The Most Powerful Photos of 2021

Celebrations in Tiananmen Square commemorating 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party
Celebrations in Tiananmen Square commemorating 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party © Kevin Frayer, Getty Images

2021 has drawn to a close. Whilst words can’t describe the monumental events of the year, perhaps photos can. Artsper has done a bit of its own photojournalism this year and picked out the most powerful photos of 2021. They are all both visually striking and emotionally moving, with topics ranging from politics to environmental awareness. Lets rewind and relive the memorable moments of the year…

1. Victor J. Blue, Untitled, 2021

A mob of Trump supporters storm the U.S. capitol building
© Victor J. Blue, Bloomberg/Getty Images

The world was shocked by images of a violent mob of Trump supporters storming the U.S. capitol building. Only a week later, Trump was impeached for inciting the riot which left 5 dead and over 140 injured.

2. Santi Palacios, Moon over a migrant boat, 2021

Tunisian refugees wait for help whilst stranded on a packed wooden boat.
© Santi Palacios, AP

Tunisian refugees wait for help whilst stranded on a packed wooden boat. Images of migrants crossing the Mediterranean on unsafe boats provided by people smugglers speaks to this ongoing crisis.

3. Damon Winter, Untitled, 2021

In the Canadian town of Churchill a polar bear nestles amongst the landscape
© Damon Winter, The New York Times/Redux

In the Canadian town of Churchill, a polar bear nestles amongst the landscape. Despite being dubbed the polar bear capital, the effects of climate change has caused a sharp decline in the animal population and sightings have plummeted.

4. Joshua Lott, Untitled, 2021

A vigil is held for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man fatally shot by a white police man
© Joshua Lott, The Washington Post/Getty Images

A vigil is held for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man fatally shot by a white police officer. The killing in April came just under a year after the killing of George Floyd which sparked international protest calling for an end to police brutality and race-based violence.

5. Fatima Shbair, A Life Under Siege, 2021

powerful photos - air strikes on Gaza
© Fatima Shbair, Getty Images

A Palestinian girl stands in her home in Gaza after it was destroyed during Israeli air strikes. The violence seen during May this year was the deadliest since 2014.

6. Alexey Pavlovsky, Alexei Navalny, 2021

powerful photos - sentencing of Navalny
© EPA, Moscow city court press service handout

In January, Alexei Navalny returned to Russia after recovering from a Novichok nerve agent attack he fell victim to in Siberia the previous summer. Navalny, the face of the anti-Putin Russian opposition, had been recovering in Berlin but returned to Russia despite the risk to his life. He was immediately arrested on arrival. He is pictured here motioning to his wife during his sentencing.

7. Kent Nishimura, Untitled, 2021

powerful photos - a COVID-19 memorial
© Kent Nishimura, Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Joe Biden flies over the In America: Remember installation on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial includes 660,000 small white flags to pay tribute to the Americans who passed away after contracting COVID-19. It is a poignant testimony to the disastrous effects of the pandemic, as the death toll in the U.S. continues to rise above 800,000 as of mid-December 2021.

8. Luca Locatelli, Untitled, 2021

powerful photos - vaccine production
© Luca Locatelli for TIME

A time-lapse image shows scientists finalising production of the BioNTech vaccine. The distribution of vaccines has been a blessing for some and a curse for others. Whilst providing life-saving immunity, movements across the globe have emerged calling for an end to penalties for non-vaccinated individuals. Meanwhile, third-world countries suffer from a vaccine drought as the West hordes them.

9. Fred Greaves, Dixie Fire, 2021

powerful photos - California wildfires
© Fred Greaves for Reuters

A firefighter attempts to combat wildfires in California which killed 3 this year and destroyed more than 3,500 properties. This was second year of devastating wildfires in the state and demonstrated the dangerous consequences of global warming.

Were you left feeling moved by these images? If you enjoyed this recap of the worlds events through these powerful photos, you might enjoy our article on Artsper top young photographers of the year.

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