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Man on the Wire

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Over the past year, people around the globe endured epic, historic storms — literally and metaphorically — and were often left wondering, like countless generations before, whether the clouds would ever break. Peering through the dark lens of armed conflict, natural disasters and unfathomable barbarity in places as far-flung as Connecticut and Kandahar, we’ve all — at one time or another — wondered if the tide of catastrophe was, finally, simply going to overwhelm us.

As we approach 2013, it’s only natural that we look for glimmers of promise. Next August, for example, the United States will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — an event and an eloquence so central to a nation’s ideas of what it can be and should be that, in celebrating the memory of that day, we embrace the notion that united, we can overcome any new adversity.

Here, LightBox presents a series of images from 2012 that are joined in theme and in import by a slim yet powerfully symbolic thread: a rainbow connection. As we envision what the coming year might bring, and how we might do better as individuals and as a culture in 2013, we pause to celebrate the fleeting emblem of peace that was seen and photographed in unexpected, incongruous places — scenes that many of us no doubt missed in the welter of the past year’s violence and sorrow.

It is not what’s at the end of the rainbow that counts; we know, in our hearts, that there’s nothing there at all. But taking a moment, now and in the future, to acknowledge the rainbow’s fleeting beauty costs nothing, and there’s never any harm in hope.

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A little shy of a year ago—with the world’s attention focused on a change of power in North Korea—a photo of Kim Jung Il’s funeral, released by KCNA (North Korean Central News Agency), sparked controversy.  The image had been manipulated—less for overt political ends, more for visual harmony. The photo’s offending elements, photoshopped from the image, were not political adversaries or top secret information, but a group of photographers who had disturbed the aesthetic order of the highly orchestrated and meticulously planned occasion.

KCNA/Reuters

Dec. 28, 2011. A limousine carrying a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il leads his funeral procession in Pyongyang.

In an age where seemingly every occasion is documented through photography from every conceivable angle—an estimated 380 billion photographs will be taken this year alone—it’s not only North Korean bureaucrats who are wrestling to keep hoards of other photographers out of their pictures.

Photographers frequently appear in news photographs made by others. Banks of cameras greet celebrities and public figures at every event; cell phones held high by admirers become a tribute in lights, but a distraction to the viewer. Amateurs and professionals, alike, appear in backgrounds and in foregrounds of images made at both orchestrated events and in more candid moments. The once-invisible professional photographer’s process has been laid bare.

On occasion, photographers even purposefully make their fellow photographers the subject of their pictures.  The most difficult picture to take, it seems, is one without the presence of another photographer either explicitly or implicitly in the frame.

Everyone wants to record their own version of reality—ironically, it turns out, because by distracting oneself with a camera, it’s easy to miss the true experience of a moment. At a recent Jack White concert, the guitarist requested that audience members stop trying to take their own photos. “The bigger idea,” his label noted in a statement, “is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand. We have every show photographed professionally and the pictures are available from Jack White’s website shortly after to download for free.”

The abundance of camera phones and inexpensive digital cameras has changed the photographic landscape in countless and still-incompletely understood ways, and it’s not just the North Korean government trying to find ways around the hoards of photographers making their way into everyone else’s shots. Here, TIME looks back on the past year to highlight an increasingly common phenomenon: the photographer in the picture.

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Clint Eastwood’s appearance and speech to an empty chair at the GOP convention stupefied us, Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 24 miles above the Earth astounded us and Gabby Douglas’ Olympic performance thrilled us. But now that it’s on the wane, we can step back and report that, all in all, 2012 held relatively few major surprises. Perhaps one reason for the year’s ho-hum factor is that several long-anticipated events — the Mars Curiosity rover landing; the London Olympics; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; the U.S. elections — set a tone of predictability for a year that, in large part, failed to ignite.

Granted, there were some genuine scandals, which always raise eyebrows (if not the level of national discourse): the Petraeus affair, Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace and pictures of a naked royal prince gallivanting with friends — in Vegas, of all places.

In front of the ubiquitous TV cameras, Angelina Jolie courted publicity at the Oscars, while Rihanna and Chris Brown shamelessly courted controversy everywhere. That it was all so baldly contrived hardly stopped the media from buying right into it.

A calculated, cautious and utterly uninspiring American presidential campaign contrasted  with the hope and optimism of four years ago. The promise of the Arab Spring gave way to protests against the new government in Egypt, a deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and a bloody civil war in Syria that shows no signs of a resolution.

The surprises, when they did come, were brutal shocks rather than thrilling or uplifting wonders. The shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the movie theater rampage in Aurora, Colo., left us three parts numb and one part seething with a kind of violent despair.

We marked solemn anniversaries, like the 100th year since the sinking of the Titanic and the 50th since the death of Marilyn. Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones kept rolling to mark their own 50th anniversary, but they did so with an utterly foreseeable bombast.

It was left to a Korean YouTube sensation riding an invisible horse to truly surprise and entertain us this year. But even then the novelty and fun rapidly wore thin, as Psy tributes from the likes of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Eaton school boys and countless others lay siege to the Internet.

And yet … in the face of what can really only be called a rather disappointing year, TIME presents a gallery of images from the past twelve months that did, despite everything, manage to surprise us: pictures that, we hope and trust, will in some small way redress the flaws of a year that, despite spectacles as wondrous as a man falling to earth from space and a Hollywood icon chatting with a chair, ultimately fell a little flat.

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In a world made small and accessible by technology, it is easy to forget the magnitude of nature’s infinite complexity. But sometimes technology reminds us, such as when trawling planet Earth on Google’s Satellite View, zooming across landscapes partitioned by natural and unnatural boundaries.

While searching Google Earth, Paul Bourke, a research associate professor at the University of Western Australia, discovered an amazing sight—the patterns of the Earth seemed to form a delicate geometric pattern when viewed from the sky. Not only delicate, but almost perfect. Bourke was captivated by the geography—lacy tracks of rivers and mountain ranges stretching across the Earth in unison as if digitally cloned.

Fractals are recognized as patterns of self-similarity over varying degrees of scale. There are both mathematical fractals as well as natural fractals—the former are idealized and found across a range of scales, while the latter generally only exist across a smaller scale range.

Bourke explains that fractals are found in all parts of life, from the brain sciences and astrophysics to geographic formations and riverbeds. “Fractal and chaotic processes are the norm, not the exception.”

“I always knew these amazing natural patterns would be there,” he said. “They are literally everywhere—it’s just a matter of finding them.”

And find them he did. Bourke, an authority on fractals and visualizations, showcases more than 40 different fractals he’s uncovered while zooming through the satellite views of 25 countries. Through his website, he encourages users to submit examples they’ve found in their own browsing, and provides KMZ coordinate files for each image, allowing users to visit the exact views of the fractal features. Bourke’s collection realizes the power enabled by the open-ended tools of modern technology and applies them to a practical and popular aesthetic end.

To see more natural fractal patterns, visit Bourke’s website.

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In a scorching hot community gym in the northern Israeli city of Acre, groups of young Jewish and Arab boys gathered to fight as equals. Boxing, it seems, serves as an unlikely bridge to peace among adversaries.

Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty is no stranger to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—in fact, his photographic legacy is intertwined in the struggle. After photographing the often violent clashes in Gaza and the West Bank for most of his life, Balilty has begun turning to stories that move beyond the violence—stories that offer glimpses of humanity, cooperation and shared experience.

Balilty’s latest series goes behind-the-scenes of last week’s National Youth Boxing Championship, supported by an organization boasting approximately 2000 active members. Although boxing isn’t a major sport in Israel, it’s favored by many of the roughly 2 million Israeli Arabs in the country, who often face discrimination and other economic hardships.

Within the framework of the sport, Jewish and Arab fighters square off, putting aside the tensions one would expect within a physically brutal sport. The young fighters, clad in helmets and gloves, view each other as equals and are not burdened by the engrained history of conflict outside the ring.

Balilty was drawn to the young age of the children. Many are between 9 and 13, ages where children remain unburdened by the conflicts of their parents. “They are only kids—all they care is to have fun with their friends everyday,” Balilty told TIME, “just like in any other place. It really gives me hope.”

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press based in Tel Aviv. LightBox featured his work earlier this year in The Art of Storytelling and The Stone Throwers of Palestine.

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While sifting through thousands of news photos in the past week, TIME’s photo editors noticed a theme: umbrellas. From Mumbai to Manila, shots of people seeking cover from wet and windy weather seemed to be everywhere. And where the sun was out, umbrellas were there too to provide shade and shelter during the summer solstice on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. Here TIME presents a selection of recent images from the past few days.

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Last week, seven Palestinian men sat for Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli photographer Oded Balilty in a home in the West Bank village of Bilin. Against a black backdrop, one man posed with a taut slingshot, two small pebbles resting in the sling. Another stared defiantly through a gas mask. A third carried a tire.

Balilty is no stranger to his subject matter. Based in Tel Aviv as an Associated Press photographer for more than a decade, Balilty has photographed daily clashes as well as the longer-term friction between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2007, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his image documenting a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers in the settlement of Amona.

Although his subject matter is familiar, his portraits transcend the ongoing conflict.

Clad in checkered kaffiyehs, masks and flags, they carry with them the objects of protest used in resistance against Israeli soldiers. Their improvised arsenal of everyday objects echoes the ongoing conflict—a struggle temporarily put on hold while Balilty photographed the men.

“The clashes have been going for years and years and it’s become repetitive, all these clashes every weekend,” Balilty told TIME. “But, this time I said, ok, I want to do something a little bit different. How am I going to show the conflict in a different way?”

He arrived at the idea of shooting portraits, but consulted with his colleague, Nasser Shiyoukhi, the AP’s Palestinian photographer from the West Bank, for help with the access.

“I asked him if it’s even possible for me, as an Israeli,” he said.

Shiyoukhi helped Balilty get in touch with the organizer of the weekly street demonstrations, who gave his consent for the photos to be taken—even arranging for the portraits to be shot inside the organizer’s house in Bilin, a village in the West Bank.

“The Palestinians are definitely not like the Israelis—they are aware of the power of the media. And any exposure for them, in any way, is an opportunity to explain their situation and to talk about the conflict. They are very open minded—they cooperate for a specific reason,” explained Balilty.

Despite the serious nature of the shoot, the atmosphere inside the studio lacked the conflicted tension Balilty expected.

“It’s a very serious issue. But mainly for me, I was trying to focus on the person and to tell like the general story through a few individuals,” said Balilty.

“On the weekend, they are in those protests, but other than that, they are totally normal people—they live normal lives, they go to school, they work, they have families. But yet these guys are always standing on the front lines of the protest and some of them get injured, some of them get arrested, some of them get killed,” he said.

Looking back on the shoot, the photographer was surprised by the way the day turned out.

“At the end of the day, we became like friends. We spent the entire day together, sat together and smoked a cigarette together, and we [shared] some common jokes and it was a very cool day. I wish, you know…it was like that all the time and everywhere. The experience I had that day…for me was one of the best things.”

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press based in Tel Aviv. LightBox featured his work earlier this year in The Art of Storytelling.

LightBox updated the story at 3pm Saturday with comments from Oded Balilty. 




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In a Republican primary season that saw changing frontrunners, surprise defections and shifting poll numbers, there was one constant the public could count on: Callista Gingrich’s perfectly-coiffed, platinum blond bob, with its signature swoop to the left. The interest in her hair was also constant—a pollster for the Gingrich campaign told the New York Times that the candidate’s wife was asked about the look “at every stop” on the campaign trail.

The interest is predictable at this point, as politicians and their spouses have come under increased scrutiny for their hair choices in recent years. From Hillary Clinton’s ponytails and headbands to Michelle Obama’s pinned back updo for a 2009 event, every departure from a public figure’s normal hairstyle creates a media stir. Which is why Gingrich’s consistency was so remarkable.

George Ozturk of Washington’s George Salon at the Four Seasons, which Callista Gingrich used to frequent, describes her hairstyle as an updated 1970s bob. “Only in this country would a potential president’s wife’s hairstyle get so much attention,” says Ozturk, who has styled Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and King Abdullah II of Jordan, among others. “But it has become so well-known that to change it now would be a big mistake for Mrs. Gingrich.”

Paul Ramadan, a hairstylist at Washington’s Nantucket Hair Salon who previously worked with former Second Lady Lynn Cheney, says that, in general, women tend to get picked on more than their male counterparts for their beauty and sartorial choices. “Callista’s hairstyle is not typical—it could be a little more contemporary, but I think this is how she likes it,” Ramadan says of the heightened awareness of the look. “It’s a nice bob, but Mrs. Cheney and Mrs. [Laura] Bush just blended in more.”

With Newt Gingrich leaving the presidential race, LightBox looks back on Callista Gingrich’s now-famous Swoosh.

More photos: Newt Gingrich’s Life in Pictures

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Israeli photographer Oded Balilty has spent the past decade covering events in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the Associated Press. Born in Jerusalem, in 1979, Balilty was awarded the Pulitzer prize for breaking news photography in 2007 for his image of a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers during clashes in the West Bank settlement of Amona. Although Balilty continues to document the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—from daily clashes to more long term work that includes a seven year project shooting the separation barrier—he has also trained his lens on the quieter and more intimate aspects of street life in and around Tel Aviv, where he is based.

“This region is so saturated by pictures from the conflict so you always look for different stories and events,” says Balilty, who has begun several series on cultural themes within Israel. Since January, the photographer has produced essays on the ultra orthodox communities, including a series on a traditional Hasidic Jewish wedding near Tel Aviv, as well as the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, leader of the Hasidic sect Vizhnitz. and, over the last few days, the preparations for the Passover holiday, which began on Friday evening. “I try to go deeper and deeper into a story to capture things that outsiders do not know about this particular group of people,” he says.

In the same way that he’s trying to find different stories and make different pictures, Balilty says he’s trying to be a different photographer, too. “If I see photographers in one corner, I go away,” he says. “There is no need to take the same picture as five other good photographers. I’m tying to isolate myself and show the story from different angles, not only visually but mentally, to find small, quite moments within a big a crazy story.”

Balilty describes his work as something between art photography and a photojournalism—which is fitting, given the scope of his coverage of Israel. “I’m trying to tell stories with my pictures, but the aesthetics and the way I see things are very important for me,” he says. “The first and most important thing for me is to tell the story.”

And despite his foray into cultural coverage, Balilty maintains his finely-tuned process, approach and aesthetic when photographing more traditional news stories. When a gunman killed seven people in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, last month, Balilty was on hand to document the emotional return of the victim’s bodies to Jerusalem. And as with times past, Balilty handled the assignment with delicate sensibility and artistic intent, elevating his work above the general images typically seen on the wires.

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press. He is based in Tel Aviv.

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April 1—or April Fool’s Day—is traditionally a time for harmless pranks and practical jokes. It is a day when many will be taken in by good-natured mischief, whether tricked by the most elaborate or the simplest of deceptions. In the spirit of tomfoolery and fabrications, LightBox presents a selection images that show some of the more surreal and bizarre realities of the world around us, all photographed during the mad month of March.
From costumed crime fighters to giant paper airplanes and facial-massaging snails, these photos prove that truth can be more astounding than fiction. Happy April Fool’s Day!

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