Americana such as Norman Rockwell is tricky to navigate. On the one hand, most of us grew up with it as a kind of pop culture reference; on the other, it shows a super-narrow view of the world, which belies the history of many and also toes the line toward propaganda. I love this new essay by Hank Willis Thomas, which recreates some of Rockwell’s most iconic images but with far more diverse subjects. The new work retains the same sense of cozy wholesomeness but opens the door to more views on what it looks like to be an American.
—Kate Bubacz, deputy photo director, BuzzFeed News
Documentary photographer Abbie Traylor-Smith's portraits of overweight kids in the United Kingdom offers an intimate look at the daily struggles of these teens and preteens during their most formative years. With this work, Traylor-Smith expertly captures the experience of these kids who are coming of age and trying to find themselves in a society that seeks to write them off in one word: "fat."
—Laura Geiser, senior photo editor, BuzzFeed News
Here is a stunningly beautiful look at a photographer and her viral pictures that have inspired so many others to experiment with their own photography. By using the Pantone app, Aminah McKenzie isolates her color palettes to reveal the lighting and precision of her expertly styled photo shoots. The pictures themselves are flat-out gorgeous, but when seen through the Pantone index, it's easy to understand how vital color harmony is to creating a good photograph.
—Gabriel H. Sanchez, photo essay editor, BuzzFeed News
While on the topic of color, these vibrant pictures by Vivian Maier are treasured for a number of reasons, the very least being the obscurity from which they were discovered. Maier, a nanny from Chicago who made thousands of pictures and never showed them to a soul, was entirely unknown just over a decade ago and has since been propelled to international stardom as a quintessential documentarian of 20th-century Americana. A glance at these recently unearthed color pictures by Maier will reveal exactly what the hype is about.
The New York Times' visual exploration of Yellowstone National Park juxtaposes Josh Haner's breathtaking images of natural land in the country's first national park with dire reporting on its survival. These images could be among the last if the next few decades of climate change continue to reshape the park's ecosystems, affecting what is able to live and thrive there. Haner's rich photos and time-lapse videos capture America's great wilderness in all its beauty, a wilderness we're not guaranteed to retain.
On the other side of the border, the troops deployed in something of a political stunt are bored, sitting through training exercises, staring at repairing blank walls. This photo essay by Meridith Kohut does a marvelous job at conveying the efforts to combat idleness on a mission with no cause.
As heartbreaking as these pictures are, they make it quite easy to see the true goodness of people in their support of those affected by the recent California wildfires. At moments, these pictures feel unreal — to see hundreds of Americans settle into a makeshift camp in a Walmart parking lot with nowhere else to go. But the sight of helpers offering warm food, shelter, and clothing to those in need is a strong reminder of the values that bring us together as Americans.
This story is SO sad, highlighting the real human cost for those trying to make a better life for themselves. Lucy Nicholson does a great job of documenting both the rescue and recovery attempts by the Border Patrol, which have increased significantly this year, and following up with the family of Misael Paiz, who died crossing. The photos show the deep-rooted influences of loyalty, hope, and ambition on both sides of the border as all parties navigate the new reality as increased border security and decreased asylum options force the attempts to cross illegally into more remote and more dangerous areas.