In this list of the best images 2015, members of the Amateur Photographer staff, as well as nine photographers and editors, talk about their favourite shots from the last year.
Image by Jake Hicks
Callum McInerney-Riley, Technical writer
This image, part of Jake Hicks’ series of portraits using lighting gels, graced the front cover of AP’s 27 July issue. I’ve watched Jake’s work progress over time and seen him produce stunning portraiture. Jake is very forthcoming about how he achieved each shot, and it gives photographers a chance to use some of his techniques in their own work. Often, he shoots through glass or uses specific lenses to distort and soften his images. This cover was part of a fantastic AP feature Jake did on using coloured lighting gels.
Benedict Cumberbatch at BAFTA by Sarah M Lee
Karen Sheard, Online manager
I love this image as it brings to mind the nature of modern photography and it’s good to see BAFTA sharing a rarely seen side to celebrity culture. Earlier in 2015, actor Benedict Cumberbatch asked fans not to take images during his performance of Hamlet. His point was that live performances should be enjoyed and remembered, not wasted in trying to capture them. When I saw Hamlet live, I must admit I felt a moment’s temptation to take a sneaky unobtrusive snap during curtain call. However, his criticisms reminded us that unlike in a recording, in real life the subject might be watching you back.
Cubes by Lernert & Sander
Rosie Barratt, Picture researcher
This image, by Dutch artists Lernert & Sander, consists of 98 2.5×2.5×2.5cm cubes. It may not be immediately apparent what you’re seeing, but those cubes are little blocks of unprocessed food. The precision and arrangement of each cube is perfect. Each one is aligned and placed so that there is a comfortable rhythm of colours. It actually reminds me of an image from a magic eye book and requires analysis to appreciate the patterns and textures. Never has a cube of beef looked so attractive. There’s something delicate about the whole thing, an idea perhaps helped by the fact we know the food is unprocessed. What we’re seeing is our food laid bare.
Frozen Hudson River by Spencer Platt
Richard Sibley, Deputy editor
This picture stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it on a news website earlier this year. I was struck by the sheer force of nature that it showed. Here is, arguably, one of the most developed and populated pieces of land on the planet, yet there is nothing that can be done to stop the Hudson River freezing around Manhattan. You get the sense that the trail left by the lone tug boat will soon be frozen again. Despite the conditions there isn’t drama and suffering in the image, as there is with other extremes of weather. There is instead majesty, and nature giving us a little non-threatening reminder that she isn’t something to take lightly.
The Annunciation, Glencoe, Scotland by Damian Shields
Michael Topham, Deputy technical editor
Buachaille Etive Mòr in the heart of Glencoe is a place quite like no other for landscape photography, but to capture something truly special you need the right elements – light, location and composition. My eye is drawn to the glistening rock on the side of Lairig Gartain, but it’s also the reflection of light in the river below and the silhouetted glen in the distance that adds to the drama. A few seconds later the shot wouldn’t have been the same, stressing the importance of always having your camera to hand. It’s an image that really inspires me.
Meghan Remy (U.S. Girls) by Jeff Howlett
Oliver Atwell, Senior features writer
My favourite image from this year is the cover of one of my favourite albums of 2015: Half Free by U.S. Girls. Album covers are becoming a lost art, kept alive perhaps only by the burgeoning community of vinyl collectors. There’s something about an album cover featuring the artist that I find so endearing. It’s a defiant message saying, ‘This is mine. I did this, and this is me.’ Jeff tells me that Meghan wanted something analogue to match her style, so he grabbed his Rolleiflex 6006 film camera and Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens loaded with Ilford 3,200 film and later processed it in Rodinal. It really is an exquisite portrait.
Mechanical Centipede by Johnny Joo
Andrew Sydenham, Studio manager
I love the smorgasbord of imagery we’re presented with by social media – a great variety of disparate images passes our eye on an almost hourly basis. There’s one particular genre that has always been popular on social media and content-generating sites like Buzzfeed and Reddit, and that’s pictures of ruin and decay. Decaying architecture along with forgotten and sleeping mechanicals – in fact, the whole concept of urban exploration – has always fascinated me. Perhaps this is because of the risk and excitement of capturing images in places one really shouldn’t be. This particular image is by Johnny Joo, a 25-year-old photojournalist and artist based in Cleveland, USA. He’s a great exponent of this rather specialist pursuit and is a man infected by a real passion for the ruins he finds. I’d highly recommend taking a look at his work.
South Gare, Teesside by Paul Mitchell
Phil Hall, Features and technique editor
One of the finalists of Landscape Photographer of the Year 2015, Paul Mitchell’s image reminds me of the work of the New Topographers (one of my early influences when studying photography). They were a group of photographers including Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz who rose to prominence in the 1970s. Their work explored the interaction between man and landscape, and found beauty in the banal. Paul has certainly achieved that with his shot – the hulking mass of metal that includes the Teesside Steelworks in the background, the rickety fishermen’s huts and a landscape made from blocks of solid blast-furnace slag and material dredged from the river bed. The light is perfect, with the low angle of the sun glinting off the huts’ roofs, as well as separating the smoke from the steelworks against the clear sky while the grassy dunes blanket the foreground.
14th Street by David Reilly
Mark Jacobs, Art editor
Since day one of Amateur Photographer (way back in 1884), our commitment has been to showcase the quite extraordinary photographic talents of our readers.
It is often the case that amateur photographers outshine their professional counterparts. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Open and Professional categories at the Sony World Photography Awards and you’ll soon see that amateur photographers are the real winners. I’ve selected my image from our Reader Portfolio pages, a section of the magazine that never fails to impress. David Reilly’s shot, taken in New York, has its roots in great swathes of photographic and art history. Its layered depths of foreground and background (it’s difficult to tell which is which) bring to mind the work of US photographer Saul Leiter, and even further back, the challenging and provocative photo montages of the Dadaist movement.
Image by Markku Pajunen
Andy Westlake, Technical editor
This year I had the privilege of helping to judge the 2015 EISA Maestro awards on the theme
of ‘Family’, alongside colleagues from 14 other European magazines. While the overall winner was Russian photographer Tatiana Antonuk (who shot the, often unconscious, similarities between generations of family members), I was also very taken by the second-placed entry, from Markku Pajunen of Finland. His wryly humorous series explored the difficulty experienced by his older daughter in accepting a new member of the family. My favourite frame of the five images is of her firing her little brother off into space, strapped to a rocket. It’s a wonderfully realised, simply conceived and perfectly lit shot demonstrating that a little creativity can go an awfully long way.
Indonesian Forest Fire by Ulet Ifansasti
Nigel Atherton, Editor
The biggest environmental catastrophe of the 21st century occurred recently, as over 5,000km of Indonesian rainforest caught fire and burned for weeks, destroying the habitats of endangered species such as the orangutan, clouded leopard and Sumatran tiger.
Caused largely by forest clearance fires started by the palm-oil industry that got out of control, more CO2 was released into the air in three weeks than the entire German economy produces in a year. It closed schools, grounded flights and caused respiratory infections in half a million people. Strangely, most of the UK news media didn’t consider it worthy of much attention – the only reason I’m aware that it occurred is because this dramatic image jumped out at me from my social media newsfeeds and compelled me to click on it to find out more – as every great news photo should do.
The image is by Ulet Ifansasti, a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer with a passionate interest in documenting social, environmental and cultural issues, and a talent for telling complex stories through a single image. It powerfully shows both the human and environmental aspects of the disaster.
Left Boot, East London by Ellen Rostant
Chris Cheesman, News editor
For me, Ellen Rostant’s emotive image ‘Left Boot, East London’ neatly embraced the philosophy behind Café Art’s annual photo competition for people affected by homelessness. Ellen’s family had been in temporary housing for almost three years and the troubling image of a neglected boot symbolised what the capital meant to the 16-year-old – who went on to have two images in the resulting Café Art calendar. Ellen was one of around 100 people handed Fujifilm single-use cameras for the project, which saw three of her shots placed in the top 20.
Café Art – an organisation which aims to connect homeless people with the community through art – achieved global plaudits in 2015 after an AP article triggered a media frenzy with coverage of the calendar by The Today Show in New York, and as far afield as Australia and Thailand. The stories helped a Kickstarter campaign to fund the calendar’s printing costs go viral – raising over £10,000 from more than 500 backers within days (it eventually raised £17,500). Ellen has since gone on to pursue photography as part of her college studies – so we may see more of her thought-provoking work gracing the pages of photography magazines in future.
Search for ‘Cafe Art’ at www.mynewsdesk.com
Search for ‘Cafe Art’ at www.mynewsdesk.com
Cleo with Mirror by Aline Smithson
Aline Smithson, Lenscratch editor and photographer
This year I released a retrospective book of my portrait work, Self and Others: Portrait as Autobiography, and I needed a cover image that conveyed the idea that I am reflecting myself through my portrait work. I used a mirror as a metaphor and only took about five shots (I still shoot film). So I was thrilled to discover this image with black showing up in the mirror (which wasn’t done in Photoshop) that perfectly described what I was hoping to portray.
Image by Lloyd Fox
Rick Colls, Director of operations at Rex Features
The image I have chosen is a great example of how a single news frame can encompass multiple aspects of a story. Here the frustration and anger at the death in police custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April is palpable, as protester Devante Hill makes a heart shape with his hands after being blasted with pepper spray by police.
Condition #5 by Guia Besana
Levi Bettwieser, Rescued Film Project
The Rescued Film Project is an online archive gallery of images that were captured on film between the 1930s and late 1990s that are recovered from all over the world.
The images we rescued of President Eisenhower were probably my favourite from this year. I really love these images for two reasons. First, it’s not often that we rescue film that contains pictures which document a subject of our collective history. Second, these images really sparked interest in a lot of people to track down the photographs’ origins, which is what the project is all about.
Eva and the Child by Andre du Plessis FRPS
Michael Pritchard FRPS, Director-general at RPS
With more than 1,200 applications for an RPS distinction every year our assessors see many thousands of images, but this year Andre du Plessis stood out for the quality of his toned black and white prints. Of his panel, this shot was the one that best summed up his work. The most interesting images are those that tell a wider story beyond the subject and this picture does just that. Andre has mastered the low light, and the expression on Eva’s face keeps me coming back to her. The subjects are, I think, posed, but the image is one of optimism.
The Geography of Poverty by Matt Black
Magnum Editors’ choice
The Geography of Poverty is a digital documentary project by photographer Matt Black that combines geotagged photographs with census data to map and document poor communities in the USA. Begun in California’s Central Valley, home to some of the nation’s most impoverished communities, the project includes a three-and-a-half month, 18,000-mile journey across the country to document America’s poorest places. This project aims to highlight the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the vast country that is America.
Image by Kriator
James O Jenkins Portrait, Salon co-founder
This was one of my favourite images from this year’s Portrait Salon (a Salon des Refusés for work rejected from the annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize). We had a mammoth task as we showed one portrait by every photographer that entered Portrait Salon, resulting in an exhibition of 378 portraits (on show in Tokyo, Japan, in February 2016). This image is part of Kriator’s photo project, ‘Vagabond’. He recreated a vagabond’s life around Mumbai’s Central Railway in India. However, he didn’t want it captured with real, impoverished people. Instead, he gave it a stylish overtone.
Baraka Cosmas by Eric Lafforgue
Eric Lafforgue, Photographer
In Tanzania, albinos’ bodies are worth more than gold. Witchdoctors use their appendages including noses, genitals, tongues, fingers, hands, and ears, to supposedly bring their clients good luck in politics, business or even mining. At least 76 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania since 2000. The boy in this image is Baraka Cosmas, six, who lost his right hand. There were 17 suspects arrested in connection with his mutilation, including his father and younger brother. Baraka now lives in a secure house in Dar es Salaam with other albino children.
Migrants in Greece by Ashley Gilbertson
Diane Wargnier, Sales & assignments director at VII Agency
This photo by Ashley Gilbertson caught my eye because, unlike so many of the images we see of refugees and migrants that show stress and strife, this one shows two people smiling. I assumed the little boy in the photo was with his dad, but that’s not the case. The man is named Kadoni Kinan, a former Syrian refugee who now lives in Belgium. He travelled to Greece as a volunteer with the Red Cross to help others.
Migrants by Armend Nimani
Caroline Theakstone, Archive research manager at Getty Images
This image was taken as part of a set that Armend covered on migrants crossing the Macedonian-Serbian border. The reason I picked this particular shot, which is in contrasting tone to the rest of the set, was that in the first instance this little boy’s facial expression just grabbed me. As a picture editor you get in the habit of reading an image to see the value in it, but sometimes a photo just engages you on a purely emotive level. If it wasn’t for that smile the Santa hat could easily add an air of pathos.