What the year’s best photos tell us about 2018

Across the country and around the globe, 2018 was a year of enduring complex conflicts. The effects of climate change escalated natural disasters, and the uniquely American cycle of gun violence continued. Yet disparate communities still found ways to connect. A royal wedding brought two nations together. There were trials and elections. It was called the “Year of the Woman.”

As this year ends and another begins, 2018’s most profound pictures offer a window into what just happened — and what it meant for us.

Paradise Lost

By wind, water and fire, natural disasters made history and brought widespread destruction. Still recovering from Hurricane Matthew two years ago, Carolina communities were again inundated by 1,000-year floodwaters when Hurricane Florence hit this fall. In Florida, Hurricane Michael swept from sea to land as a Category 4 storm, the worst on record to hit the Panhandle. The Camp Fire — the deadliest, most destructive in state history — burned scars into Northern California while two other blazes smoldered in the south. And in Indonesia, back-to-back disasters killed at least 2,250 people when a surprise tsunami followed a 7.5-magnitude earthquake.

Camp Fire burns

Paradise, Calif.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hurricane Florence flooding

Loris, S.C.

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Bobby Lee Cooper, 63, after Hurricane Michael

Springfield, Fla.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Hurricane Michael aftermath

Mexico Beach, Fla.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Tsunami victim

Palu, Indonesia

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Mosque destroyed in tsunami

Palu, Indonesia

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Journeys Taken

Movement, in clusters and masses, carried people to the hope of new homes after fleeing old ones. Their journeys were long, dangerous and taxing — particularly for the children. Migrants traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. border with Mexico and fled the wars of Congo to neighboring Uganda. Syrians remained displaced, returning to homes that no longer exist. They were all part of the hundreds of millions of people already living outside the countries in which they were born.

Camila Savioll Mejia, 4, in a migrant caravan

San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Migrant caravan

Santiago Niltepec, Mexico

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Caravan migrant family at U.S. border

Tijuana, Mexico

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

Syrian refugees return home

Arsal, Lebanon

Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post

Undocumented Venezuelans

Cucuta, Colombia

Ivan Valencia for The Washington Post

Congolese refugees

Kyangwali resettlement camp, Uganda

Andrew Renneisen for The Washington Post

Sudanese refugee Chuol Bol showers aboard an NGO rescue boat

Mediterranean Sea en route to Spain

Juan Medina/Reuters

Communities Connected

Amid division, people found joy in shared experiences: the World Cup in Russia, the Stanley Cup in the United States, the Pyeongchang Olympics, and even at Coachella in California, where Beyoncé became the first woman of color to headline the music festival. With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the United Kingdom welcomed a biracial American princess. We were captivated by space — and NASA put the InSight lander on Mars.

Fourth of July

Washington, D.C.

Calla Kessler/The Washington Post

A royal wedding

Windsor Castle, England

Danny Lawson/AFP/Pool/Getty Images

Olympian Chloe Kim

Pyeongchang, South Korea

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Stanley Cup finals

Las Vegas

Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post

French World Cup victory


Michael Dalder/Reuters

Beyoncé at Coachella

Indio, Calif.

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella

Solstice winter dip

Hobart, Australia

Rob Blakers/AAP/Reuters

The Milky Way

Shenandoah National Park, Va.

Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

Politics Played

The second year of President Trump’s administration was marked by the same fluidity as the first. At least 17 people were fired or resigned, including Cabinet members and top aides. Relationships with foreign governments were tested. The country was roiled by the nomination, and eventual confirmation, of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teens, and both testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A month later, a record number of Americans voted in the midterm elections — and a record number of women won their bids for Congress.

President Trump

Washington, D.C.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

State dinner

Washington, D.C.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

World leaders at G-7 meeting

Charlevoix, Canada

Jesco Denzel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Jared Kushner with Saudi officials

Washington, D.C.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

Washington, D.C.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh

Washington, D.C.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Christine Blasey Ford

Washington, D.C.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

116th Congress’s freshmen

Washington, D.C.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

The Oval Office

Washington, D.C.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Hope Hicks resigns

Washington, D.C.

Leah Millis/Reuters

U.S. Capitol reflection

Washington, D.C.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Conflicts Endured

Violence persisted across the globe and close to home. In Zimbabwe, historic, hopeful elections after 37 years of the same ruler began peacefully but turned deadly. The years-long conflict within Syria, which has left close to half a million dead and millions more displaced, continued. In South Sudan, child soldiers were released into society through a reintegration program, and in Yemen, an estimated 85,000 have starved to death since 2015. The turmoil between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza is ongoing. In America, mourning families waited for the bodies of loved ones to return home from far-off wars.

Palestinians and Israeli troops clash

Gaza City

Wissam Nassar for The Washington Post

Palestinians mourn

Gaza City

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Former child soldiers

Yambio, South Sudan


Family of Army Spec. Gabriel D. Conde

Loveland, Colo.

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Election day protests

Harare, Zimbabwe


Tending to the injured

Eastern Ghouta, Syria


Ayesha Ahmed, 3

Aden, Yemen

Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post

Tragedies Repeated

The year was bookended by deadly mass shootings and filled in between with the kind of everyday gun violence that kills an average of 96 Americans a day. Protests of police violence that disproportionately affects communities of color persisted. In Parkland, Fla., Valentine’s Day began with tokens of love at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and ended in bloodshed. Seventeen teachers and teenagers were shot dead, allegedly by a former student. In October, 11 people were gunned down while worshiping at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Twelve days later, 13 people were killed in a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Shooting memorial

Parkland, Fla.

Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Candlelight vigil

Parkland, Fla.

Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Homicide investigation


Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Procession for Sgt. Ron Helus

Thousand Oaks, Calif.


Mourning Stephon Clark


Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Burying David and Cecil Rosenthal


Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Synagogue memorial


Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Voices Heard

In the United States, a year of tension over our systems of power made room for groups and individuals to speak up — in the streets, at the Supreme Court, in courtrooms across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the nation’s capital last spring for the March for Our Lives, a protest against gun violence and in support of gun control. Powerful men in politics and pop culture fell from grace as allegations of sexual misconduct, drawn out by the #MeToo movement, were finally heard. Stormy Daniels appeared on “60 Minutes.” Americans cast their votes, the results affirming 2018 as the “Year of the Woman.”

March for Our Lives rally

Washington, D.C.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Nationwide student walkout

Washington, D.C.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

End Racism Rally

Washington, D.C.

Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post

Cheers for Gov. Doug Ducey (R)

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) wins reelection


Sarah Rice for The Washington Post

Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti

New York

Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein

New York


Women protest Kavanaugh

Washington, D.C.

Calla Kessler/The Washington Post