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How did we pick 2019's 100 best photos?

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By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences

It's one of our most popular stories of the year. And this year, working with our photo editors who choose daily, I get to pick the 100 best photographs that make up this story.

What do I look for? In the next two images you'll get a peek: Surprise. A certain flair. Unusual juxtapositions. A sense, as in much of National Geographic, that the world is an awesome place, and that we are continually exploring it.

Enjoy our full article with our best photos of the year! (If that's not enough, here's last year's list as well.)

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Cleaning the glass: Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is believed to depict Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine silk merchant. Every year, millions of visitors jostle for a view at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The painting, protected by a thick layer of glass that must be cleaned regularly, has never been restored.

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Outside a drugstore in Tokyo's bustling neighborhood of Shibuya, a stand-in photo board of an apprentice geisha in traditional costume waits for someone to fill its face cutout.

Today in a minute

Abode of peace: Photographer Scott Peterson traces the restoration of Darulaman Palace in Kabul from a bullet- and shell-pocked landmark of four decades of war to something else. "Afghans hope the transformed palace," Peterson writes, "will reflect a revitalized country that may again, soon, taste peace."

Streams of Consciousness: That’s the theme of the African Biennale of Photography, beginning tomorrow through January 31 in Bamako, Mali. Inspired by a 1977 jazz collaboration by Abdullah Ibrahim and Max Roach, the Biennale will examine “tools that bridge the African continent with its various diasporas,” organizers say.

The Belle Epoque: A series of restored photographs sheds new light on France’s golden era, at the turn of the 20th century. Restorers used a photochrome technique to capture the vividness of 800 images, The Independent reports.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Refusing to airbrush history. Photographer Hannah Reyes Morales took this image of Marta, a survivor of assault, with her husband, Apolinar, in their home in the Philippines. Marta united with a group of woman who also had been assaulted during World War II. The Malaya Lolas came together to remember the trauma—and to help rebuild their devastated communities. “I worked on this story more than a decade after my own grandmother told me about her trauma from the war,” Reyes Morales wrote.

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On Monday, Debra Adams Simmons writes on the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.

One last glimpse

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Way up high. With California’s Yosemite Valley far beneath him, Alex Honnold free solos—which means climbing without ropes or safety gear—up a crack on the 3,000-foot southwest face of El Capitan. Before he accomplished the feat on June 3, 2017, Honnold spent nearly a decade thinking about the climb and more than a year and a half planning and training for it.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard. Have an idea or a link? I’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading!