These pictures are called "Post Impressions," because that is just what they are -- impressions, "effects produced, as on the mind or senses, by some force or influence." By definition, then, impressions are subjective versions of reality.

In this visual age, as photographic techniques have improved and photographs have become more and more available, we have come to rely more and more on the image, to think of photographs as "true," as objective records of what happened. "One picture is worth a thousand words," we say. But even photojournalism -- news presented through photographs -- relies on the photographer: it is what one particular person with a camera sees at one given moment and to which he brings his own thoughts, feelings, history, etc., all, in fact, that he is.

The best photographs are powerful not because they are "real," but because they bear the individual stamp of the minds and sensibilities of their makers. This is true, we think, of the photographs chosen as representative of the best published by The Washington Post in 1980. Some of them are notable for their composition, like James Thresher's photograph of a solitary man in a boat juxtaposed against four mammoth bridges. Others appeal through their emotional content, humorous or moving -- the various facial expressions of the three Carter delegates or the reactions of the Republican presidential candidates captured by Frank Johnston, for example, or the vision of human suffering and courage in Gary Cameron's photograph of a wheelchair-ridden man and his wife. Together they are some of the ways some Post photographers saw some of the world in the year that was.