• 12.26.12

16 Of The Best Photo Essays From 2012

From a close-up look at a Pop Tart to a panoramic view of Mars, these are the images that captivated us this year.

What were the defining events of 2012? There were both disasters (superstorm Sandy, Aurora and Newtown, and unabated fighting around the world) and triumphs (Olympic wins, another Democratic presidential term, and the meteoric rise of the Internet meme). While we strive to be topical, we didn’t cover any of those moments on Co.Design–not even McKayla Maroney’s sourpuss expression from the gymnastics floor, or Mitt Romney’s binders full of women. Which isn’t to say that the images we featured aren’t relevant–in fact, taken together, they reflect how technology is impacting how we capture and comprehend the world.


Two compelling trends emerge. Photoshop, once used to create sleight-of-hand versions of a more perfect reality, is now a tool for creating forthright, alternate realities, in which people have perfectly symmetrical faces and celebrities become ordinary people. In contrast, improved microscopic technology has given us the ability to take a close, in-depth look at everything from Pop Tarts to chicken embryos, enhancing our appreciation and understanding of the complexities of nature’s features that can’t be gleaned with the naked eye.

And speaking of nature, we’ve also highlighted the humane tendency to depict animals as sentient creatures, snapped, in the case of Sharon Montrose, in front of a plain white background as if posing for their portraits. So even though we didn’t catalog this year’s memes, we did serve up some cute. We hope that McKayla’s impressed.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.