These are the most interesting, influential, and important pictures of 2011. There is no ranking, they are all equally worthy of being on this list. Enjoy.
This is "Fearless Cat". It's only appropriate to open this list with a picture of a cat because cat pictures and cat-related humour took off like wildfire over the last few years on the internet. There are entire websites dedicated to it, such as lolcats.com. This picture is just fascinating to look at and is taken in such a way that it warrants a captive audience.
This picture shows a man and wife taking to the dance floor in a banquet hall. The look of romance this man has in his eyes is truly something to be admired, as should always be done with such a wonderful thing. In 2011 our attitudes towards individuals who are disabled (for lack of a much longer, unrecognizable, politically-correct term) still leave a lot to be desired. This picture is important because it shows what we all know but all too often tend to forget; that love supersedes all. Love means acceptance, if acceptance isn't present, it isn't love. This picture says that very well, thus earning its spot on this list.
This is Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. 2011 could very aptly be dubbed 'The Year of Protest'. Thousands of protesters took to the square January 25th 2011, and are still going strong now in December 2011. This wide view shows the magnitude of the protest, with police moving in backed by the local military (bottom left).
This man doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze in Greece, out front of his local bank branch. The man claimed to have been given unfair treatment when the bank set the terms for the repayment of his loans. The fees were enough to make the man ask for a renegotiation but when denied his request he set up with loud speaker, gasoline and a lighter to make his voice heard. The man's protest ended with this picture, snapped just a moment after he ignited himself. This picture was taken by a bystander who worked across the street, not a professional photographer or journalist. The police officer shown was able to extinguish the flames before the man died, but he is said to have suffered severe burns covering most of his body.
Camels crossing the desert. This is just a brilliantly timed and angled shot, and certainly the most creative nature photograph of the year.
This veiled, Afghan woman set herself on fire to attempt suicide, after reportedly suffering years of abuse from her husband. In Afghanistan, women are still viewed as second-class to men, as lesser creatures designed for servitude and male dominance. Examples of this can be seen with female circumcision, which could also accurately be labelled Genital Mutilation (cutting off the females's clitoris at a young age so she never experiences sexual pleasure), marital rape not being considered a crime, and with men being able to beat their wives (often to death) as punishment if they: speak to another man, speak while another man is present, leave the house showing hair or skin, show hair or skin while in their own home while guests are present, show displeasure at their husbands actions, deny their husbands sexual intercourse, ask for divorce from their husbands, leave the home without their husband, seeking permission to do anything, ever, that would in anyway apply that they are independent, self-reliant human beings. It is worse than it sounds, rest assured, the rate of women who kill themselves by lighting themselves on fire in Afghanistan is shockingly high.
Tiffany, 19, turns her back to the camera to show the scar that was left behind after she was a victim of a brutal and near-fatal knife attack in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on March 10th, 2011. Tiffany is a transvestite. This attack was a hate-crime. Tiffany was targeted by locals because they believed her trans-sex operation was a transgression against nature. This picture is important because it reminds us that bigotry and hate are still dominating love and acceptance and only we can make the change. It has to come from within and it starts with being shocked, such as seeing this image of an innocent humans mutilated back.
Shi'ite Muslim men and boys beat their chests as they practice self-flagellation during the religious ritual of Ashura in Delhi, India, earlier this year. Islam is a perfectly normal belief, and certainly a religion of peace, love, and understanding. This picture shows that quite well... This sick display of besotted fanaticism depicts the kind of brainwashing that takes place under extreme religious rule.
After the flooding in Pakistan earlier this year, millions of spiders and other creepier-than-your-worst-nightmares-could-concoct creatures were forced to occupy trees. Thousands of trees just like the ones pictured here became webbed as they were forced to house the spiders who fled the rising waters. The locals nicknamed the trees 'cotton-candy trees'. (I'll never eat cotton-candy again.)
A Japanese girl sits on the remains of a street a midst wreckage from what was her home and neighborhood after the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck off Japan's Pacific coast on Friday, March 11th, 2011. The earthquake was the most powerful ever to hit Japan and is recorded as in the top 5 most powerful earthquakes in history. No picture can be a just summation of the trauma and absolute desolation that Japan experienced, but this picture serves as a stark reminder of the loss of human life that was a result of the earthquake, tsunami and aftershocks.
The Aurora Borealis over Iceland's night sky. This photo became famous after an amateur photographer entered it in a photo contest, and for good reason, won. It's incredible. Who wants to go to Iceland?
This picture was taken moments after a suicide bomber detonated inside Abdul Faz Mosque, Afghanistan, killing 50 people. You can see the bodies (women and children, mostly) clustered together around a survivor crying and pointing at her dead child in the center of the photo. Suicide bombings are a favoured tactic used throughout the Middle East, often with the bombs being strapped to unwilling participants such as special needs individuals, men who are told their families will be financially looked after and protected if the man carries out the suicide bombing, or young boys who are manipulated into thinking they will be eternally rewarded if they sacrifice their own lives in the "Holy War" against the infidels of Islam. Unfortunately there is no eternal reward, and certainly not an earthly one either. There is nothing special about believing in something so strongly you would die to prove it. It takes nothing but an absence of courage, bravery and logical human thought to make such a cowardly exit from Earth.
This is a picture of a malnourished boy in Somalia. Currently 3.7 million Somalis are at-risk for starvation in the two southern regions that are controlled by Islamist Al Shabaab militants. The warlords keep the food for themselves and execute, rape, and oppress the civilians under their control. Somalia has been forgotten about since the United States withdrew their forces from there in the 90's. The people there are suffering everyday and despite the United Nations having all the necessary power to assist, they do not. In 2011, the fighting between militant groups have taken more civilian casualties than before but aside from Human Rights Watch, no one seems to care. The boy in this photograph is dead now, died of malnutrition as a result of extended periods of starvation less than a week after the picture was taken.
A fiery explosion after two cars collide during a race. The flames were recorded to be 40 feet high as first response and firefighter teams sped to pull the two men from each vehicle. Amazingly, both men walked away from the accident and only one needed medical treatment for minor burns on his hands. Hard to believe from this picture though, as one car is almost completely blocked from view as a result of the massive inferno.
This is 'Casual Cop'. Casual Cop became an internet phenomenon after this photo was snapped. The cop is casually spraying mace into the face of a protester who is sitting calmly during a protest at UC Davis. The internet certainly does abhor unexplained dissonance, as Police Lieutenant John Pike now fully understands. His calm, casual stance has been photoshopped and turned into one of the most famous internet memes of 2011.
A picture taken Sept. 11th 2011, of a New York Fire Department firefighter remembering his fallen compatriots on the ten year anniversary. 9/11 will always be a moment in history that people who were old enough to remember will be unable to forget. If you are asked what you were doing that day when you first heard the news of the terrorist attacks you will be able to recall it perfectly, any of us could. This picture sums up the mourning and grief still taking place and being felt worldwide because of the events of that day.
Amputee Soccer players fight over a ball during a game in July of 2011. This picture shows pure determination over physical obstacles. The love these players must have for their game is inspiring. This picture is important because it reminds us of the potency of human will power.
This picture was taken of a bloodied man and a dead child, in front of a building that had just felt the effects of a double suicide bombing that took place earlier this year. The first suicide bomber detonated and injured and killed several people while the other bomber waited nearby. When the police, paramedics and firefighters began to arrive and a large crowd had formed, the second bomber detonated, killing three times the amount of people that the first bomb had killed. There are three pictures related to religious fundamentalism and terrorist suicide bombings on this list because in 2011 religious oppression inspiring terrorism is still running rampant throughout the Middle East. Despite two wars waged by allied forces, two occupied countries, the situation is only getting worse.
This is a fantastic picture of the Milky Way Galaxy, taken from the ground of the Mardi Khola Valley in Himalaya. Not as potent in the same way as some of the other pictures on this list, but certainly one of the most awe-inspiring and beautifully taken pictures from the last year. One glance at this picture and you are instantly infected with the travel bug.
This is a photo of the India-Pakistan border, taken from the International Space Station. It looks shockingly like neurons inside the human brain and being the sci-fi geek that I am, I had to include this stunning view of our tiny speck of dust planet. Even though we have the biggest egos in the universe, we are certainly unimportant, miniature beings of life with the utmost of irrelevancy, and this picture is a fantastical reminder of that fact.
This is an ant. You may notice that it has antler-like fungus protruding from its head. That fungus grows inside the hosts brain, taking control of it completely. It tells it's host to climb as high up as possible in a tree, then it breaks out of the ants head and spreads its spores to the wind, so as to cover and infect as large of an area as possible. So in short, it turns the ants into zombies and then spreads itself to as many other ants as possible to keep its population strong. This picture was taken in Brazil, let's hope the zombie ant army stays there.
Protesters being beaten in Tbilisi, Georgia. The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi has recently become the home to anti-government protesters who are demanding the resignation of the president of their country. Years of oppression and unruly, tyrannical treatment are finally being challenged as the citizens of Georgia were undoubtedly inspired by successful revolutions in other countries worldwide over the past year. This is one photographic example of the police brutality being carried out on demonstrators in Georgia. The government message is clear: silence the protesters; but the demonstrators have a message of their own, and after over 10,000 people have shown up to make their voices heard it is quite clear that their message will not be silenced.
The Year of the Protest certainly echoed strong within North America when a group of university professors, economists and students decided to show up on Wall Street, and not leave. Pictured above is a PhD wielding university professor at George Washington State University, or as the main stream media calls him, "an unemployed bum with nothing better to do". The Occupy Movement simply wanted people to start paying attention to the massive inequality and unfair distribution of wealth within America. Furthermore, to take action against a corporate controlled media and bank system that leaves the majority of the country out in the cold, while a small, elite 1% controls nearly everything you can do, see, read and most importantly, buy. Hence their slogan of "Occupy Wall Street: We are the 99%". The Movement is still going strong, after starting on September 17th, in Zucotti park. The OWS movement was organized by Canadian activist group Adbusters; but what started as a Canadian idea and an American occupation, has since transformed into a worldwide movement with OWS demonstrations taking place in over 82 countries and 1200 events despite massive resistance from police forces.
Earlier in the list the earthquake that rocked Japan was mentioned, but worth a separate mention is the subsequent tsunami. The earthquake and tsunami were responsible for 15,841 deaths, 5,890 injuries, with an additional 3,490 people missing and not yet accounted for. Of those deaths, an estimated 92.5% died from drowning. Entire families, homes, airports, towns, islands, cities were completely swept away with the rising waters that bulldozed through 18 prefectures. Save The Children reports over 100,000 children have been uprooted from their homes, the majority of which were disconnected from their families. The tsunami also disabled the Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, exposing the nearby city to harmful levels of radiation. Pictured above is a passenger ship left atop an apartment complex. When a tsunami comes to land, it brings ships, buildings and vehicles with it, using them as battering rams to knock down anything in its path that the crushing force of the water doesn't already break down. After the water gets as far inland as it's power will allow it to go, it begins to recede. When it left Japan and went back into the ocean, it carried thousands of human beings out to sea with it, never to be seen again. There are several other powerful pictures of the tsunami's destructive abilities to extinguish life.
This is a boy who fell asleep atop a bull. This picture captures a little piece of humanity, instantly evoking so many distinct emotions. This picture is certainly worth one-thousand words and finishes off this list with a well-rounded close.
Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment or head on over to my Twitter page right here: https://twitter.com/#!/ChrispyPaul
Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment or head on over to my Twitter page right here: https://twitter.com/#!/ChrispyPaul