A new National Geographic issue chronicles a year like no other.
In 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic has led to lives lost and lockdowns as cases continue to rise in the United States and elsewhere. In May, the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white cop in Minneapolis sparked protests nationwide and around the the world. Northern California suffered one of its worst wildfires that is still burning. In East Africa, countries like Kenya had ‘one of its worst locust outbreak in 70 year,’ according to the magazine.
National Geographic’s ‘The Year in Pictures’ is a single-topic issue that is a first in the magazine’s history. The special January 2021 issue documents the events of this year through photographs. ‘In offering a first-of-its kind photo-retrospective issue, National Geographic narrates 2020 in a way like no other,’ according to its press release.
The issue has four themes: ‘the year that tested us, the year that isolated us, the year that empowered us and the year that hope endured. The special issue features a powerful mix of photos capturing the hurdles, triumphs, discoveries, and wins from 2020,’ according to the press release.
For more of the year’s best photos, visit natgeo.com/photos.
Social distancing has its limits. Above, after more than two months ithout any human touch, Mary Grace Sileo (left) and her daughter, Michelle Grant, and others in their family had a solution. They hung a clothesline and pinned a drop cloth to it in Sileo’s yard in Wantagh, New York. With one on each side, they embraced through the plastic
California’s North Complex fire, above, scorched more than 200,000 acres in just 24 hours this past September. The conflagration started as two separate fires in August during a powerful lightning storm that swept across Northern and central California. Weeks later, the fires, stoked by vicious winds, merged and exploded in size. The North Complex fire quickly destroyed much of the town of Berry Creek and killed 15 people—a grim reminder of the catastrophe that struck Paradise, California, just 40 miles to the northwest, in 2018. Cal Fire, a statewide firefighting and emergency services agency, says that fires in California and the West have grown larger, hotter, faster, and more dangerous, particularly in the past several years. There are a few reasons for this: A century of overzealous fire suppression ignored the role of natural fires in maintaining forest health. In addition, a population boom during the past half century has seen homes and towns proliferate on the edge of wild areas. Years of drought left dead trees to fuel the fires, and climate change gave California its hottest August ever recorded
Above, at the H Plus Yangji Hospital in Seoul, a walk-in testing clinic is set up like a row of phone booths to prevent contact between patients and medical staff. Nose and mouth swabs take less than three minutes, and test results can be returned in four to six hours. Experience with previous disease outbreaks prepared South Korea for the COVID-19 pandemic. The country already had a legal framework for contact tracing, and most residents stayed home and wore masks in public. The government worked with the private sector to swiftly ramp up testing. There are hundreds of testing sites throughout the country
In a year of plagues, East Africa got an extra one: desert locusts, above. The swarms, which began moving into the region in late 2019, became a terrifying threat to Africa’s farmers. In January, Kenya had its worst locust outbreak in 70 years. The insects flourish when arid areas get heavy rain and blooms of vegetation, triggering a population boom. Winds from the Arabian Peninsula push the swarms into the Horn of Africa, leading to hunger for millions of people. A single swarm can swell to 70 billion locusts and destroy more than 300 million pounds of crops a day. Even a smaller swarm of 40 million can eat as much in a day as 35,000 people
After Italy’s shutdown was lifted, Marta Colzani and Alessio Cavallaro, above, donned masks to be married at the Church of San Vito, an hour’s drive north of Milan. Only the family exchanged hugs at the reception
Above, a memorial in Michigan was one of many nationwide honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at 87 on September 18. Ginsburg was a feminist trailblazer long before she was nominated to the high court in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton. She successfully worked on behalf of gender equality in a distinguished legal career. Her death led to a contentious pre-election scramble in the U.S. Senate over filling Ginsburg’s seat. Conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed on October 26 as Ginsburg’s replacement
For the first time in its history, National Geographic magazine has published a single-topic issue capturing ‘The Year in Pictures,’ showcasing photographs from an unprecedented and unforgettable year. Above, the issue’s cover