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Muammar al-Gaddafi

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The last time TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I were in Libya together, we were covering the fall of Tripoli to Libyan rebel forces, near the end of an eight-month civil war. We had covered the revolution since February 2011, moving along desert frontlines, into war-ravaged homes, and finally, up to the gates of Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned villas in Tripoli. Our coverage last Fall took us from intelligence headquarters to the scenes of massacres and on to new front lines. It was chaos—full of discovery and excitement for the rebels and newly liberated civilians—but chaos, nonetheless. No one knew when Gaddafi would be found, or what the future would bring when they found him.

And it wasn’t until four months after Gaddafi was captured and killed—four months after the official end of the war—that we returned to Libya. This time, we didn’t sneak across any borders, nor did we duck from any bullets. We flew into a calm and functioning Benghazi airport, surrounded by flower bushes.

Libya is not as we left it. Driving across the country, we visited old friends and new acquaintances. We discovered that the Esbaks, a family of revolutionaries who I met last February in the Green Mountains of Libya’s east, had lost their youngest son since I last saw them—killed by a mortar shell on the eastern frontline. We discovered they had a new set of politics as well: after decades of dictatorship, they were already fed up with the transitional government and they wanted to see Libya divided into states.

In every town we stopped in, we met rebels we used to know—men who could now be called militia members. They had retained their weapons and their autonomy. The people who defeated the old system may be the biggest threat to stability in the new one. In Misrata, a militia leader named Mohamed Shami took us to the city’s largest prison. There, the men who used to be winners are now the captives. Their overlords are the rebels they once fought and repressed. One of the prisoners we met is Sayyed Muammar Gaddafi Dam, the late dictator’s cousin. We watched as Shami, the militia commander, posed for a picture with the frightened Gaddafi at his side.

There is no justice in the new Libya—but the former rebels are quick to note: there wasn’t much justice in the old Libya either. The prisoners are awaiting trials. Some have been waiting a year. But in the mean time, the conditions aren’t so bad, the militias say—at least torture isn’t as rampant as it was under Gaddafi.

At times our journey was certainly eerie. We stopped in all the places where we had been shot at covering the war. Human remains are still submerged in the sand at one of the first rebel camps that Gaddafi bombed from the air, outside the oil refinery at Ras Lanuf. We stood in the place where our journalist friends and colleagues had been killed in Misrata; and we interviewed former loyalists on the road in Sirte where a rocket-propelled grenade had missed my car and struck someone else. Our jaws dropped when we walked through Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli. It had been smashed and burned to oblivion, as if the entire country had vented 42 years of rage on a single spot. Perhaps noticing our shock, a 12-year-old boy leaned out of a car window and asked me: “Did you ever expect to see this?” His introduction led us to a conversation with his family, and Yuri photographed the boy and his brother, as they explored what was once the dictator’s, now theirs.

We got the feeling, as we moved from town to town, that the country was in the midst of a great, collective exhale: that Libyan journalists and politicians were just starting to find their footing on new and unfamiliar turf; that families were lifting their heads from beneath the rubble to take a look around; that, despite all the guns in the hands of lawless militias, people were at least shooting at each other less often.

We drove across the country humming along to Libyan revolutionary hip-hop, and stopping to talk with picnicking families, religious leaders, refugees, village sheikhs, and oil workers. Some people wanted revenge; others had already taken it. A lot of people were angry that the money wasn’t flowing fast enough and that they were compelled to rebuild their war-ravaged homes and businesses with money from their own pockets.

But we didn’t find the same despair that had filled the eyes of the young men we encountered in blood-spattered field hospitals just months before. Museums have been erected to commemorate the battles fought and the martyrs lost. Schools are back in session—even the shell-shocked ones. Hundreds of former rebels are training to join the new national army. Old friends are now talking about tourism and business. We heard women discussing women’s rights and lecturing men on politics—a newfound agency that they’ve capitalized on since the revolution. Where the weak transitional government is failing, ordinary citizens are helping one another rebuild. Young people are getting creative. And the most marvelous thing we found as we traveled was optimism; optimism of the wild, determined sort. Libya is set to hold its first democratic election in June. No one knows how many bumps lie in the road up ahead. But despite all those challenges, and the years of heartbreak behind them, the Libyans we met on our road trip seemed hopeful.

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME: Hope Among the Ruins

Abigail Hauslohner is TIME’s Cairo correspondent.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I recently spent two weeks driving across Libya, from east to west, surveying the aftermath of the Arab Spring’s most thorough revolution to get a sense of the lessons learned and the challenges that still lie ahead for the vast, oil-rich country. The war-ravaged city of Misrata was one of the key stops on our journey, not only for its significance as perhaps the most brutally repressed flashpoint in Libya’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, but also because of its significance on the emotional map of many foreign correspondents who covered this war, myself and Yuri included. Yuri lost one of his close friends here, Tim Hetherington. Hetherington, an award-winning British photographer and director, was killed along with the great American photographer Chris Hondros, while covering the fighting on Misrata’s Tripoli Street on April 20, 2011. The two had travelled, along with other journalists, to Misrata by boat from the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.

At the time, Misrata was under a fierce and brutal siege by Gaddafi’s forces, but the city had become a symbol of the Libyan resistance—and Gaddafi’s violent tactics to stop it. Yuri was in frequent contact with Hetherington at the time, hoping to make the same perilous journey by boat. “I thought it was very important to go there,” he told LightBox this month. “It was almost impossible to cover the war from the eastern front line, and Misrata was a hotspot.”

Yuri never made it there; the sudden deaths of Hetherington and Hondros put an end to those plans. So our trip last month marked his first visit. “We had never heard about Misrata before the war, but when the war happened, Misrata was a very important place. And not just Misrata, but Tripoli Street,” he says. “For me it was on a personal level. It was in the news, and everybody mentioned it. But for me, it’s also about friends.”

Seeing Tripoli Street was hard for Yuri. There were moments, as we surveyed the wreckage, moving silently past block after block of shell-shocked neighborhoods, that I could see the grief on his face. Misrata’s war museum—“The Ali Hassan Gaber Exhibit,” named for the al-Jazeera cameraman killed covering the revolution—is something we came across by chance on our first day in the city. In it, Misrata’s residents and former fighters have meticulously documented the horrors of their city’s experience in war. There are rows of rockets, missiles, and tanks; clothing and furniture hauled away from Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli; photographs of the rebels’ gruesome injuries; official documents detailing regime corruption; and the portraits of all 1,215 of the city’s martyrs. Yuri told Lightbox what it was like to visit the exhibit, set amid the destruction on Misrata’s Tripoli Street: “Inside there are hundreds of portraits of Libyans who were killed. When I walked through, looking through these portraits for the dates they were killed, suddenly I stopped. On the left side there were two portraits of Tim and Chris.”

Misrata’s residents are keen never to forget the details of this horrific point in their history. Indeed, everywhere we traveled in Libya, we found similar efforts to immortalize the names and faces of those lost; and the tragic events that transpired. But all along Tripoli Street, there is also rebirth, and there is hope. New billboards and storefronts have sprung up from the city’s ashes. Uniformed traffic cops in white gloves patrol intersections—despite the absence of a fully functioning central government. And construction workers in orange vests clear rubble and tend to new flowers in the grassy medians. Stores selling wedding dresses and school supplies have re-opened their ground floor display windows; even as the gaping holes caused by rockets and tank shells remain to be fixed just above. “There are a lot of signs of war but you can see that there is life,” Yuri says. “There is life in different ways, girls on the street, boys on motorbikes, and flower shops.”

“At the same time I didn’t want to do any kind of investigation [into Tim and Chris’ deaths], to try to understand what happened,” he says. “It happened. It happened last year, and I remember it, and that’s it. I was not in the mood yet to try to understand. I know that’s the street. I know that’s the place.”

Abigail Hauslohner is TIME’s Cairo correspondent.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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The photographer André Liohn, who got an early start on covering the civil war in Libya and stayed in the country through the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, was recently asked not to use that term—civil war—to describe the conflict. Liohn had returned to Libya to introduce a project that he started with seven other photographers who covered the war-torn African nation last year. They call the project Almost Dawn in Libya, and through it they plan to exhibit their photographs of the war in the Libyan cities of Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi and Zintan. But as Liohn was telling a young lawyer who had been active in promoting the revolution on the internet about their work, the photographer was confronted about his choice of words.

He responded that what he had seen seemed to fit his own conception of a civil war, but she told him that, to her, the conflict didn’t fit that category. “That you can come to us and challenge this concept that we have of it—that’s exactly what the project is for,” Liohn says.

The photographers behind Almost Dawn in Libya—also known as ADIL, an acronym that sounds like the Arabic word for justice—aim to use their work to help Libyans come to grips with what happened there in the past year, to turn galleries into spaces for public debate. They are not the first to think about what would happen if those who might appear in war photography got to see those pictures. Susan Sontag described in On Photography the way that a photographer can seize control of a narrative and Susan Meiselas’ In History examined the ethics of conflict photography in Central America in the 1970s and ‘80s. But, says Liohn, there’s a new factor in play these days.

“The Libyan revolution or the Arab spring, it’s probably the first time where victims of a violence were able to document their own suffering. Mobile phones, videos, graphic design have been extremely important to unify people. They did it through images,” he says. “But today the images that they created have lost the context of the violence.” Liohn says that, without that context, the images that were once a rallying cry have become a source of fragmentation: each city has its own images of how brave its people were or how much they suffered. By showing the same exhibit of 100 pictures, not sorted geographically or chronologically, in four different places at the exact same time, the ADIL team hopes that Libyans will be able to start a dialogue that is not divided by city.

And Liohn says that, through ADIL, the photographers involved will cede their control of the images. “We are not showing it to a public that never saw Libya,” he says. “We are actually exposing ourselves to the public.” Part of the project involves bringing the photographers back to speak to that public and hold workshops, though, so Liohn says that hearing dissent about the way Libya is portrayed is part of the point. The larger point, however, is that the people who see the exhibits may then be inspired to discuss the country’s direction.

“The people there are waking up from this kind of dream-nightmare situation,” says Liohn, “and no one actually knows how the day is going to be.”

Learn more about Almost Dawn in Libya—and the photographers involved (André Liohn, Lynsey Addario, Eric Bouvet, Bryan Denton, Christopher Morris, Jehad Nga, Finbarr O’Reilly and Paolo Pellegrin) at their emphas.is fundraising page here

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SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT
SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT: A man got a haircut from a roadside barber at a wholesale sugar cane market in Kolkata, India, on Friday. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

GADHAFI RAGE
GADHAFI RAGE: Libyans grabbed a picture of Moammar Gadhafi at the Libyan consulate in downtown Istanbul on Friday. Dozens of Libyans were arrested after they stormed the consulate, demanding financial aid to pay for treatment they received in Turkey for injuries they received during Libyan unrest. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

CITY OF SKYSCRAPERS
CITY OF SKYSCRAPERS: Residential and commercial buildings towered over the street in New York on Friday. (Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

MEETING IN THE MIDDLE
MEETING IN THE MIDDLE: A bird flew past a bridge under construction over the Golden Horn Bay in Vladivostok, Russia, on Friday. The bridge is one of a series of large infrastructure projects the city is preparing for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. (Yuri Maltsev/Reuters)

MASS FUNERAL
MASS FUNERAL: Indonesian officials carried the coffins of Australia-bound asylum seekers who died in a boat accident off the coast of Java in December. Fifty-five victims were buried during a mass funeral in Indonesia on Friday. (Fully Handoko/EPA)

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Spontaneous snapshots. Intimate moments. Unexpected exposures. There was no one formula for this year’s most viral photographs. Most were based on news events, such as the death of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi—but these photos ended up becoming the news themselves. They shocked us. They awed us. They inspired us to feel. But the most powerful feeling was the impulse to share.

The best viral images of 2011 are those we found flooding our email inboxes and Twitter feeds this year. One thing weaves the images together: each photographer netted a once-in-a-lifetime picture. From Royal Wedding mania and a bloodied despot to an utterly unexpected leopard on the loose, photographers both professional and amateur brought us the scenes of unpredictability and chaos that gripped our world over the past 12 months. As shocking as the subject matter is the simplicity of some images. A few came from mobile phones. Most were snapped without a thought of—or time to handle—composition or lighting. One was even taken by a man who would be dead minutes later.

Given that the Internet is a notoriously fickle beast, it’s impossible to predict which photos will score a hit. Here, LightBox looks back on the photos we couldn’t help but share. —Nick Carbone

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The best photos of 2011 from around the globe. Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. Some images contain dead bodies, graphic content and tragic events. We consider these images an important part of human history.

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The year 2011 brought us dramatic and unexpected images from some of the world’s major news events, including the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the violent end of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rule and the humiliating tweet that ruined New York Representative Anthony Weiner’s career. But beyond the widely seen and iconic images that accompanied the year’s biggest events, like the death of Osama bin Laden and the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, were unusual, equally astonishing and startling images that rested at the periphery of the news. A cat with two faces, rail tracks buckled by the shifting earth after a quake in New Zealand, the police rescue of a girl held hostage by her father, a suicidal bride and beautiful, abstract images taken from space by an astronaut photographer — these are just a few of the compelling and surprising images to have emerged beyond the main news cycle this year. Here, LightBox looks back at a small selection of the underreported, improbable and astounding images that caught the attention of TIME’s photo editors.

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2011 was a year of global tumult, marked by widespread social and political uprisings, economic crises, and a great deal more. We saw the fall of multiple dictators, welcomed a new country (South Sudan), witnessed our planet's population grow to 7 billion, and watched in horror as Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. From the Arab Spring to Los Indignados to Occupy Wall Street, citizens around the world took to the streets in massive numbers, protesting against governments and financial institutions, risking arrest, injury, and in some cases their lives. Collected here is Part 3 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering 2011's last months. Be sure to also see Part 1, and Part 2, totaling 120 images in all. [40 photos]

Occupy Wall Street protesters march and hold signs in New York City on September 17, 2011. Frustrated protesters had been speaking out against corporate greed and social inequality on and near Wall Street for the previous two weeks, further sparking a protest movement that spread across the world. Original here. (CC BY SA Carwil Bjork-James)

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