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Moshe Yehoshua Hager

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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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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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ALL SMILES
ALL SMILES: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron laughed as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden jokingly mentioned that his Irish grandfather wasn’t a fan of the British as Mr. Cameron visited the State Department in Washington Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

ALBINO FAMILY
ALBINO FAMILY: From left, sons Shankar, 24 years old, Ramkishan, 19 years old, mother Mani and father Rosetauri Pullan are set to enter the Guinness World Records for their albinism. The 10 members of the Indian family all have extremely pale skin and white hair. (Indian Photo Agency/Caters News/Zuma Press)

STADIUM SHOOTOUT
STADIUM SHOOTOUT: Saraperos de Saltillo baseball team players took cover during a shootout that broke out in a parking lot during a game in Saltillo, Mexico, Tuesday. According to a state police spokesman, three gunmen were killed and another was injured and captured. (Associated Press)

LEADER LOST
LEADER LOST: Ultra Orthodox Jewish people gathered around the body of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, leader of the Hasidic sect Vizhnitz, at a synagogue during his funeral procession in Bnei Brak, Israel, Wednesday. The rabbi was 95 years old. (Oded Balilty/Associated Press)

SHINY MAN
SHINY MAN: A man painted silver enjoyed the ‘Los Pintados,’ the Painted Ones, carnival in San Nicolás de los Ranchos, Mexico, Tuesday. (Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TUNNEL TRAGEDY
TUNNEL TRAGEDY: A helicopter took off from the entrance of a tunnel near Sierre, Switzerland, early Wednesday. At least 22 schoolchildren were among 28 people from Belgium killed returning from a ski holiday when their bus hit a wall inside the tunnel Tuesday night, police said. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

RAPT
RAPT: People watched ‘Kony 2012,’ a film created by U.S.-based group Invisible Children, in Lira district, north of Kampala, Uganda, Tuesday. The film aims to raise awareness about Joseph Kony, who is accused of leading jungle militias that turned children into child soldiers. (James Akena/Reuters)

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