These are some photos that spoke to me during the course of 2016. There are no pictures of refugees, no images of war, and absolutely no pictures of Trump. While there were certainly some powerful photos of all theses things, I do not wish to see them again. Not now.
Bleak though the the prospect may be of the coming few years, I want us to focus now on the power and beauty of nature and of people going about their lives, trying to make sense of it all - working for change, and living their lives the best way they know how.
Embers from a wildfire in California (17 August) Noah Berger/AP
This was a very intense fire just outside of Los Angeles. I’d heard that a helicopter was going to be dropping water at random along the hillside, so I drove along the Blue Cut highway, through an area called Lytle Creek, trying to find it. Along the way, I stopped to take this photograph.
There were shots that I took of houses that burned, but this is different – this is not what you imagine a wildfire to look like. It may not be as dramatic as a wall of flames, but a hillside of embers is more unusual, and that’s why I like this photograph – it shows you something in a way you’re not used to seeing it. The whole area had been evacuated, and the firefighters were about half a mile away, so I was totally alone. It felt very peaceful, to be the only person out there. You could say it looks like an alien planet – there’s a sense that it goes on for ever, like an infinite field of embers.
I had been covering events in Baton Rouge after the shooting of Alton Sterling by two white police officers. My editor called that morning to say there was a demonstration planned for midday outside the police station, so I went straight over. I could feel the frustration and anger in the crowd, but there was no atmosphere of violence. A group of protesters blocked one lane of the highway, and that prompted a response from police officers in full riot gear. They told protesters they could not be in the street, and that if they gathered instead in the park nearby they would not be arrested. After chasing them into the park, the police retreated and formed a line across the highway.
I turned around and saw a woman I now know to be Ms Ieshia Evans standing there. Someone shouted, “Don’t stand there, they’re arresting people in the street.” Instinct took over – I quickly got into position and just held down the shutter as she was arrested. It can only have lasted 10 to 15 seconds. I knew this was a strong image, but I never anticipated that it would go viral. I was proud to have created a photograph that resonated with the world, and to have sparked an international conversation about police brutality and race relations in America.
I think it’s the composition and duality of the photograph that moved so many people. You just see a woman in a sundress, the fabric blowing in the breeze, standing up to male officers in full riot gear. It looks like she is repelling them with her grace, courage and power. You read stories about the strength and humanity of certain individuals, and that day I witnessed it. Two weeks ago, I met Ms Evans for the first time. I felt like I had come to know this woman in my image without ever meeting her properly. We had some time to sit and talk and get to know each other. It’s nice because we’re fellow north-easterners, so we can talk about things like winter and traffic – not so much the issues, just normal life.
The gay pride parade is always a big event. As a photographer, it’s a chance to capture good characters and relationships in your pictures. This photograph was taken in some gardens away from the main parade. People had stopped for a drink or to sit on the grass. I spotted this high-heeled, white-haired unicorn with his friends. He was posing for pictures and people were saying “Oh, you look like magic” – he was enjoying being the centre of attention. I tried to get a candid shot but he realised I was taking pictures and started walking as if he was on a catwalk.
I never shoot only one picture – you never know which image will be “the one”. There were a lot of people around, crossing in front of my lens, but I wanted to get a nice clear picture of the unicorn and the older lady – who had nothing to do with the parade – sitting on the bench. She seemed confused by what was going on – the parade is only one day a year and it gets super crazy. A lot of people are almost naked; it’s very sexual. When the unicorn sat close to her she seemed surprised and I thought it looked good. I think she was a bit shocked as it’s not usually a place for parties.
It’s quite a simple image but it’s recognisable all around the world. It’s not making a mockery of anyone in the picture, but it’s about having respect for different ideas and opinions.
Victor Kintanar from Cebu City, Philippines, took first place in the trees category for this picture of the roots of a wax apple tree. Photograph: Victor Kintanar
Stonehenge, UK Visitors to the world heritage site on the shortest day of the year. Photograph: Natasha Quarmby/Rex/Shutterstock
NORTH TARAWA, KIRIBATI 3/20/2016
“I don’t want my land to be lost to the sea.” Tabwena Kaokatekai planted mangrove trees in an effort to stop coastal erosion. Climate change and rising seas are threatening her island nation’s existence. Josh Haner/The New York Times
BISMARCK, N.D. 9/9/2016
Catcher Cuts the Rope spoke of his hope for a nonviolent resolution to the dispute over the Dakota Access pipeline. “We will stop the pipeline, and we will do it peacefully,” he said. Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
SHAQOULI, IRAQ 11/10/2016
A woman with a cat waited for transportation to a nearby village. She had fled fighting in Mosul, where Iraqi forces battled the Islamic State. Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
TIERRA DEL FUEGO, CHILE 11/10/2016
At the southern tip of South America, dogs helped move sheep into the shearing shed. Tomas Munita for The New York Times
People gathered outside Trump Tower to protest the election of Donald J. Trump. Kena Betancur/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
And here's a few of my own favorites from my modest efforts this year...
All photos © Geonni Banner