National Geographic's 100 best photos of 2018

Curated from 107 photographers, 119 stories, and more than two million photographs, these are our favourite images of the year..Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Sarah Leen has a job most people in the world would envy. She looks at photographs for a living. And not just any photographs — National Geographic photographs. As our Director of Photography, Leen estimates she has looked at as many images “as there are stars in the sky,” so it’s hard to narrow down her favourites. But she does that every year — here are her favourite 100 of the over two million submitted to us this year, in no particular order. (Click on any image to view the selections as a slideshow.)

A vendor sells a drink made from sattu flour on a residential road in Kolkata, India. Formerly called Wood Street, the road was renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Sarani in 1986. India’s native son Mahatma Gandhi, who led a peaceful resistance against British colonialism, was “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change,” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said. “Nonviolence is not sterile passivity,” King noted during the 1964 speech in which he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, “but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.”
Photograph by Ian Teh
A male southern sea lion, about 2.5 metres long and 375 kilograms, looms over a female and two pups on an island informally known as Stick-in-the-Mud. The population declined in the mid-20th century when the animals were hunted and also had trouble finding food in a period of warm ocean temperatures. Now they’re the most abundant marine mammal in southern South America, with about 7,500 in the Falklands.
Five Awá families from Posto Awá, an outpost created by the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs agency, set out on an overnight excursion into the forest. Awá like them who live in settled communities and miss the forest—especially older members who grew up there—make these forays to reconnect with their traditional ways. It wasn’t until 1987 that Brazil began its current no-contact policy for isolated indigenous groups.
Photograph by Charlie Hamilton James
The Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti holds the record for the second longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a woman, having spent 199 days on the International Space Station in 2015. (NASA’s Peggy Whitson topped that record by almost a hundred days in 2017.) The longer she was in orbit, Cristoforetti says, the more her perception of humanity’s time on Earth evolved. When the massive geologic forces that have sculpted the planet are visible at a glance, the eons in which we crafted pyramids and skyscrapers become nearly indistinguishable. It’s as if, from her vantage point, all our constructed monuments arose overnight.
Photograph by Martin Schoeller
Taking advantage of a sunny spring day a year before Katie Stubblefield's face transplant, Katie and her parents, Robb and Alesia Stubblefield, indulge in a nap in a park near the Cleveland Clinic. With Katie in a wheelchair, the three explored the park, wandering amid blossoming trees and singing birds. The outing came after Katie had spent a month in the hospital. To reposition her eyes, she had surgery to implant what’s known as a distraction device. In the three years before her transplant, Katie was hospitalised more than a dozen times.
Photograph by Maggie Steber
Determined to help their daughter live a life as normal and valuable as possible, Robb and Alesia put their own lives on hold for more than four years after Katie's face transplant. Pushing through exhaustion, relying on their faith in God, they accompany their daughter to endless appointments and therapy sessions. They’re already looking into ways to improve Katie’s vision, including the possibility of eye transplants. They expect to remain in Cleveland near the clinic and Katie’s doctors for the near future.
Photograph by Maggie Steber
During breeding season, 150,000 gannets throng Scotland's Bass Rock island in the Firth of Forth. In winter the birds decamp south as far as West Africa. To make this image, photographer Stephen Wilkes and an assistant lugged his gear 122 steps uphill and set up near the ruins of a church about six feet from the nesting birds. Standing on the rocky ground for 28 sleepless hours, he took 1,176 photos. “It’s like a meditative state,” he says. “I’m alert to everything. I’m seeing everything.” He selected about 150 photos to make this image.
Photograph by Stephen Wilkes
On a Portland commuter train Micah Fletcher and two other men defended two women—one wearing a hijab—from a man spewing anti-Muslim abuse. The assailant stabbed all three men. Two died, and Fletcher suffered a deep neck wound. He said he instinctively stepped in to help the women. Diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum as a child, he was bullied and beaten. “If you are truly a community, then everybody should be expected to stand up for one another,” he says.
Photograph by Lynn Johnson
The Sanctuary in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is an all-purpose community centre that hosts free public events in a former church that was once home to a hundred-year-old Slovak parish. Two stars at the popular stunt-fighting smackdowns have created an act that makes sport of tensions between the old and the new Hazleton. With 16 years in the ring, Jason Dougherty wears a U.S. flag bandanna, while the reigning local champion, Marcelino Cabrera, sports trunks displaying the flag of the Dominican Republic. Dougherty helped train Cabrera, who moved to Hazleton when he was 15.
Photograph by Gillian Laub
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