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Parrish Ruiz de Velasco

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When the famous ship hit the infamous iceberg nearly 100 years ago on April 15, 1912, the Titanic didn’t just send hundreds of its passengers to the bottom of the ocean—it also took all the evidence of what life was like on board for the ill-fated travelers.

Or at least it would have, were it not for Francis Browne.

Browne was an Irish Jesuit priest who sailed with the ship for the first leg of its journey, from Southampton, England, to Cobh, Ireland, then called Queenstown. And he would have stayed for the remainder of the transatlantic journey, too, having received an offer of a ticket from a wealthy family he befriended while on board. When Browne reached Cobh, however, he received a note from his clerical superior, ordering him to return to his station immediately rather than sail on.

Browne disembarked. An enthusiastic amateur photographer (who had received his first camera from the same uncle who later bought him his ticket for the Titanic trip), he brought with him the only photos of the Titanic at sea that would survive the shipwreck.

After his near miss, throughout his life as a clergyman, Browne delivered Titanic-themed talks and continued to snap away. His photographs were lost after his death in 1960 and rediscovered by a different priest, Eddie O’Donnell, 25 years later. Among the 42,000-odd negatives, there were more than 1,000 images of the Titanic. O’Donnell edited the images for a book, Father Browne’s Titanic Album, which has been re-released in honor of the shipwreck’s centenary.

Although the camera was his hobby rather than his calling, Browne’s photographs of the Titanic are valuable for more than their content. He is now considered a serious photographer and his work is in the collection of the Irish Picture Library.

And Victoria Bridgeman, CEO of Bridgeman Art Library, the firm that represents the images for licensing purposes, notes that the images are also valuable as embodiments of the age in which they were taken. “They have a fantastic of-the-moment archival quality to them,” she says. “It’s always so exciting when you find something that is totally of its time.”

The photographs, which were used as references during the set design process for the film Titanic, capture both the minutiae of life on an ocean liner—in an exercise room put to good use, in a child at play, in passengers moving over a gangplank—and the grand scale of the ship itself.

“There’s something particularly moving about the collection,” says Bridgeman, recalling how close the images—and their creator—came to going down with the ship, “especially from the perspective of the man who took them.”

Father Browne’s Titanic Album the centenary edition is available through Messenger Editions in Dublin, Ireland

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Ever since Matthew Brady trekked to Civil War battlefields documenting war and warriors,  photography has been a critical way of showing what the rest of us cannot—or choose not to—witness. The Pentagon itself has long acknowledged the importance of photographs, and it has hundreds of photographers, some in uniform and some not, taking thousands of pictures every day.

Beginning in 1960 the best have competed to be the Military Photographer of the Year. This year’s contest included 3,500 entries submitted by 603 competitors.

In March, Colonel Jeremy M. Martin, who runs the Pentagon’s Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., announced the 2011 winners. A formal ceremony for the first-place winners in each category will be held on May 4. But in the meantime, LightBox looks at some of the powerful and harrowing images that were recognized this year.

To see more work, including winners of the year in video and graphics, take a look at the DINFOS awards website.

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Last month TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I went to Rabat and Casablanca to report on a story about the rise of Political Islam in the countries of the Arab Spring. As with Tunisia and Egypt, free elections in Morocco have brought to power an Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (PJD). But these, as we discovered, are not your father’s Islamists. They defy the Western stereotype of bushy-bearded, wild-eyed religious fanatics: Morocco’s Islamists are not seeking to take their country back to some ancient golden age, they are trying to figure how to bring it to the 21st century without losing its religious moorings. In this, they are similar to Islamists now heading governments in Tunis and Cairo. The pursuit and attainment of political power have forced these parties to abandon radical ideas and distance themselves from their lunatic fringes. Instead, they are moving to the political center.

Morocco has drawn tourists for centuries, and to most visitors cities like Rabat and Casablanca are a pleasant combination of the modern and the ancient. In this set of images, Yuri captures both aspects of the country.

Read more: The Converted: Has Power Tamed Islamists in the Arab Spring States?

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

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Spanish photographer Pablo Conejo traveled to China to document the rapid—and, he thought, almost unsustainable—development of a country full of contradictions, the result of Chinese culture confronting global trends. Before his trip, he made a list of opposite concepts to accompany him as an inspiration: east and west, poverty and wealth, communism and capitalism and tradition and modernity were all ideas that served as guides in the photographer’s anthropological excursion. In Shanghai, he saw yet another contradiction.

Conejo found himself immersed in a futuristic urban landscape, a skyline overloaded with concrete and glass above the smell and feel of the stereotypical China he expected to find, one that he describes as a “tangle of motorcycles, cars, people and noise; a mix of intense food smell from stalls and kitchens, car fumes and a murmur from all this bustle; all this jumble peppered with red lanterns and fortune cats.” Then, as he reached the borders of the city he found a peculiar urban project: a set of nine suburban neighborhoods under construction, mimicking the architectural styles of several iconic European countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Holland and Germany. Built to house the wealthier Chinese population escaping the big-city lifestyle, “One City, Nine Towns” is a thematic urban project launched in 2004 with the goal of relieving overpopulation in Shanghai. These artificial towns, which are replicas of buildings found in the various European locales, are projected to house one million people by 2020.

“At the moment all the towns look like ghost cities,” Conejo says. “The empty streets make them look like Disney World or a cinema set. As a matter of fact, Thames Town, the English imitation, is becoming a very popular location to have one’s wedding photography made.” Despite their popularity among locals, Conejo realized that some people weren’t familiar with the original inspirations of these model homes. In the Paris neighborhood, the photographer asked three teenagers if they knew anything about the French capital. “Paris?” one asked. “I don’t know.”

Pablo Conejo, who was born in Madrid in 1981, ran two urban photography workshops in Instituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona in 2008 and 2009. You can see more of his work here.

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Last December, Gomma publishers—a small imprint in London with a magazine by the same name, or what founder Luca Desienna calls a “bijou” publishing house—set out to find the most exciting new talent working in black and white photography today. To begin the process they assembled an international panel of experts and curators from around the world that included Christian Caujolle, Yasmina Reggad, Peggy Sue Amison, Tom Griggs, Wayne Ford, Jörg Colberg and John Matkowsky to create a new publication called MONO. The fundamental idea for the new publication was to expose emerging talent to a wider audience by publishing them alongside more established artists pushing the boundaries of the medium, such as Roger Ballen, Daido Moryiama, Anders Petersen, Trent Parke and many others.

“Gomma was formed in 2004 by four friends and artists aspiring to create a new publishing space for photographers,” says Desienna. ”Our major inspirations were the influential Japanese magazine Provoke from 1968 and Permanent Food by Maurizio Cattelan. Since the first days of Gomma we’ve been always publishing black and white photography—it is and always will be one of the most extraordinary art forms that enables us to document the world we live in … and also what is beyond it or underneath it.”

This year’s winners of the MONO open call for entries are: Daisuke Yokota, Maki, Tricia Lawless Murray, Francesco Merlini, Jan von Holleben, Jukka-pekka Jalovaara, Sofia Lopez Mañan and Stephane C. Their work will be featured in the first edition of MONO to be released this fall.

Desienna says there has been a renaissance among the image makers working in black and white. “With the advent of digital photography, taking pictures has become sort of more accessible for everyone,” he says. “While black and white photography, which is often associated with analogue photography, has become rarer and rarer. Agfa collapsed, and films and chemicals started disappearing, so as it happens with anything that gets near to extinction, it just becomes more valuable.” At the same time, Desienna says great new digital, black-and-white photography has added to the exquisite and timeless world that monochrome images create. “We don’t see the world in black and white so this is probably why we are so attracted to it,” he says. “In addition I believe that black-and-white photography has the capability to show the inner moods of the photographers better than colors do.”

For more information visit Gomma Books and check out Gomma Magazine online.

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