A long while back I read an essay in the New Yorker about Google’s picture-editing software and the headline has stayed with me ever since: “In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything And Look At Nothing.”
Sit back and think about just how many images you consume on a daily basis. Think about how many images you produce, be it with a smartphone or professional camera gear.
Now, without looking through your camera roll, think about how many photos you remember. My guess is it’s not that many.
In an age where everything from baby’s first steps to an above average breakfast is worthy of a camera snap, it truly means something profound for an image to stick with us. (As in, we don’t need an app to remind us that we took it or what it looks like.)
Each reporter at OPB has a memory bank of images they’ve shared with you, our audience. To compile this list of our best images of 2019, I asked our photojournalists to simply remember their favorites and pick one.
The resulting list is fairly short and I think that’s good. Our goal isn’t to show you everything; it’s to make you (and, truly, ourselves) slow down and look at something.
Graphically I like the smoke, her pink hat, her jacket, the little bit of green hair sticking out. I like that you can see the intensity on her face. This picture captured the story really well and it subverts our normal thinking about who owns guns and why. — Jonathan Levinson
OPB’s investigation into Oregon’s broken and corrupt foster care system begins with Caleb’s story. Caleb is 17 years old and has moved more than 30 times in his life, including once to a now-closed, for-profit foster care facility in Utah, where he was abused twice in six days and Oregon saw no reason to bring him home. Caleb is back in Oregon now and I spent a day with him taking pictures for his story. He’ll be 18 near the start of 2020 and will be out of the foster care system, free to live his own life. This was the final photo we used in our piece about him and I think it’s an expression of his newfound independence — arms out, leaning forward and finding balance all without fear of the shadow behind him. — Bradley W. Parks
First off, there’s the “Star Wars” school backpack. Then there’s the enthusiastic numbers counting in the middleground, and the older youth engrossed in their workbooks in the far back. (All linked by that thematic red.) For me, the totality of this image is hope encapsulated: the children of Rohingya refugees in Portland receiving an education — a basic human right that still eludes their countrymen in Myanmar. — Arya Surowidjojo
Oregon point guard Sabrina Ionescu embraces her parents after the Ducks’ win over Mississippi State during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA March Madness tournament on March 31, 2019. This win in Portland meant that Oregon would go to the Final Four for the first time in program history, capping off a multi award-winning season for Ionescu. Though there were many highlights from the game and celebration, this photo captures a rarer moment between Ionescu and the people who’ve supported her from the beginning. — Kaylee Domzalski
The Fire-Up Bootcamp in Gaston, Oregon, gives women 18 and older a chance to network, talk about career success and run firefighting drills. Instructors for the bootcamp led drills that emphasized teamwork, such as learning how to properly load and deploy hoses, raise ladders and extinguish live fires. I chose this photo because it challenges the typical gendered stereotype within firefighting, authentically represents the layered reality of service positions and displays teamwork through content and composition. — Cheyenne Thorpe
I took this photo of Don Thompson, owner of America the Beautiful Dreamer furniture store in Vancouver, Washington, for my first feature on OPB’s new business beat. The subject: taxes. (Specifically, the end of the at-register sales tax exemption for Oregonians shopping in Washington). I love this picture because taxes can be kind of … dry. But here was a concerned businessman with a kind of Old World seriousness surrounded by the dynamism of eagles in flight. It had a life to it that surprised me. — Kate Davidson
“You couldn’t pay to see this,” is how one observer standing next to me put it. Witnessing this wild horse chase on the Warm Springs reservation was an especially rare privilege for a reporter. Cowboys rode at high speeds through the rocky, wooded terrain. They lent me a horse so I could catch up and document the experience. The trained horses were also challenged to stay responsive and obedient while free-roaming horses galloped around us. One young cowboy learned a difficult lesson about risk-taking in this high-paced environment after his horse decided to join the wild ones. — Emily Cureton
This is Rancher Ted Birdseye. And he’s kind of awesome. He’s showing that the reintroduction of wolves doesn’t have be something that divides the state — it can be something that brings everyone together. — Jes Burns
I captured this image during a massive rally in support of the Oregon Republican lawmakers who absconded to Idaho in the middle of this year’s legislative session. A caravan of logging trucks, tractors and hundreds of people made their way through downtown Salem that morning voicing displeasure with the Democratic leadership’s push for cap-and-trade legislation. But even during tense moments, there were striking scenes like this man hanging out on the roof of his truck while the Oregon pioneer statue watches over the day. — Bryan M. Vance
Landon is a thoughtful, independent boy on the autism spectrum, who endured the trauma of being physically restrained by teachers. His trauma was compounded by the school system not communicating to his parents what he’d experienced, so he was left on his own to process the trauma. This photo of Landon lying down to read with his feet curled up against each other shows how Landon has a different idea of what constitutes a comfortable posture. It also shows that, like most children, Landon finds comfort in the close company of his family. — Rob Manning
Whether a train was waiting at the Oregon Zoo Railway depot or still clanking along its 2-mile track, these riders couldn’t wait to hop aboard. I love that the frame catches the boy with both feet off the ground. It’s a happiness-in-action shot. — Laurie Isola
This story is about two men in the Salem-Keizer School District who support and build relationships with students of color, in particular, Pacific Islander students and African-American students. I love this photo of Dale, right, talking to Ken Ramirez. It’s so visible that Dale is excited to see Ken, and represents the relationship the two have built. In the district, that support has shown better results when it comes to graduation. — Elizabeth Miller
It’s sometimes cliché to say: “This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime show.” But when the music legend Herbie Hancock traveled to Oregon, it was exactly that. A living legend, with Kamasi Washington (arguably a jazz legend in the making) opening, during a beautiful Oregon summer, at the state zoo. Yeah, that’s not happening again. I caught this shot as Herbie was playing a solo and nothing in the entire venue could be heard but him. The cherry on top? At 79 years young, he hadn’t missed a beat. Absolutely destroyed the set. — David Stuckey
When the Sun Ra Arkestra came to Portland earlier this year for the first time since 1988, music nerds of all ages were excited. Both shows sold out almost immediately, but most of us weren’t prepared for this show to be possibly one of the best live music experiences of our show-going lives. The Arkestra, now led by 95-year-old Marshall Allen, still play with the intensity and wild abandon of teenagers who’ve just recently discovered their calling. They’re not a group of musicians tiredly rehashing tunes they’ve been playing together since the ‘60s; they’re skilled shamans reopening the portal Sun Ra himself came down to earth to tell us all about. This was my favorite picture I took that night because it shows Mr. Allen as he stood that evening: glowing and larger than life. — Claudia Meza
The Masked Crooner Orville Peck, a rising outlaw country musician, performed in front of an ecstatic crowd. The set was inside a decommissioned zeppelin hanger at Fort Worden State Park, part of the inaugural THING festival lineup. The curtain of fringe hanging from Peck’s signature Lone Ranger mask is parted, allowing the microphone to reach his lips. A glimmer of light caught by the singer’s eye is all we can see of Peck’s face, who is known for concealing his identity. — Mike Baden
Sunday afternoon at Pickathon’s main stage tends to be the most mellow of sets at Happy Valley’s annual music festival. But the show turned red hot when Sudan Archives’ Brittney Parks took the stage. — Gerard O’Sullivan