Photograph by Erika Larsen
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Destiny Buck, of the Wanapum tribe, rides her mare, Daisy, in the yearly Indian princess competition in Pendleton, Oregon. Embraced first for war, hunting, and transport, horses became partners in pageantry and a way to show tribal pride.
Photograph by Erika Larsen

Pictures We Love: Power, Grace, and the In-Between

At National Geographic, photography is what holds our stories together and what makes them shine. It’s what we do the best and love the most. Our photo editors work with thousands of images every year (if not every day) and so we asked each of them—editors from National Geographic MagazineNational Geographic Magazine, News, Traveler, Your Shot, and Proof—to share one picture that stood out for them in 2014. We didn’t ask them to talk about the “best” photo, but the one that resonated with them the most. Over the coming days, we’ll bring you their personal reflections and share the heart of what we’ve been up to this year.

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“Olivia Rowe is my aunt Josephine’s great-granddaughter. Her level gaze and dark hair remind me of Aunt Jo, who was a gardener and kept a flock of chickens. Olivia keeps pigeons, 14 of them. This one is named Angel.”—Garrison Keillor “There’s No Place Like Home,” February 2014 Photograph by Erika Larsen
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Destiny Buck, of the Wanapum tribe, rides her mare, Daisy, in the yearly Indian princess competition in Pendleton, Oregon. Embraced first for war, hunting, and transport, horses became partners in pageantry and a way to show tribal pride. “People of the Horse,” March 2014 Photograph by Erika Larsen

This year photographer Erika Larsen published two stories with us “There’s No Place Like Home,” about Garrison Keillor’s hometown region of St. Paul, Minnesota and the “People of the Horse” about Native Americans and their relationship to horses.

In each story there was a particular image that struck me as especially beautiful and powerful. Both are of young girls with their animals. Both capture a moment of innocence on the cusp of adolescence. Olivia Rowe, 9, from Anoka, Minnesota holds a fancy white pigeon with its wings splayed out. Olivia is a relative of Keillor’s and also a member of a religious community called the Plymouth Brethren. How perfect that she should be holding a symbol of peace in the golden light at the end of the day. Her expression is strong and serious, and full of a childlike wisdom, she is in control, the bird lies quietly against her. You can almost see the woman she will become.

The second image is of Wanapum tribe member Destiny Buck in full-show regalia holding the bridle of her horse Daisy. Destiny stands confidently on a small rock surrounded by water, she is perfectly balanced even though a simple toss of her horse’s head could easily pull her off balance. Destiny gazes directly at you proud, relaxed and in total control of the moment. She seems wise beyond her years, very much like young Olivia.

Erika’s portraits are tender expressions of how she feels about her subjects. They are created with such delicacy they are like a feather passing across your face. Her images peel back layers of distance and allow one to feel something for and about her subjects—respect, affection, empathy. I often tell photographers that when I look at their pictures I can feel what they are feeling. So I want to feel their passion, their happiness, their anger or their love.

Erika’s work speaks to me that way. I feel what she feels, and I am glad.

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Browse more of our favorite images from 2014 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts: