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OPB's Best Photos Of 2019


These are OPB's best images of 2019, as chosen by the photojournalists who captured them.

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.


Rosie Strange, a leftist activist who chose to buy a handgun for self defense, fires a friend’s shotgun on February 2, 2019, in Hood River, Oregon.

Rosie Strange, a leftist activist who chose to buy a handgun for self defense, fires a friend’s shotgun on February 2, 2019, in Hood River, Oregon.

Jonathan Levinson/OPB

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


Caleb skateboards at a small, local skatepark near his adult foster home on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Oregon. He is studying for his GED and lives close to his brother's apartment.

Caleb skateboards at a small, local skatepark near his adult foster home on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Oregon. He is studying for his GED and lives close to his brother’s apartment.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

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


Rohingya children listen to their Quran teacher during Sunday class at Omar Farooq mosque in Portland, Ore.

Rohingya children listen to their Quran teacher during Sunday class at Omar Farooq mosque in Portland, Ore.

Arya Surowidjojo/OPB

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 star Sabrina Ionescu hugs her parents after leading the Ducks to their first women's Elite Eight victory in program history Sunday, March 31, 2019. 

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu hugs her parents after leading the Ducks to their first women’s Elite Eight victory in program history Sunday, March 31, 2019. 

Kaylee Domzalski/OPB

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


Instructors for the bootcamp led drills that emphasized teamwork, such as learning how to properly load hoses.

Instructors for the bootcamp led drills that emphasized teamwork, such as learning how to properly load hoses.

Cheyenne Thorpe/OPB

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


Don Thompson poses for a portrait at America the Beautiful Dreamer, his furniture store in Vancouver, Wash., Thursday, June 27, 2019. Thompson has worried about losing Oregon customers after July 1, when their automatic break on Washington sales tax ends.

Don Thompson poses for a portrait at America the Beautiful Dreamer, his furniture store in Vancouver, Wash., Thursday, June 27, 2019. Thompson has worried about losing Oregon customers after July 1, when their automatic break on Washington sales tax ends.

Kate Davidson/OPB

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


A cowboy gallops to shore up a perimeter line of a wild horse chase on the Warm Springs Reservation on June 22, 2019. 

A cowboy gallops to shore up a perimeter line of a wild horse chase on the Warm Springs Reservation on June 22, 2019. 

Emily Cureton/OPB

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


Rancher Ted Birdseye has been working with anyone who will help solve his wolf problem. His latest effort involves building a 3-mile long electric fence around his entire ranch.

Rancher Ted Birdseye has been working with anyone who will help solve his wolf problem. His latest effort involves building a 3-mile long electric fence around his entire ranch.

Jes Burns/OPB

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


A man holding a sign in opposition to Oregon House Bill 2020 talks to fellow rallygoers from the roof of a truck at an event on the Oregon Capitol steps in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, June 27, 2019.

A man holding a sign in opposition to Oregon House Bill 2020 talks to fellow rallygoers from the roof of a truck at an event on the Oregon Capitol steps in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, June 27, 2019.

Bryan M. Vance/OPB

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


Ten-year-old Landon reads a book while his mother, Sarah McPartland, and sister, Vivian, read on the stairs at their home in Vancouver, Wa., Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

Ten-year-old Landon reads a book while his mother, Sarah McPartland, and sister, Vivian, read on the stairs at their home in Vancouver, Wa., Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

Rob Manning/OPB

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


Washington Park and Zoo Railway is a star attraction for adults and children alike.

Washington Park and Zoo Railway is a star attraction for adults and children alike.

Laurie Isola/OPB

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


Ken Ramirez greets Dale, a senior, at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Community resource specialists like Ramirez help student groups achieve academic success with one-on-one support.

Ken Ramirez greets Dale, a senior, at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Community resource specialists like Ramirez help student groups achieve academic success with one-on-one support.

Elizabeth Miller/OPB

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


Herbie Hancock settles into play at the Oregon Zoo in Portland on Aug. 17, 2019. Hancock stopped through Portland on his worldwide tour that featured Kamasi Washington.

Herbie Hancock settles into play at the Oregon Zoo in Portland on Aug. 17, 2019. Hancock stopped through Portland on his worldwide tour that featured Kamasi Washington.

David Stuckey/OPB

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


The Sun Ra Arkestra, a collective of musicians and artists, is responsible for an astonishing range of work — records, of course, but also poetry, avant-garde fashion, and reams of hand-painted original artwork for the ensembles’ albums.

The Sun Ra Arkestra, a collective of musicians and artists, is responsible for an astonishing range of work — records, of course, but also poetry, avant-garde fashion, and reams of hand-painted original artwork for the ensembles’ albums.

Claudia Meza/OPB

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


Orville Peck at THING 2019

Orville Peck at THING 2019

Mike Baden/opbmusic

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


Sudan Archives on the Mt. Hood Stage at Pickathon 2019

Sudan Archives on the Mt. Hood Stage at Pickathon 2019

Gerard O’Sullivan/opbmusic

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