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The Most Memorable Photo Stories We Published This Year

A look back at our favorites as we shut the door on 2020.

Posted on December 27, 2020, at 9:01 a.m. ET

We know, we know — who would want to relive this year? But there were some good things, as well as some beautiful images of the bad things, which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Below, we collected the best photo stories published this year in JPG, our photo newsletter, as we look forward to 2021 and remember what a devastating — but occasionally beautiful — year this has been.

If you love photography as much as we do and want to see more in 2021, sign up for the newsletter at the link below.


These Horrifying Pictures Show The Deadly Bushfires In Australia

Dan Himbrechts / Shutterstock

Horses in a paddock become restless as a bushfire nears the town of Bilpin in late December 2019.

The 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season marked the most destructive and widespread season in the country's history.

"My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person," Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, said in a statement. "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

18 Pictures That Capture America At Its Best

Two young children in front of a gas station
Larry Niehues

Photographer Larry Niehues was born and raised in a city in southern France called Avignon. After moving to the United States in 2010 to pursue a career in commercial photography, he was instantly captivated by the wide-open landscapes of the West and the charming small towns that appeared to be frozen in a bygone era.

23 Pictures Of The Incredible Work Kobe Bryant Did Off The Court

Kobe Bryant with children
Michael Kovac / Getty Images

Bryant surprises students with a holiday visit to a school in Mission Viejo, California, Dec. 19, 2018.

Legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant, 41, died in January after his helicopter crashed in California. Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also killed in the crash, along with seven other people.

The United Kingdom officially became the first member state in the history of the European Union to leave after 47 years of membership. The moment had starkly different reactions across the country.

15 Pictures That Celebrate The Beauty Of Natural Hair

A woman with short hair stands in the rain with her head tilted back
St. Clair Detrick-Jules

"The love of the women in my book for themselves, for their hair, and for their communities radiates off of them — and this love, I hope, comes across in these photos," said St. Clair Detrick-Jules, a photographer based in Washington, DC.

Here, shoppers lined up outside a Costco in Honolulu to buy supplies after the Hawaii State Department of Health advised residents to stock up on a 14-day supply of food, water, and other necessities.

This Is What Life Is Like During The Coronavirus Outbreak For A Delivery Person

A man in a reflective vest and bike helmet exchanges money for delivery food
Ryan Christopher Jones for BuzzFeed News

"When an order is ready, Zhang leaves the fryer and puts on his reflective jacket and bike helmet. He's been held up at gunpoint twice in the last six weeks."

Gorgeous Photos Show How Farms Are Helping People During The COVID-19 Crisis

Three plastic bags with beets in them
Greta Rybus for BuzzFeed News

Maine farmers showed their resilience by leaning into the COVID-19 crisis.

"This was the most trying experience of my life, but at the same time it showed me the strength I have as a mother."

This Photographer Is Working To Document Species Before They Go Extinct

A small furry mammal on a black background
Joel Sartore / National Geographic Photo Ark

A numbat in the town of Healesville, Victoria, Australia.

"Each species that we photograph is precious, irreplaceable, and in my mind, has a basic right to exist."

After a police officer placed George Floyd in a fatal knee chokehold, millions of people demonstrated in Minneapolis and nationwide against the police killings of unarmed Black people and systemic anti-Black racism in the US. Crowds of peaceful protesters marched with signs and protective face coverings; later, a group of unruly demonstrators gathered around a local police precinct and were met with tear gas and officers in riot gear.

This Is What Black Lives Matter Marches Look Like Around The World

Demonstrators kneel in front of a US Consulate General office
Gallo Images / Getty Images

Early in the summer, the message of Black Lives Matter resonated around the globe as demonstrators internationally marched in solidarity with protests in the US.

21 Heartbreaking Pictures From The Aftermath Of The Tulsa Massacre

A scorched-earth scene of a town destroyed
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

For nearly a century, these events would often be described as the Tulsa race riots, although this name does not accurately account for the mass murder and destruction of property inflicted upon an entire community of Black citizens.

16 Haunting Color Pictures Of The 1918 Flu Pandemic

A man in white with two garbage cans on wheels in an old picture
Bettman / Getty Images

A New York street cleaner wears a mask to work in 1918 and is quoted as saying, "better be ridiculous than dead."

The blast at Beirut's port on Aug. 4 left dozens dead and thousands of people injured and without a home.

BuzzFeed News worked with five college students, all of whom captured one of the last weekends of summer during a time that feels both endless and lost. With online classes upending back-to-school rituals, these students had an overwhelming sense of suspended animation; the day-to-day routines of summer would not change much with the coming school year, and goals and milestones would be delayed. Nonetheless, all five spoke of their lives as being full of family, friends, and a sense of creative freedom amid the anxiety.

Shocking Photos Show The Hellish Scenes From The West Coast Wildfires

A flaming hillside with a bridge in the foreground, with a bright orange sky
Josh Edelson / Getty Images

Huge swaths of the West Coast were blanketed by choking smoke and an eerie orange cast as an unprecedented wildfire season that started early ferociously consumed millions of acres across several states. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, and entire landscapes destroyed. Smoke and flames from fires across the region swallowed the blue sky, with the air quality in some areas reached hazardous levels.

The Life Of Supreme Court Justice And Feminist Ruth Bader Ginsburg In Photos

An official portrait of Ginsburg, dressed in a black robe with her hair pulled back and earrings on, while she was on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit
Chase Studios / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Ginsburg — a wife, mother, justice for the highest court in the land, and a self-proclaimed "flaming feminist litigator" — served on the Supreme Court for more than 25 years before dying Sept. 18, 2020, at the age of 87.

This Isn't The First Time People Have Anxiously Waited For Election Returns

A man clutching his temples as he looks at figures and numbers taped to a wall
Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If you felt anxious awaiting the results of the presidential election, you weren't alone. With mail-in voting at an all-time high due to the coronavirus pandemic, we didn't know when we would have a projected winner for days. We assembled some historical photos of different election stressfests as people waited and watched the returns.

Many of the images of Indigenous peoples that those in the United States are familiar with are far from the young, vibrant, contemporary Native culture that exists today. As Osage photographer Ryan RedCorn put it to BuzzFeed News, “For too long the underlying strategy around the most widely published photos of Native peoples has been one of lamentation, pity, extinction, and death.” When we say that these photographers are among some you should have been following yesterday, we mean it. We spoke with 15 photographers whose work aims to spread joy, truth, and love.

Kozak's images of her mother highlight her individuality and perspective on the world, with her past and her present delicately interwoven. BuzzFeed News spoke with Kozak about her work and how she approached working with her family on such a sensitive topic.

Cornell Watson turned a challenging year and a successful side project into a burgeoning photo career, proving that 2020 hasn't been all bad.

Over the course of the last nine worrisome months, Kramer started a project featuring his ex-wife, Sophia, and his 86-year-old mother, Elaine. The photographs capture glimpses into a surreal absurdity that has become Kramer’s daily routine in a way that will feel familiar to many of us. Most of us could have never imagined anything like the current state of affairs at the very beginning of this year, and sometimes it's easier to hope it just goes away than to really consider our surroundings.

Go Nakamura, a Houston-based photojournalist, has been one of the photographers covering the medical front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nakamura, who relocated to Texas just over a year ago, has visited the United Memorial Medical Center more than 20 times since May, documenting the caregiving in the COVID ward in a searing series of photos for Getty Images. As the death toll in the US surpassed 300,000 people since March, BuzzFeed News spoke with Nakamura about the experience, including one of his images that has become an iconic scene from the pandemic.

56 Of The Most Powerful Photos Of This Year

A man carrying an upside-down US flag walks by a burning liquor store at night
Julio Cortez / AP

From the coronavirus pandemic to the ongoing fight for racial justice, the election to climate change, here were some of the images that defined the year.

This story is part of our series on the year 2020. To read more, click here.

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.