In the waning hours of 2015, as we reflected on the images produced by a year dominated by Europe’s migrant crisis, the world hoped that policy changes might ease the burden on thousands of people fleeing Syria, Iraq and other countries at war. Unfortunately, 2016 has brought us more of the same heart-wrenching photographs, like those of the Associated Press’ Emilio Morenatti and Agence France-Presse’s Aris Messinis, of overloaded boats where desperation and fear can be read on everyone’s faces. This year, also saw a flood images out of Iraq and Syria, the epicenters of this refugee crisis, as coalitions of armed forces fought back against ISIS—most notably in Mosul as Laurent Van Der Stockt, Bryan Denton, Yuri Kozyrev and Emin Ozmen have shown in their stunning, at times terrifying, pictures.
Elsewhere, Great Britain stunned the world when it asked to leave the European Union, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte shocked observers with his call to rid the country of drug dealers at any cost necessary – Damir Sagolj of Reuters captured the gruesome reality of that war in his photograph of a man killed by unknown gunmen and lit by the lights from TV cameras in Manila (slide 66).
In the U.S., the presidential election dominated the year as the Republican candidate Donald Trump surprised prognosticators by beating his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. The highly contested race gave us iconic images, such as Natalie Keyssar’s security guard at the Democratic convention (slide 41) or Evan Vucci’s shot of Trump standing on a chair to address a crowd (slide 49).
Meanwhile, Daniella Zalcman captured the essence of another fight – the one pitting the Standing Rock Lakota against the North Dakota State Police – with her stunning photograph of horse riders facing off a line of police officers (slide 28.) Few photographers were able to top the symbolism of her image in the months that followed.
Race relations continued to rule the news agenda this year as well – from Dallas to Baton Rouge and Minneapolis – with photographers like Ruddy Roye and Jonathan Bachman capturing the tense state of affairs in the country.
Yet, 2016 was also a year of achievements – from Clinton’s historic nomination as the first woman to be the presidential candidate of a major party (slide 12) to Usain Bolt’s mesmerizing win at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (slide 58).
In this slideshow, TIME’s photo editors present an unranked selection of the 100 best images of the year.