TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2020

In news events chronicled by TIME photographers across the year, the invisible forces pushing us apart become visible: The plastic barriers built and the Tyvek worn to separate a pathogen from a human being. The truculence on the face of President Trump in the wee hours after Election Day, and the Tiki torch and pitchfork in the hands of a man who showed up at an Arizona election office the next day wearing a MAGA hat and a pistol. On a Brooklyn street corner, protesters pull a young man one way as police struggle to drag him the other.

It’s entirely too easy to forget that 2020 began amid at least the trappings of normality, with Democratic presidential candidates barnstorming snowy Iowa and New Hampshire. By autumn, photos of Elizabeth Warren raising a beer in Cedar Rapids and Bernie Sanders raising a fist in Manchester had assumed the quality of a daguerreotype, forgotten images arrived from a previous era.
Our own time existed in a state of suspension. Peter van Agtmael captured something close to its essence on an April day in Ocean City, Md., in a photograph that could serve as a portrait of 2020: A parking lot empty of cars, facing a flat sea, beneath a vaguely ominous sky that might be cloudless or might be overcast. From here it’s hard to know. —Karl Vick

Newsha Tavakolian—Magnum Photos for TIMEIranian women at a mosque in Tehran, on Jan. 5, mourn Qasem Soleimani’s death.

Malike Sidibe for TIMEA protester, wearing a shirt that reads “Please Stop the Violence,” is dragged near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on May 29, four days after George Floyd’s death.

Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEPresident Trump’s last rally before the 2020 election in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Nov. 3.

Sinna Nasseri for TIMEA father holding a child walks by a man with a pitchfork, gun and Tiki torch at the Maricopa County election office in Phoenix on Nov. 5, two days after the election.

Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEPresident Trump during remarks in the East Room of the White House early on the morning of Nov. 4. “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Trump said.

Elizabeth Bick for TIMEArtist Connor Czora breaks a ceramic MAGA hat sculpture during a protest in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4.

Philip Montgomery for TIMEHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi, photographed at the Capitol on Dec. 5, 2019, staked the 2020 elections on impeachment. “No one is above the law,” she said.

Emin Ozmen—Magnum Photos for TIMEA man desperately tries to protect himself in Edirne, Turkey, from tear gas launched by Greek authorities at the border in March.

Sasha Arutyunova for TIMEMist gathers on the eastern shore of Hart Island, the city’s “potters field,” on June 26.

Gabriella Demczuk for TIMEPresident Trump arrives to speak in the East Room of the White House, one day after the Senate acquitted him on two articles of impeachment, on Feb. 6.

Christopher Gregory-Rivera for TIMEA man rides his tricycle in front of earthquake-destroyed buildings in the town center of Guanica, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 8.

Rahim Fortune for TIMEPortraits and remembrances of Mary Hall Daniels at her house—now home to her grandson’s family—in Hilliard, Fla. She had paid for the home with money awarded to her because of what had happened to her very first house, in an obscure rural hamlet called Rosewood. In 1923, when she was 3 years old, a white mob burned down the mostly Black enclave.

Lorenzo Meloni—Magnum Photos for TIMEA health worker checks an elderly woman’s oxygen level, after receiving a call about a suspected COVID-19 case, in the northern Italian province of Bergamo.

Kathleen Flynn for TIMELaurie Halbrook, a registered nurse, holds her son Michael, 3, during a walk through their neighborhood in New Orleans.

Evan Angelastro for TIMEA long-haired Lhasa Apso is wheeled down the runway to the gate of stardom at the Westminster Dog Show in New York City on Feb. 10.

Tony Luong for TIMESen. Bernie Sanders raises his fist at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Event in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8.

Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEAn empty parking lot in the beach town of Ocean City, Md., on April 16.

An Rong Xu for TIMEEric Chou walks on an extended stage that brought him close to fans sitting on the second level of the Taipei Arena on Aug. 8.

Rian Dundon for TIMEBlack Lives Matter protesters march through a residential neighborhood on Election Day in Portland, Ore., on Nov 3.

Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEPress near the White House on the eve of the Nov. 3 election in Washington, D.C.

Gillian Laub for TIMENurse Sarah Ladd and school resource officer Kristen Tyrseck ensure kids keep a safe distance apart as they enter Wesley Elementary School in Middletown, Conn., in July.

Natalie Keyssar for TIMESoldiers from the 54th Quartermaster Company at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which also served as a disaster morgue after the 9/11 attacks; by mid-May, COVID-19 had killed at least five times as many New Yorkers.

Benjamin Norman for TIMEDr. Laura Mulvey, who practices emergency medicine, in her isolation unit in the ICU at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on March 26. “It’s not easy being a patient,” Mulvey said, “especially in your own hospital.” Nearby, the ICU team holds a meeting.

Meridith Kohut for TIMEThe transport team moves the body bags of deceased COVID-19 patients from the overflowing morgue of Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Heights Medical Center into the improvised morgue set up outside on April 27. Three refrigerated semitrailers, capable of holding more than 150 bodies between them, were brought in as an emergency solution during the height of the pandemic. The transports often occurred at night to avoid upsetting neighbors of the hospital.

September Dawn Bottoms for TIMESen. Elizabeth Warren holds a meet-and-greet at a pub in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Jan. 26.

Isadora Kosofsky for TIMELydia Yang says goodbye to her father Noh Park during a socially distant Father’s Day event at a Los Angeles nursing home.

Malike Sidibe for TIMEOn May 31, a demonstrator in New York spray-paints a poster of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck. “Out of nowhere, this guy pulled out a purple spray can and just started writing on it. These ladies were walking by and paused to look at it. They were looking at it, like, ‘Is this to attack us or to stop us from being silent?’”

Alex Welsh for TIMEHundreds of fans gathered near Staples Center in Los Angeles to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant, who died in a January helicopter crash in Calabasas, along with eight others, including his daughter Gianna, 13.

Matt Black—Magnum Photos for TIMEThe remains of a water­-storage tank, razed because of uranium contamination, in Red Mesa, Ariz.; for decades during the Cold War, mines in the Navajo Nation produced the uranium used for nuclear weapons.

Devin Yalkin for TIMEBernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 1.

Tony Luong for TIMEA sign for the Bernie Sanders campaign in the snow in Concord, N.H., on Feb. 8. Sanders ended his 2020 presidential bid in April.

September Dawn Bottoms for TIMEJoe Biden in Osage, Iowa, on Jan. 22. At the time, his crowds in the state had been smaller than those of his top rivals.

M. Scott Brauer for TIMESupporters at Pete Buttigieg’s rally in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 11.

Newsha Tavakolian—Magnum Photos for TIMETwo girls are pushed in a double stroller in a crowd of people in Tehran mourning the death of Qasem Soleimani.

Christopher Morris—VII for TIMEMichael Fowler, a coroner in Dougherty County, Ga., responds to a resident found dead alone in his apartment.

Adam Ferguson for TIMESarah Rugendyke, 7, sits on a play castle that was burned on her family’s property in Cobargo on Jan. 20; an out-of-control bushfire devastated the tourist town about 240 miles south of Sydney on New Year’s Eve.

Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEA gathering of a right-wing militia in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 5.
Ruddy Roye for TIMEA woman takes a knee as George Floyd’s funeral procession enters the cemetery in Houston on June 9. “People were chanting George Floyd’s name and ‘no justice, no peace!’”

Ruddy Roye for TIMESupporters of President Trump demonstrate, argue with press and become hostile at the Cuban restaurant La Carreta in Miami on Nov. 7.

Jovelle Tamayo for TIMEWith punching bags and dummies overhead, instructor Javier Sola teaches frisking and handcuffing techniques to recruits at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission facility in Burien, Wash., on Oct. 22. Washington State is one of the few places in the U.S. that requires all recruits to go through the state-run Basic Law Enforcement Academy, except for those becoming state patrol officers, a system that advocates of police reform support.

September Dawn Bottoms for TIMEJoe Biden speaks with a supporter at a Town Hall with John Kerry in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 1.

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