As the year began to come to a close, we asked National Geographic staff who work closely with photography—through the magazine, Your Shot, News, Travel, and Proof—to choose a photo from 2015 that they just can’t stop thinking about. There’s no formula for what makes an image resonate—it can be a piercing gaze, the perfect light, or a tender moment that strikes a chord with our editors. Over the coming days, we’ll reveal the 2015 photographs they found most memorable and why.
This evocative image by filmmaker/photographer Renan Ozturk from the “Point of No Return” story that I edited has personal impact for me. This picture was made at the very end of a tortured expedition—300 miles of jungle trekking through remote Myanmar, with massive gear, equipment, and food cuts, followed by an attempted summit of one of the highest, most remote, and least climbed peaks in southeast Asia.
Renan captured a compelling moment that sums up the complete physical and emotional exhaustion of the team, including that of writer and veteran climber Mark Jenkins (right), who lost close to 25 pounds. The light on his gaunt, shirtless body exposes the bulging veins, and the hand gesture to the head shows his weariness and possible despair. Adding to the scene are photographer Cory Richards staring into the fire and climber Emily Harrington’s hands clutching her mug. This single image goes a long way toward conveying what this team endured.
Nothing is permanent. Our memories are fluid, warped by experience. This photo of a second line parade, taken by Chandra McCormick in 1990s New Orleans, is a testament to that. At its capture, the image documented the iconic qualities of New Orleans embodied in its residents—celebration, culture, and community.
But the story doesn’t stop there.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, McCormick and her husband, photographer Keith Calhoun, thought they lost 30 years of their work, including this photo, to water damage. But through the encouragement of friends and family, they froze the negatives for five years until they were able to secure funding for their restoration.
Though cracked and tie-dyed, these negatives document the New Orleans that existed before Katrina—in many ways a New Orleans that perseveres. But the images also bear physical witness to the effects of trauma, revealing the resilience of people who don’t give up while testifying that they have been irrevocably changed.
When the lights dim and a hush settles over a cinema, the thrill of going to the movies begins. As anyone who has been to a drive-in theater knows, watching movies under a dark night sky makes the experience even more special. When Ciril Jazbec photographed moviegoers in Uummannaq, Greenland, he perfectly captured a feeling we can all relate to—losing ourselves in another time and place as we get pulled into a story.
But Ciril also transports us to Uummannaq, a tiny village in Greenland where people arrive on snowmobiles to watch a movie projected on an iceberg under the auroras. Pure magic.
Discover more of our favorite images from 2015 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts: