Given my obvious interest in other people's choices for "The Year in Pictures", I scoured the web from major news sites to obscure blogs to see other selections of the year's "best" photographs, but by and large it was a fairly predictable assortment. One picture kept cropping up, however, and I was surprised I hadn't seen it before. It was this picture by John Moore of a woman at Arlington National Cemetery mourning her fiance who was killed in Iraq.
With the web's instant access to information it was possible to go from pure visceral reaction to the image to knowing quite a lot about the photographer, the subject, the history of its publication, and the inevitable controversy about how "true" or manipulated the image was. (A less effective shot taken by Moore from a different angle shows a more crowded cemetery.) But to cut a long story short, it's a great and totally valid image - and rare in its neutrality. I guess if so inclined you could read it as a tribute to courageous sacrifice as opposed to an indictment of the folly of war. However what makes it so powerful and unusual is the sensuality of the mourning figure (something we don't usually associate with pictures of grief today although this has certainly been part of the language of paintings) intersecting the relentless geometry of receding headstones.
Moore, it turns out, is a Getty photographer based in Pakistan of all places, who returned briefly to the States so his wife could give birth to their child in the U.S. He gives an interesting account of how he came to take the picture on Getty's own blog.
Another striking picture that looks like a still from a Coppola or Scorcese film was taken by Denver photographer Ahmad Terry after police shot and killed a gunman in the State Capitol. Before shooting on his regular camera, Terry shot the scene on his cellphone so that his paper, The Rocky Mountain News, could post it on their website.
Lastly, this picture by Stephanie Sinclair which appeared in The New York Times Magazine in a story on Afghani child brides, some like the one pictured here as young as 11 years old. Like all the photographs above, it's the subject, combined with the many formal aspects of the picture, and the originality of the image that make each one so memorable.