“Photographer Alejandro Cegarra captured this image of a boy weeping during a final tribute to ‘El Jefe’ Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba. It exemplifies how the combination of a subdued moment and sublime light can create a compelling photograph.” — Dudley Brooks

“The photo of people entrenched at Standing Rock has visual cues to images of protest and, with the barbed wire, even war zones. It is a reminder that even though war seems very far away, every day in our own nation there are front lines and battles being fought.” — May-Ying Lam (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

As photo editors, we see millions of photos through the year. Many of the images never make publication. Some are inspirational and happy, and some are tragic and terribly graphic. As we tell stories with the photos we choose, there are always images that resonate with us, change us and are sometimes hard to forget. Here are those images.


“It’s a stark reminder that the migrants lost in the Mediterranean are not the only ones who face death to escape war, tyranny and economic despair. Along the southwestern border of the United States an ocean of arid land claims lives as surely as the sea between Europe and Africa. Often just as anonymously and leaving families forever wondering about missing loved ones. Ricky Carioti captured the discovery of a skull in a way akin to a macabre Renaissance painting, disturbing and troubling, a reminder that death awaits.” — Mark Miller

“It’s clear that the rush for cobalt in Congo has thousands of workers digging by hand in unsafe conditions for it. Cobalt is a key ingredient in lithium-Ion batteries. What gives one pause is that devices that use these batteries — our cameras, phones and computers — were necessary in the collection and distribution of The Post’s findings. Still, Michael Robinson Chavez has made a beautiful and memorable photo of this laborer heading into the mine.” — Thomas Simonetti

“I love the contrast of the ancient and the advanced between the Great Pyramids of Giza and the solar-powered monoplane, Solar Impulse 2, flying above on its around-the-world-trip. And that sunlight hitting the plane makes it stand out from the murky desert landscape and the silhouetted pyramids.” — Steve Cook (Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse2/AFP)

“Donald Trump was relentless in his pursuit to connect with his target voters, making multiple stops per day at arenas and airport hangars. Jabin Botsford’s photo of Trump supporters waving at his plane showed the fervor of the campaign without showing the candidate.” — Robert Miller

“So often photojournalists keep their eyes on the action. The person speaking, the person crying and so on. These are the images that win awards, and they make for good journalism. But sometimes it can be more powerful to see what lies outside the frame. For me, this poignant photo by Jim Lo Scalzo for the European Pressphoto Agency of staffers listening to President Obama’s address after Hillary Clinton conceded to Trump shows just this. The photographer took a risk by moving his camera away from the president and in return, he captured the context of his speech with more complexity and grace than any headshot image could.” — Karly Domb Sadof

“I had seen many heartbreaking images of refugees crammed in boats, dying, trying to escape the horrors happening in Syria — but none moved me quite the way this photo did. The photo of Eritrean refugees swimming to a rescue boat off the coast of Libya made the crisis very real for me. Photographer Emilio Morenatti captured their desperation and struggle as they swam for their lives. At that moment, it felt as if they were swimming to me.” — Dee Swann

“In Haiti, a desperately poor country pummeled by Hurricane Matthew, 10-year-old Bellande Lubin washes her sandals in Les Cayes. The girl wears her favorite pink dress, a gift from her mother, and appears like a tiny angel in the early morning light rising above the river. This image, photographed by Washington Post staff photojournalist Sarah Voisin, features water used both as a latrine for an entire community and a place for bathing and washing clothes. Cholera is spreading rapidly. The juxtaposition of this beautiful child in this horrible circumstance makes my heart weep.”  – MaryAnne Golon

“’Sometimes when I’m alone with my baby, I think about killing him,’ a 14-year-old girl told The Washington Post, holding her 3-month-old son in Bangui, Central African Republic. ‘He reminds me of the man who raped me.’ The teen says she was raped and made pregnant by a U.N. peacekeeper from Burundi. Photojournalist Jane Hahn’s picture of the 14-year-old breast-feeding her child is striking and intimate. While concealing her identity, the photograph not only portrays the teen’s story but also speaks to the ongoing plight of victims of war and how institutions have failed to protect them and, in some cases, made their suffering worse.” — Nick Kirkpatrick

“Bonnie Jo Mount’s photograph of children holding the Black Lives Matter sign in Baton Rouge is timeless. Changing the words on the sign could place it across decades of civil rights protests, and only small details point to its modernity. It is a photograph I will carry in my visual vocabulary throughout my career.” — Chloe Coleman

“The September opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture was the biggest event in features this year.  To me, this stunning image by staff photographer Jahi Chikwendiu encapsulates a deeper meaning of reflection, recognition of struggle, and hope for the future.” — Jennifer Beeson Gregory

“This photo, as simple as it is, shows the dominance of Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Katie Ledecky. She is swimming the 800-meter freestyle and, after a couple of laps, it seemed like there was no one else in the pool with her. Photographer Jonathan Newton anticipated this and chose an elevated position to capture this Olympic moment.” — Ray Saunders

“I picked this image of Usain Bolt in the Olympics simply because when I first saw it I was pretty stunned. Yes, it’s got great color and composition and is arresting in those ways. But what clinches it for me is Bolt’s expression, so nonchalant as he blows his competition away. For me, it perfectly encapsulates Bolt’s enormous and legendary talent.” — Kenneth Dickerman (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“This image of the massive rift in the Larsen C ice shelf has continued to frequent my thoughts. At first glance, the massive rift looks like an artistic abstraction. Captured by scientist John Sonntag during NASA’s IceBridge mission in November, the abstraction melts as one considers the scale of the Antarctic Peninsula’s polar ice shelves.” — Wendy Galietta

“This simplistic composition coupled with the balmy green and bluish hues evokes a feeling of serenity. If I had to envision a place I’d like to live, away from the rest of humanity, this would be it.” — Troy Witcher (Frank Augstein/AP)

The year in photos 2016

The photos you haven’t seen of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail

These stunning images show what the global water crisis looks like