It’s different this time.
That was the sentiment humming in the background, and sometimes roaring quite loudly, throughout 2022. It’s what was said when young people started rising up in the streets of Iran in support of women’s rights; when the first Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine; when millions of people showed up to vote to send a country in a new direction.
The following 100 images, an unranked selection carefully curated by TIME’s eight-person team of photo editors, aim to show in pictures that this year was indeed different.
Not every photo displays profound change: images from the Westminster Dog Show, now in its 146th year, are frequently included on this annual list. But many capture a familiar scene that’s also unlike anything that’s come before. Another Supreme Court class picture, yet this time with the first ever Black female Justice. The first ascension of a monarch in the modern age. Sometimes the photo shows not the change, but the necessity of it, a reminder that the status quo cannot continue. A young boy near the scene of a school shooting where 21 people were killed. It’s different this time. It has to be.
Sometimes the same image that inspires hope for some provokes despair in others. But for a moment, when the team at NASA released the first James Webb Space Telescope image and the universe was revealed in ways never seen before, the world was unified in wonder. The same stars that have been hovering above for billions of years, only this time different.
— Katherine Pomerantz, Director of Photography