Gordon Parks' impact on photography and social justice is undeniable. As the first black photographer hired to Life magazine, he gave a voice to the marginalized African-American community throughout the civil rights era and beyond. His powerful images created empathy, an effective weapon he deliberately wielded to beat back the injustices of segregation and racism. Although there's been progress toward racial equality in this country over the last 40 years, I can't help but wonder about the work he'd be producing in today's political climate.
—Laura Geiser, photo editor, BuzzFeed News
Street photography requires an immense amount of patience and an openness to see the moments happening around you. Once a medium focused on the documentation of daily life and of shared humanity, modern street photography has taken on a more interpretative and artistic bend. Photographer Jonathan Higbee's images from the streets of New York City are cleverly captured, often whimsical and always well-timed scenes accentuating the fact that the surreal surrounds us daily if we're simply patient and take the time to truly see it.
This is a truly inspirational piece about film professionals who proved their talents above everyone else in an industry historically known to discriminate against many different groups of people. But what’s incredibly saddening about this list is that despite almost 80 years since the first African-American won an Oscar, the list of those who followed in her footsteps can easily fit in a single article. I guess after the #OscarsSoWhite campaign two years ago it was easy to believe that things have changed but in reality, cultural shifts move at a much slower pace.
—Anna Mendoza, photo editor, BuzzFeed Australia
This photo essay on the anniversary of the disbandment of the water protectors' encampment at Standing Rock is a much needed update in a gorgeous package. It took a village to support the movement for 10 months and through a brutal winter, and here with the help of talented photographers we're treated to compelling portraits paired with each subject's reflection on the movement. The fight didn't end in their favor but it's clear there was wisdom in the journey and they're more driven than ever.
Courtney Garvin’s photo essay “In These Clasped Hands” is as subtle as the pervasive trauma of racism itself. Her photos examine the pain felt after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, but they also explore how seemingly ordinary moments can reveal the healing power of family, the importance of collective experience, and the power of storytelling.
—Kate Bubacz, deputy photo director, BuzzFeed News
In this beautiful and poetic profile by the New Yorker's Pulitzer Prize–winning Hilton Als, photographer Sally Mann's images of the American South are contextualized in words that sear our psyche just as deeply as the photographs themselves do. The pictures, soon to be on view at at the National Gallery of Art, are perhaps some Mann's most poignant work, focusing the regions of the US plagued by violent racial histories. A line by Als best captures the poignancy of the work: "Most of the colored people lining the pews of their churches didn’t aspire to be white, which is the color of power; they aspired to survive, which is the color of humanity."
—Gabriel H. Sanchez, photo essay editor, BuzzFeed News
In the face of acts of horrific violence people often pacify themselves with the thought that something like that couldn't happen "here." The images in photographer Oliver Clasper's series "The Spaces We Inherit" of quiet street corners and ordinary front yards where lynchings were carried out, and in some cases publicly celebrated, destroy that illusion of safety; they did happen "here," in the US. In Clasper's own words, “I think many agree that the nation has not dealt with its bloody past of lynchings and segregation. It seemed to me there has been no collective acceptance, let alone recognition of the mistakes made and the sins committed.”
I sometimes feel conflicted about photographers capturing the culture of other places (appropriation, tropes, lack of subtlety, among other reasons) but I can’t get enough of Patrick Wack’s work in China. The edit in Time explicitly focuses on Xinjiang, a region of the country that is better known for its oppressive human rights track record against the local Uighur population than for its striking scenery and close ties to the Silk Road. It feels like the seminal Robert Frank book The Americans, examining the good, bad, and weird of an ascendant superpower grappling with societal shifts.
First, the irony: "Keeping the Dead Sea alive" is something I never thought I'd hear. And while the habitat here doesn't allow marine life to thrive, the images in this feature show another community, whose members, although transient in the area, find a therapeutic and healing power in the nearby water. The Dead Sea is hardly dead as it’s attracted visitors and temporary settlers to its shores for centuries. But its current ecological challenges might mean that the Dead Sea isn't just destined to be desolate in the water — but also around it.
Here are the most moving and breathtaking pictures from the past week.