Utah, in September. Her father, Brent Taylor, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in November 2018. Oct. 21 issue.
Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIME
Jennie Taylor measures a potential gravestone for her husband Brent on Sept. 17, the day before her first wedding anniversary without him. Oct. 21 issue.
Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIME
Dogs and their handlers at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, in February.
Clara Mokri for TIME
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on July 24.
Gabriella Demczuk for TIME
A midwife, Nur Nahar, holds Yasmin, a girl delivered moments earlier to Janoka Bibi, 20, in Kutupalong camp in April. The girl’s father abandoned the family. June 3 issue.
James Nachtwey for TIME
Farmer Jack Slack-Smith, 65, listens to a weather report in his living room on Epping Farm in New South Wales, Australia, in November 2018. The drought has reduced its sheep stock from 7,000 to approximately 3,600, and cattle from 260 breeders to 22. March 4 issue.
Adam Ferguson for TIME
On Oct. 7, Nora plays with the Barbie her mother, Susan Penquitt, bought in 1989, in their home in Taucha, Germany. Nov. 11 issue.
Nanna Heitmann—Magnum Photos for TIME
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke kicks off his 2020 presidential campaign in El Paso on March 30. O'Rourke announced in November that he would abandon his bid for the White House.
Christopher Lee for TIME
Stevie rolls through the halls at Knollwood Military Retirement Community. Nov. 4 issue.
Greg Kahn for TIME
On Aug. 11, an antigovernment protester is arrested near the Tsim Sha Tsui police station in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Aug. 26 issue.
Adam Ferguson for TIME
A Yezidi boy known as S. was abducted by ISIS at the age of 9 and returned to his family at 12, a different person. June 3 issue.
Newsha Tavakolian—Magnum Photos for TIME
A range of activities happen at night in Jacobabad on June 27: a girl returns home with groceries; a boy rides a bicycle; and a father and son ride home on a motorcycle. Sept. 23 issue.
Matthieu Paley for TIME
An empty information kiosk after the conference with Pacific island leaders on climate change in Fiji in May.
Christopher Gregory for TIME
On May 4, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren stops for lunch at The Blue Heron in Mason City, Iowa. May 20 issue.
Krista Schlueter for TIME
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte share a private moment as the President wraps up his work just before dinner at the Élysée Palace in Paris in September. Sept. 30 issue.
Christopher Anderson—Magnum Photos for TIME
Travis leans on Taylor in The Chapel, a new annex at The Abbey, in Los Angeles on June 9.
Isadora Kosofsky for TIME
A group of demonstrators take cover during a clash with Venezuelan national police officers on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge in Cúcuta, Colombia, on Feb. 23. Clashes along the border stranded aid caravans. March 11 issue.
Natalie Keyssar for TIME
A Rohingya man bathes in a man-made pond near the camp where he lives. Behind him is the construction of the Camp 20 Extension.
James Nachtwey for TIME
Walid Khalil Murad, whose wife and three children went down with a smuggler's boat in 2015, now lives in Theley, in Saarland, southern Germany. He has taken to caring for pigeons, seen on July 25, and has 12 grown and 2 baby pigeons. Sept. 2 issue.
Mustafah Abdulaziz for TIME
Workers atop the Sagrada Familia, one of the world's longest-running construction projects, in Barcelona in March. July 8 issue.
Luca Locatelli for TIME
Supporters wait in the rain on April 14 for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign announcement in South Bend. May 13 issue.
Elliot Ross for TIME
Ariana Hawk starts to put her youngest son to sleep as the rest of her kids eat dinner. In Flint, residents still won’t trust their water taps. April 22 issue.
Brittany Greeson for TIME
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walks down 37th Avenue with her staff towards her office in Jackson Heights, Queens. April 1 issue.
Krisanne Johnson for TIME
Children take part in the Intermediate 4-H Sheep Showmanship competition in the Sheep Barn at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 11. The competitors are judged on their ability to display and control the sheep rather than on the characteristics of the animals themselves.
M. Scott Brauer for TIME
A technician near an open part of Notre Dame's roof in Paris on June 25. After the April fire, some sections of the cathedral have since been exposed to rainfall and high temperatures that France has experienced. Aug. 5 issue.
Patrick Zachmann—Magnum Photos for TIME
A police officer prepares for an antigovernment protest near the Tai Po police station on Aug. 10.
Adam Ferguson for TIME
A cemetery near the village of Bna contains the bodies of Iraqi Kurds killed in various conflicts, including Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, which killed 60,000 in the late 1980s. Nov. 25 issue.
Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME
Six decades on, the Dalai Lama, photographed in February, still hopes he will visit his birthplace again. March 18 issue.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
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