The images from the earliest moments of the Ukraine conflict revealed sheer terror and disbelief. War had reached a major European capital, Kyiv, and its immediate outskirts. Refugees shoved their way onto a train headed west, pushing past a woman who shut her eyes and screamed.
A woman and her two children lay dead on a roadside, felled by a blast that narrowly missed our photographer, Lynsey Addario. The first photo we published of a dead Russian soldier in Kharkiv, a day after the conflict began, shows the corpse covered by a fresh dusting of snow.
Every year, starting in early fall, photo editors at The New York Times begin sifting through the year’s work in an effort to pick out the most startling, most moving, most memorable pictures. Recently, every year seems like a history-making year: a pandemic that killed millions; an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; and, in 2022, a war with frightening echoes of the 20th century’s devastating world wars.
Although the war in Ukraine wasn’t this year’s only story, it was the most dominant — photographers for The Times filed some 16,000 images, often in circumstances that endangered their lives.
After the shock of the invasion, the photos began to change. Lynsey, Tyler Hicks and David Guttenfelder, fellow veterans of conflict coverage, told us that the destruction of an artillery war produces too many similar scenes. They began seeking something different.
As the war ground on, they captured a new mood in facial expressions: resignation, but also resilience. A Ukrainian soldier, on leave from the front, lightly held his girlfriend as he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. In the village of Demydiv, someone carrying a bag waded alone down a street that had become a river, flooded by Ukrainians themselves to thwart the Russian advance.
By April, it had become a war of attrition. Even big battles and major advances proved indecisive, with both sides digging in for an extended conflict.
Looking at these images from 2022, it’s impossible not to see fragments of a different kind of war, one being waged here in the United States, with mass shootings taking lives seemingly every week. Sometimes, the most powerful image is of an object that reveals that pain and tragedy, like Tamir Kalifa’s photograph of a bullet-riddled notebook retrieved from a classroom in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed. The notebook belonged to one of those children — Uziyah Garcia, a 10-year-old.
There was also change on the social and political fronts. Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, a moment caught in a magical photograph of Leila Jackson gazing at her mother in loving admiration. It was taken by Sarahbeth Maney, who is also a young woman of color.
A gorgeous and powerful black-and-white photo of a pregnant woman in Ohio who had made the difficult decision to have a reduction — the termination of one severely unhealthy fetus to save the life of its healthy sibling — spoke to the anguish.
Hers was one of the last such procedures legal under Ohio’s changing law.
But 2022 undoubtedly belongs to the war in Ukraine, a conflict now settling into a worryingly predictable rhythm. Finbarr O’Reilly’s image of an explosion on Kyiv’s skyline, as Russia retaliated against Ukrainian advances with missile attacks on civilian targets, shows the war as raw and low-tech, because it is. Dumb bombs and artillery blow up buildings for the sole purpose of scaring people.
And yet moments of optimism and joy do arrive. A photo by Laetitia Vancon delights us with the sight of elegantly dressed teenagers dancing on a street in Odesa. We see what they have lost because of Vladimir Putin’s aggression against their country — but also what they refuse to lose.
With this collection, we recognize our photographers for their outstanding work around the world, and hope you will understand more about their thinking and their day-to-day processes as they explain, in their own words, how they got the story.
Elliot Ross joined Wendy Marcum as she did her grocery shopping for the coming weeks.
“As we were walking the final blocks to her temporary home, this sodden, shivering pregnant dog appeared and went up to Wendy under the glow of a streetlight. Instinctively, she dropped the groceries to the pavement and took this sad, smelly creature into her arms and into the house. I was struck by the parallels between Wendy and the dog — two creatures in need of home and heart.”
“When you’re standing on the ground, you can’t visualize the scope of the destruction. So pulling back a little and being able to see the scale of it and seeing the whole neighborhood with the curves of the streets, you can see how the whole neighborhood had been laid out.”
— Erin Schaff
Lynsey Addario arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 14, shortly before the invasion began.
“We went to the site where the building had been attacked that morning. There was a woman who basically just kind of came out to start surveying her house. You need some human interaction when you make these photographs. You have to show the scale, the effect and what’s left behind in people’s lives. That’s the challenge with covering war. This war is an artillery war. We see the same images over and over, and it’s really hard to make anything different.”
Tyler Hicks arrived in Kharkiv, Ukraine, as Russian forces were mounting assaults on the city.
“There was no way to know if you would run into Russian soldiers. I decided to get out of the car and walk to make sure we weren’t going to drive up to any surprises. There was snow on the ground and I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but I eventually came upon several Russian soldiers who had been killed. I took the photos as quickly as I could because the area where I was working was exposed, and then I got back to cover.”
“I was photographing along a civilian evacuation route and was in the actual attack. The shell landed between us. The woman and her two children and the church volunteer were killed. I was just lucky the blast went the other direction and not toward me.”
— Lynsey Addario
Alexander Chekmenev went to Kyiv, Ukraine, a week after the invasion to take portraits of residents who remained.
“To me, everyone who stayed and was ready to meet the invaders was a hero. They were actors, doctors, pensioners and students, and practically all became volunteers. It was important to show the war through a particular person, so that each of us could look into their eyes and see ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we would have been able to act as they did.”
“I was focusing pretty tightly on Chris Rock and all of the sudden I see the back of somebody come into my frame, and I think instinct just kicked in. I knew I had the picture, but I didn’t know what had happened. Later, someone asked, ‘How did you feel taking the picture that went viral around the world?’ And my response was: ‘I was so relieved I didn’t have to do the walk of shame the next day.’ Can you imagine if I’d missed it?”
— Ruth Fremson
“Mr. Gao lost his wife when she was assaulted with a rock as she was sweeping a sidewalk in Elmhurst. I slept at his place and went with him to work the next day. He boiled a pot of dumplings for me and poured me coffee in the morning. It really felt like he was just moving on autopilot and trying to put one foot in front of the other. It was overwhelming.”
— Justin J Wee
Sarahbeth Maney said it was an honor, as a biracial woman, to be present at the hearings.
“I looked up and noticed Leila looking toward her mom. I thought what it must have felt like to have her mother be in that position right then. The pride and admiration for her mother, but it also showed her knowing the challenges her mother had to persevere through to create that seat for herself.”
“As a photographer, when you go day after day after day to these scenes, you just see over and over how people are having to cope with such tremendous loss. When I’m there in that moment, I’m seeing them in that very low point in their lives. And the next day it repeats again. And again.”
— Tyler Hicks
Daniel Berehulak arrived in Bucha, Ukraine, after the end of a 30-day Russian occupation.
“It was kind of apocalyptic. The residents hadn’t had any kind of significant food drops in 30 days. There was a mass grave near this church in the center of Bucha where the Russians had been burying a mix of civilians and some soldiers. They found more than 100 bodies buried there. We heard terrible stories of rape and torture and the killings of civilians.”
“The crowd that had arrived to see her off was much larger than expected. People who came really wanted to honor her and march her through the streets, which is something that happens a lot for martyrs. I was up in a window of the hospital standing with a bunch of nurses and they were crying — people were shocked. She was really a beloved figure.”
— Maya Levin
“The worst thing for a parent is not being able to feed your child, and what is interesting about malnourishment is it’s not necessarily hunger that kills the children — it’s that their bodies are so weak they can’t fight disease anymore. They’ll get some kind of infection their body can’t fight and they’ll pass away.”
— Malin Fezehai
“There’s a kind of intergenerational trauma when violence happens. I really felt the deep amount of grief that was going to linger in this family in the way the Mom was crying and in the way she was holding on to the child. The kind of grief they were experiencing comes in waves and can be very quiet.”
— Gabriela Bhaskar
Pete Luna was on his lunch break when a friend who follows a police scanner texted and said, ‘Are you listening?’
“I saw a little girl running out of the school directly toward me and she’s bleeding profusely from her face. I thought she had broken her nose in a stampede getting out of there. I guess she had suffered a shrapnel injury. I never heard gunshots. But later on I saw two more children running out, and they had gunshot wounds and they were bleeding from the legs and arms. I saw others being evacuated in stretchers, and it became apparent — this is actually a shooting. I only knew what was happening after the fact.”
When Laetitia Vancon arrived in Odesa, Ukraine, she went out for a quick look around and stumbled onto this scene.
“It was the end of the school year, just before students enter university, and usually they celebrate with a huge ball and have a big diploma celebration. But they couldn’t because of the war. They wanted to make this for social media to show what they had lost during the war. It looked like a movie scene. It was remarkable.”
Tamir Kalifa gained the trust of the family of Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“We so rarely get a glimpse into the rooms where this profound violence happens. To see an item that is so relatable with a child’s handwriting punctured by a bullet evokes emotion. It’s a symbol of a child’s life and the simple innocence of a 10-year-old just solving his math problems whose life was literally punctured by a bullet.”
“This is a completely new observatory. It looks at things we’ve never seen before. We tried to predict what we’d see but we didn’t know. The observatory can look at objects that address all the themes — the birth and death of stars, evolution of galaxies and planets and more. The images had a tremendous impact.”
— Dr. Klaus Pontoppidan
“Some photographers treat people in powwows like zoo animals. I wanted to have meaning behind the photos. This was the first powwow after the pandemic, so it was really special. The kids had on new outfits because they’d grown out of their old ones. I wanted to show why their outfits meant something to them.”
— Tailyr Irvine
David Guttenfelder went to a hospital in Ukraine and heard the harrowing stories of war.
“The most moving thing to me was this moment when another one of the wounded received a prosthetic leg. The nurse shouted to me, ‘David, David, come quick!’ All of the other patients had come on their crutches and wheelchairs, all peering inside the room as he was being fitted and all passing the leg around and making jokes. It really felt like a family united in this shared struggle.”
“What I like the most about the image is that it shows how the connection between human beings and nature is everywhere. The photo shows how big nature is compared with human beings. It’s a reminder to keep that connection and keep in mind that we need to protect the biodiversity.”
— Arlette Bashizi
“I didn’t understand just how much really intense heath care decisions were going to be impacted, including Catrina’s situation, where they had to terminate one of the twins she was pregnant with. The health of one fetus was going to impact that of the other and the mom. She’s a very strong woman in her own right, and she really felt strongly that she wanted her story out there.”
— Stephanie Sinclair
“The crossing is 10 days. There is no food, no help, no nothing, no authorities, nobody to help. If something happens to you while you’re crossing, you have to rely on solidarity with other migrants. The families get muddy because it rains every day. Every night they made it to a small creek, and every night they were washing their clothes.”
— Federico Rios
“There was a sign saying ‘Greatest of All Time,’ and I wanted to include that. I wanted to include somebody’s reaction, too. This one lady was waving and standing up and so I waited for the right moment, and Serena turned. And this lady raised her hands, and I thought, ‘This is the shot I have to get.’”
— Hiroko Masuike
Chang W. Lee arrived at an underground parking garage 14 hours after flooding from a typhoon had begun.
“I didn’t know how long it would take to pump out the water. I thought it would take two hours. It took seven. As they were getting ready to go in, a lot of people waiting by the entrance were shouting that they heard a voice. Everyone was screaming in joy. I was thinking I would have a picture of a body inside, but instead there was a live person. I was so happy to hear that.”
“I met a woman at a party who told me about this bridal dress. I put the woman’s number on a napkin and put it in my bra. In my sleep I dreamed that I took pictures of this dress being built. Later, I called her and said to her: ‘Listen, did you say you were having a block party for Mrs. Douglass? Because I dreamed I took pictures of that dress. Has it been made?’ And she said no. Afterwards, I said, this assignment came from a dream.”
— Michelle V. Agins
“When we imagine what modern warfare might look like, we imagine things to look very high-tech. But the striking thing about being here is, the scenes are like those described by old war poets. It just looks like something from another century. This is a grinding, brutal artillery war.”
— Finbarr O’Reilly
“On the following day people were coming to pay their respects. It’s just — it’s so sad. This is something that shouldn’t have happened. I think about these young lives. I have a son who is going to be 19 years old soon, and I cannot think of it. It hurts my heart.”
— Chang W. Lee
“I’ve documented Ms. Pelosi behind the scenes for over four years, which helped me gain access to this private moment when she returned to her office to receive an emotional ovation from her staff. Several of those staff members had sheltered in that office from rioters searching for Ms. Pelosi as they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”
— Erin Schaff
Kenny Holston was on a stakeout waiting for the billionaire Elon Musk when he saw a family shopping for groceries.
“I saw a dad with two little kids going into a convenience store. When they came out they had only this singular gallon of milk. I looked up how much it would have cost them a year ago. The percentage increase was wild. It was nearly 35 percent more expensive than last year, on top of a 10 percent convenience store markup. The juxtaposition of waiting for a billionaire and seeing them was fascinating.”
“There was zero light apart from these red headlamps that they used to remain as invisible as possible so they’re not picked up by Russian drones. The sun was just starting to come up. They were just coming in and unloading from the boat onto the dock. The only way I could make this work was to wait for people not to be moving too much.”
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